- Many students believe that after graduation they must throw themselves right into the flames of the tough job market, whether they feel prepared for the heat or not. However, what founders of GiveYourGap.Org, Kimberly Ang and Amber Rackliffe wishto do is encourage graduates to take a year after graduation to offer their services to volunteer organizations locally and abroad. I attended their on-campus webinar last week where the marketing and outreach director, Joeva Rock, phoned in with a small group on campus to introduce us to their organization and the benefits of giving a gap year.
The very young founders were UC San Diego alumni who were somewhat intimidated to step into a faltering economy, but who also had an insatiable desire to see the world before they settled down into a “stable career.” They both decided to take a year after their undergraduate studies to volunteer abroad, but were shocked to learn that, not only was the process much more complicated than they had though, but it was often unreasonably expensive. And for recent grads dealing with the anxiety of student loan debt looming in the near future, this was a bit discouraging. So they found a new goal, to help others deciding what to do with the “scary time after graduation,” and connect them to the resources that would make this alternative course of action a possibility.
Their website, GiveYourGap.Org, helps organize the process of looking for the best option for one’s volunteer goals, especially for those with limited funds. This emphasis particularly appealed to me, as I also found it hard to understand why volunteers must be charged a fee of thousands of dollars. The site links users to nonprofit organizations that are constantly accepting international volunteers, as well as the different websites that access a variety of scholarships and program information. It also provides tips and testimonials from other featured “gappers” that have used the site, with the promise that a social networking sector is also in the works, to create a community of volunteers with similar experiences. The site was just launched last December, with the reported number of assisted students at a little over 100. However, due to the free-informational nature of the site, along with a count of daily site traffic, the estimated number is over 1000.
Kimberly Ang (who unfortunately couldn’t phone in as she was in China on the last leg of her 6-month tour of volunteer networking in Asia) also wished to express to students the advantages with taking a “gap year” to volunteer. What I took away from Joeva’s accounts, was that “giving your gap” should not simply be viewed as a deferment of responsibility, or a temporary escape from the work field. It should be seen as a voyage of personal growth, of understanding the world you live in and giving back to
those less fortunate.
“When you live in a country with no running water for a year, you will definitely be changed in a positive way,” remarked Joeva. “You learn to value the life that you live, challenge yourself by being in a completely different place, and develop unique relationships with the people and the culture.”
However, it does also have empirical value to give your gap. Rock, who had volunteered in Ghana for a year, was paid a stipend along with room and board during her stay there. It also equipped her with unique job skills that interested and impressed hiring employers when she came back to the United States.
So, ultimately, there is no “right way” to proceed after graduating, even though a norm does exist. But what the team at Give Your Gap want to publicize is that this option is both rewarding and timely, and, most importantly, available to all. The time to give back is when you can, and after college graduation may be the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and make that jump into helping the world.