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Gap year travel operator recommendations

(6 Posts)
Bonsoir Sun 16-Nov-14 09:46:39

Has anyone got a really solid recommendation for a company that organises short (1-3 month) "gap year" travel experiences? It's for a French girl who will be going to university in London in September 2015 and who is spending her gap year studying but would like to travel and meet like-minded English future students during her summer break in 2015. She is quite shy, very cerebral and interested in politics, economics and international relations. She doesn't want a holiday - she wants to do something worthwhile.

ancientandmodern Sun 16-Nov-14 11:50:10

Two of my DC have used Projects Abroad

DS went to South Africa and worked on a journalism project, producing a glossy magazine about political/environmental issues. Whilst this perhaps strayed close to 'vanity publishing' (it didn't have a cover price and wasn't sold, but was distributed to local unis etc) it was professionally run and he learnt some useful skills, as well as having a good introduction to local SA life and politics, with lots of events to introduce him to how SAfricans manage daily life.

DD2 went to Thailand and taught English in a primary school each morning for a month. She had a reasonable level of training (she was the assistant, so responsible for hearing children read/explaining basic concepts, not teaching a whole class).

Upside: We've found Projects Abroad to be well-organised, briefs students in depth about what is expected of them/cultural differences etc, and good support on the ground in the country they are working in. Also quite flexible on dates/start times and helpful with organising additional travel opportunities once in the country. Both DC stayed with host families - DS's host 'mum' was great with him as a grandmother who had loads of different generations of her family staying with her at various times; DD2's 'mum' was really doing it for the extra cash and less homely atmosphere.

In both DC's cases, the groups of volunteers came from lots of different countries and DD2 wound up learning a fair bit of French as was very friendly with a French business student sent to Thailand as part of her degree and a couple of others.

Downside: Not cheap. Not wholly convinced about the 'worthwhile' element, as effectively in both cases the work was created to suit the volunteers from abroad, rather than being something that really needed doing. DS worked hard at journalism, so probably would describe his experience as a 'working holiday'; for DD2 it was really mostly about the partying!

Friend's DD used Latitude and volunteered on a long-term project in Ecaudor In some respects this was more worthwhile (was a teaching job at local village school linked to creating work opportunities in tourism for local people) but again difficult to assess. One issue here was that the regular arrival of lots of well-heeled overseas girls who stayed briefly had an adverse impact on relations between local young men and women (basically lots of flirting/affairs; the foreign girls inevitably promised to try and get the young man a ticket to Europe, then went back and forgot about him............)

I may sound cynical, but I think that quite a lot of these gap year projects are fantastic for the volunteer (both my DC learnt a lot about themselves, new skills and how to cope, plus lots of interest in a different country etc) but it is much less clear how worthwhile they really are. (If you Google, there's lots of comment about this at the moment).

So if your French girl's motivation is purely to make a difference, she might need to look very closely at the small print of some of the offerings

Bonsoir Sun 16-Nov-14 12:10:46

Thank you so much for such a detailed and considered reply smile

AtiaoftheJulii Sun 16-Nov-14 13:38:51

A friend's daughter is going to India with Raleigh International in the new year. My friend is a real worrier and seems pretty happy with their organisation smile

Bonsoir Mon 17-Nov-14 14:17:20

Thank you!

ISingSoprano Mon 17-Nov-14 15:32:04

DS went with Plan My Gap Year this summer - his experience was very good. Communication before the trip was excellent. He contacted them a few times with random questions which were answered very quickly and helpfully. Whilst on his trip the in-country organisation was fantastic and he felt well supported.

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