Why choose GapGuru?

GapGuru is a gap year specialist offering a wide range of exciting volunteer, travel and internship opportunities across Asia, Africa, South America and Europe. With GapGuru you could be doing anything from teaching in Tanzania to working as a medical intern in India!

Our volunteers work in disadvantaged communities, helping those in genuine need, while building their own skills, confidence and experience. Joining one of our gap year projects is your opportunity to discover authentic cultures in different countries, to meet new people and immerse yourself in local communities. You can take part in a program for as little as 2 weeks or up to a whole year.

The team at GapGuru all love to travel and more importantly share our skills and experience with our gappers. Friendly and informative guidance and support (both pre-departure and in-country) is all part of the GapGuru experience.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Life changing experience, run by life changing staff

This is an incredible program, and it was truly an experience that I will never forget. The staff goes out of there way to make sure that everything goes as well as possible, and will bend over backwards to help you out in any way that you need. This starts with the country director, David, who is incredibly approachable. He went out of his way to stop by at least two or three times a week to see how everything was going, and to see how he could help. He also took time out of his busy days to help plan a trip for some of the volunteers, and checked in with us during the trip to make sure it was going well. The head English teacher, Marcia, was another example of the incredible commitment of the staff at this program. She bent over backwards to help people feel comfortable teaching, and was always available and happy to answer any questions. They also had staff, led by the friendliest guy in the world, Will, dedicated to making sure everything was going well for the volunteers. This included everything from making sure that the volunteers felt safe, to cultural trips, to fun events on the weekend. This type of incredible commitment can be found through the entire staff, from interns all the way up to the phenomenal David. I cannot imagine a better experience, and the staff does everything possible to make it a great experience. I would recommend this trip to anybody and everybody - the staff will do everything they can to make sure that this will be one of the highlights of your entire life!

What would you improve about this program?
I honestly cannot think of anything wrong with it.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible experience...what more can I say :)

So Gap Guru have asked me to give you guys a story or two whilst leaving a quick review...No words can express the fantastic experience I had in Thailand but I'll give it a go:

My journey began when I was teaching at a nursery school in chiang mai. Having never taught ever before, I was a bit apprehensive, to say the least, to be teaching in a class of 20-30 kindergarteners!!...however, when I saw the looks of curiosity and wonderment, not to mention their cheeky little smiles, I knew I would enjoy my experience ...and by heck I did!!

My favourite story to share would be in the nursery at the buddhist monastery in Doi Saket. I got 7-8 children to sit down with musical instruments...and we got a (sort of) band going!!! It was soo cool and some of them were really quite good!...i seriously think we've got some future musicians in there!

On the weekend I went zip lining, as incredible experience it was (especially for adrenalin junkies!!) I happened to ram my left hand into one of the railings and it obviously swelled up :\...I knew it wasn't injured too badly but the volunteer interns said rather be safe then sorry and took me to the hospital the next day to get it all checked out. They sorted everything out and sat with me, eyeing up all the doctors, playing stupid music etc...they made me feel at ease, in a different country when I was a tad vulnerable!...they were kinda like my friends at home :)...home from home!

I ended up my trip at koh phangyan...for the full moon party - insanely, insanely awesome!!...and a fantastic end to my two weeks...I would definitely recommend volunteering with Gap Guru to anyone!!

Khop kum kha gap guru!


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Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching English in a Hill Tribe and in Doi Saket

I spent my first two weeks with Gap Guru teaching English at Mae La school in a hill tribe village. It was a fantastic opportunity to experience traditional Thai culture and I felt very welcome in the village.
The teachers cooked our meals three times a day and the teachers and volunteers then all ate together which I really enjoyed and it also created a nice sense of community.
Teaching in Mae La village was also a very beautiful place to be as the location is very remote it is surrounded by amazing mountainous views and rice fields.
I spent my second two weeks teaching at Pangnew school in Doi Saket (about 1 hour from Chiang Mai). I really enjoyed teaching at Pangnew school as I taught Grade 5 and 6 every day for one hour each and I was able to plan and deliver lessons around particular topics and could see the development in the students English skills grow. It was really beneficial to have regular teaching contact with these students as I was able to get to know both of the classes really well. I also felt very welcomed by all of the teachers at Pangnew school and ate lunch with all of the teachers too which was an interesting experience.
I really enjoyed living at the volunteer house in Doi Saket for the second two weeks as it was fun to spend my free time with the other volunteers and interns. The interns were really good at organising activities to do after school and at the weekend such as a going to the weekend markets in Chiang Mai, to temple visits and going to some hot springs.
I really enjoyed my 4 weeks with Gap Guru and the Future Sense Foundation team. I would highly recommend the volunteer programmes to anyone who is thinking about a career in teaching or to anyone who would like to gain some new skills and get involved in a different community and culture.

What would you improve about this program?
There were only a small number of other volunteers who were completing other volunteer programmes during my time with Gap Guru. At times it would have been nice if there were more volunteers to create a more sociable environment however it added to the uniqueness of the programme being the only volunteer at a school at times and allowed more teaching time.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Media and Film volunteering in northern Thailand, Chiang Mai and in the Hill Tribes

In June 2015 me and my sister were extremely fortunate to create short films and teach film and media within an organisation called GapGuru.

