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Petrina Darrah

The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

Taking a gap year can be a great way to prepare for medical school. Here’s what you can do to enhance your future studies during your gap year. 

Taking a gap year before medical school could offer the breather from rigorous application processes and intense studies that you might really need. A gap year will give you time to do what you love, while gaining valuable experience that’ll boost your application to medical school and look good on your resume. 

Find out why why you should take a gap year and how you can make the most of your time off with our tips on what to do during a gap year before medical school.


A GVI volunteers presents a class to the children.

Why take a gap year?

Taking a gap year before starting medical school gives you more time to work on your application and pursue your personal interests. 

Once you start medical school, you may not have much time to travel, learn new skills, or spend time on your hobbies. Gap year benefits include having the freedom to focus on these activities, before tackling the commitment of years of medical study.


Nurses leading stretching exercises in Kerala


What’s more, the lessons you can learn outside a classroom are being seen as more and more desirable, particularly in medical school applications. 

GVI’s gap year programs don’t just send participants abroad and hope for the best. Each program complies with strict COVID-19 regulations as well as a comprehensive health and safety policy. This means that you can rest assured that all safety checks are in place when it comes to your health and safety on a program abroad.

So, what can you do during your gap year? Find out below.


Happy local mother watching her child do an activity with a GVI volunteer

Gap year ideas

Adding more weight to your medical school application is one of the most positive uses of a gap year before medical school. 

If your resume is looking a bit empty, taking a gap year is a chance to gain experience in the right areas. 

Community service, research, or volunteer work are gap year opportunities that can give your application to medical school an edge. 

Another popular reason for taking a gap year is to travel. 

Volunteering abroad can tick both of these boxes, giving you the ultimate gap year experience while ensuring that you travel in accordance with current global regulations.


Volunteer teaching a local woman to do CPR


GVI offers a wide range of volunteering programs and gap year internships that combine skills development with adventure, giving you the best of both worlds. 

Our programs give you access to comprehensive training by experienced mentors who are experts in their fields, meaning you can come away with a recommendation for your medical school application. 

And if you’re keen on taking a gap year before medical school but aren’t super confident about travelling just yet, you can start off on our Global Public Health online course, or Global Public Health online internship, and travel later on when you’re ready. 

Whether you choose to get involved in an online or in-country program, you’ll gain important skills and have a safe and meaningful experience. 

Here are a few suggestions for programs you can join during your gap year before medical school. 

Teach English abroad

GVI volunteer reading a story to children in Fiji


Volunteer teaching abroad demonstrates your leadership abilities, empathy and willingness to use your skills to serve others. 

It’s also a great way to develop your interpersonal and intercultural skills, which are valuable for any career. 

Teaching English abroad is also an excellent opportunity to experience international travel to destinations such as Cambodia or Costa Rica

Assist with international community development

Choosing to focus on community development activities during your gap year can demonstrate your commitment to supporting others.


Volunteers and locals standing outside a building


You can also learn more about the holistic health of communities and global issues that affect them, such as gender inequality and poor sanitation.

Taking part in international community development programs will show that you’re a well-rounded individual with a global perspective. 

Volunteer in public health

Volunteering abroad in preventative health projects can help to show your commitment to a career in medicine. As well as giving you something to write about on your application, public health volunteering can help you learn more about the wider field you’re planning to enter.


Volunteers teaching women about hygiene practises in India


As a volunteer, you could build on communities’ knowledge on topics such as HIV and AIDS, and nutrition, or assist them in gaining access to clean water and improved sanitation. 

One important thing to note is that GVI’s public health programs align with our code of ethics, which means they don’t include medical activities. Let’s take a look at a few more things to consider when looking into preventative health gap year programs abroad.

Preventative health gap year programs abroad

In a gap year before medical school, it might seem logical to pursue healthcare volunteering. 

But, it’s important to make sure you select programs that distinguish between healthcare and public health programs. 

The reason for this is that unskilled, unqualified medical volunteering is unethical. 

Medical volunteer programs involve diagnostic activities, carrying out procedures, providing prescriptions, and other medical activities that require formal academic training, qualifications and medical licenses. 

In programs that include these kinds of medical activities, there’s a risk of harm to everyone involved. As a student about to enter medical school, you won’t be equipped to carry out these skilled activities safely just yet.


Volunteers doing health education with local women


While GVI does train volunteers in Emergency First Response, our volunteers don’t participate in medical procedures for ethical reasons. 

Instead, we offer public health, or preventative health programs. These projects are still of great value and benefit to you in your gap year before medical school. The focus is on preventing illness and injury through education, which gives you the chance to work closely with community members. 

You might contribute towards health awareness and education workshops, help to train local staff in the sector, or assist qualified health professionals in collecting relevant data. 

Take part in ethical preventative health gap year opportunities and other exciting projects with GVI. Browse our range of programs today.

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