After finishing highschool, I always wanted to do a gap year to experience life and the world in a completely new way. I chose to do two totally different voluntary projects.
I worked in a wildlife hospital in Greece, which consisted a lot of routine work like preparing the food and cleaning the cages. What made this special was the opportunity to observe the vet examining or doing small operations on the animals. Other than that, the volunteers that I was living and working with made this experience unforgettable. I spent almost every minute with my roommate, which made us really close friends. Living in Greece and interacting with locals who went through the financial crisis and were licing with the consequences now made me aware of how privileged and wealthy we are in Luxembourg and how most of us take that for granted. It really made me count my blessings.
I did my second voluntary project in Portugal. I worked in a daycenter for disabled people. They proposed a variety of activities to develop specific skills. They went to the shopping mall or restaurants with them for example to develop the social and communication skills. They also did things like sports, swimming, horse riding and crafting, which is supposed to combine fun and learning. I enjoyed enteracting with the disabled people even though I didn‘t speak Portuguese very well. Lots of them were unable to speak anyways, so we communicated mostly through body language. If something was unclear though, the educators who spoke English were always there to help.
Apart from work, my free time in Portugal was literal heaven. I met so many beautiful people and we had so much fun in Lisbon, going to the beach and doing small trips to explore the rest of Portugal. I feel like in such projects you make completely different connections, sometimes they are so short, yet so meaningful.
For my personal growth, this experience was also extremely valuable because I learned to say No to people and situations I felt uncomfortable in an instead do what I really want to do.
In general I would always recommend living or working in a foreign country for an extended period of time because it brings you out of your comfort zone and makes you grow in ways you would never have in your country.
Besides, it looks good on a CV;)