When all of the compulsory classes are finished and it's time to decide what direction to take next, it's an ideal time to take a break or a gap year and do something different. This can be a chance to try out a job path or develop new skills before committing to the next level of education. If this sounds exciting, you need to look no further than Germany, where volunteer and work options abound.
Traveling with a small budget and willing to work?
Germany offers many options for young people looking for seasonal jobs. You can help out on a farm, or assist during the annual harvest at a vineyard. Tourism agencies and tour providers are also a good place to look for short-term positions.
Want to help out in Germany?
Many young Germans do a Voluntary Social Year (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr or FSJ) after finishing their compulsory studies. The FSJ is a state-funded program that places young people in volunteer positions in the German social services, sports, cultural heritage preservation or culture sectors. In addition to the FSJ, Germany also offers the Voluntary Ecological Year (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr or FÖJ) for volunteers interested in the environment. Both programs accept foreign participants.
How about volunteering abroad?
Young Germans who want to volunteer abroad can enroll in kulturweit. The program, which is facilitated by the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs and UNESCO, sends young people based in Germany to volunteer projects around the world. Another program, weltwärts, targets students interested in intercultural learning by placing them at partner projects around the world. Founded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), weltwärts is open to Germans who want to travel abroad and to young people abroad who want to volunteer in Germany.
Looking to beef up your resume?
An internship (Praktikum) is also a great way to immerse yourself in a new field. Because internships are an integral part of the German education system, they are relatively easy to find—even for non-Germans—as long as applicants meet some specific criteria.
Is learning a new language your biggest goal?
Try out a language vacation. Many organizations in Germany offer intensive language programs for travelers. Some even provide home stays with local families. Or travelers can commit to an entire school year in Germany for a more comprehensive experience.
Whatever your motivation, there have never been more opportunities to hit the road and do something meaningful.