Between School and College - What Is Missing?

A friend just left for Borneo to volunteer for two weeks in an orangutan sanctuary. We met for coffee last week and breathless with excitement, she mentioned how her work would involve a range of activities; creating enriching environments for the animals to encourage natural behaviour, cleaning cages, feeding, maintenance and even some organic farming. Her co-volunteers would range from the age of 16 to 55 years. It has been 3 days since she arrived at the facility and over a quick update call, I could gauge the fatigue and the deep satisfaction in her voice.

It got me thinking about how we had both applied for college scholarships after school but there was a gaping chasm in our applications; the lack of constructive volunteer work or exemplary extra curricular activities. The post school summer had been filled with bucolic days with nothing on hand. While it was a time well cherished with a much-deserved break, it could have been used more productively for some memorable experiences.

While long after school and college, we have both amassed tremendous experiences at jobs and through travelling, these skills would have come in handy through the formative years of our lives. They would have certainly helped in amplifying our life skill capital early in life.

1. Sensitivity & adjustment to different cultures

The borders between countries are largely blurring and travelling across to different parts of the world is becoming easier. Volunteering with communities in need is one of the best ways to sensitize children to different cultures. Last year, the Himalayan country of Nepal was struck with a devastating earthquake. After some order was restored in the country, a number of foundations opened up programmes to help rebuild, teach and help the local community get on their feet. Apart from sensitizing children to a different culture, it was a lifetime experience to witness and constructively help in a vulnerable moment in the history of the nation. Additionally, working with people from different cultures would give immense insight into a variety of languages and culture.

2. Independence & self reliance

Earning a buck after high school is the best and first step towards getting a taste of independence. What better way than to do that by working at a beach resort or a holiday destination. Islands like Maldives and the Andamans are open to offer internships for young gap-year or post school students in areas of guest relations, digital marketing and on-site aides. The kids get to see a new place, enjoy the balmy weather and take onus of their own finances. Again, working in the backdrop of different cultures with a hectic hospitality routine can result in a number of heartening skill developments.

3. Confidence & leadership

A classic office internship can be the best way to warm up to a life ahead. This could mean signing up for mundane tasks, but also chip in for a plethora of digitally youthful activities like design, photography, journalism, content creation and research. The order and processes at an organization can help to whet these skills and in turn, find confidence in dealing with authority. Perhaps, leading a team of other youth could sharpen those leadership skills as well.

4. Empathy

Empathy is what the world needs most at this time. Start with animals in shelters by volunteering to clean, feed, walk and help with their medical procedures. To some, this might not even seem like work, considering you get to spend time with four legged friends. The undertone of this work can be life changing for a few. What we all know that it certainly is an important lesson, early on in life.

5. Teamwork

In this competitive environment, very often, one loses the sight of teamwork as an important skill. To be able to lead, rally others and follow instruction for a larger goal is a skill that many adults need to grapple with at work. Why not start them young and have children experience the fun and productiveness that comes with teamwork. Be at an events company, teaching or even doing community work, teamwork is an essential skill to be honed.  

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