It all started with a Pre-departure Skype call from David the Country Manager.

When we arrived into Thailand from England, we could not have felt more welcomed by the team. Amy Ferguson the media intern greeted us with open arms and welcomed us into the country. Shortly after, we were then greeted by David, Nid, Marcia, Ewa, Will and Pi Gaye.
After meeting the team we immediately felt like Thailand was our new home.

Amy and Lungat took us to the volunteer house in Doi Saket, where we would stay for the first two weeks. The volunteer house was beautiful! in a lovely location near local shops and bars and not too far away from Wat Doi Saket a Buddhist temple.
Not too long after arriving 6 volunteers from Middlesex University came to the volunteer house, we all made introductions and then sat down for dinner later that evening. They were all so friendly and lovely and we all had an amazing experience living together and sharing stories of what each day had brought us!
When all the other volunteers came it really did feel like home. We were very lucky to have met them all on our travels.

We were extremely impressed with the organisation of our programme and our schedule for our time staying in Thailand. We had our in country orientation with David who explained our schedules and what we would be doing. As individuals, we love a challenge and getting the very best out of our trip. So it was fantastic that our schedule had a variety of activities to do so we could make the most out of this experience. Our schedule was also very flexible, which gave us the ability to make an input on the things we wanted to do as well. We stayed in Thailand for 30 days, this period of time was split into 2 weeks in Doi Saket (teaching media and filming Wat Noug Bua) and 2 weeks in the Karen Hilltribe of Mae La (teaching film and media).

As aspiring filmmakers we were given a huge opportunity to create a promotional video for novice monks, at Wat Nong Bua in Doi Saket. The promotional video was to highlight daily practices within the temple and explore the background, culture, norms and values of the teachers and monks within the temple. We created this video to educate and inform a wider audience about the culture, and to bring more people to support the temple both in Thailand and in other regions. As filmmakers, interviewing some of the teachers and students plus gaining a first hand insight into Buddhism was incredible and fascinating for both of us.
The staff and students at the temple were so kind, lovely and good to both of us! and were a so helpful in giving us a further insight into Buddhism.

Visiting Wat Noug Bua to shoot was apart of our morning routine for 2 weeks, but in the afternoon we were able to assist on teaching Film and Media with a Professional Filmmaker called Kwame Phillips. Kwame is a part of an organization called Filmmakers Without Boarders and he is in Thailand teaching Media to kids aged between 11 to 14 in years 5 & 6. When we were told about Filmmakers Without Boarders from David, we were super excited to find out more of what they do and to help with lessons in class. For Kwame's class we were able to help film 2 trailers and having the kids reenact what was being shown and said in them. We were truly amazed by how Kwame was able to communicate with the class, as the majority of them speak some English. The vocabulary was written in English then one of the class would be asked to translate it to Thai so everyone could copy and understand both the English terminology and the Thai terminology. Looking at he taught his lesson helped us understand how we should teach ours later on in the trip. We began to realize that the importance of action is far greater than words; if we were going to express what we had to teach to the kids, we would need to use basic English and explain more through our actions. Being apart of that class was amazing because the more and more we helped, the more the language barrier began to feel less apparent and it became normal to us. After watching the kids create storyboards and choose their trailers and help Kwame shoot their work, it was great too see it all come together. The kids were excited the whole time and were even more thrilled to see the final footage. We had so much fun helping out in Kwame’s lessons and being apart of the school in Pagnew.

Another 2 weeks into our stay in Thailand and we had said our goodbyes to the group of volunteers from Middlesex University and were due to head out to the Karen Hill tribe of Mae La. In Mae La we would be teaching film and media to mainly grades 5 & 6, however we taught little bit of English to the whole school when some teachers weren’t available. We took a 4 hour bus up towards Mae La where we found one of the Hilltribe interns Dean Gray. Dean is a super chill Australian guy who arranged our timetables for us and showed us the normalities of the village, he also helped us start lesson planning for our classes in the coming days. Within the first 2 days of us arriving, one of the teachers Krue Garn and one of our students Mono decided to go to Mae Hong Son to visit their family there. This is a special occasion for them. So for me, Emma and Dean to be invited into their home was a real privilege. When we arrived Mono’s Grandma, who spoke mostly in Karen, quickly greeted us. She was a delight to get to know and was over-joyed by our presence in her family home. All of us spent the weekend together fishing, teaching each other our native language, going to a Karen church and spending time together at their family home was an incredible experience for all of us.
The most rewarding part of the overall experience had to be teaching the children of Mae La Media and Film.
For these kids, this subject was extremely un familiar at first. Many of these kids had never seen themselves on film or held a camera before. So to teach these kids was a blessing!. Watching them lesson-by-lesson, create their own storyboards filled with English and media theory to shooting their own commercials was a life changing and unforgettable experience.
On our final day at Mae La we were able to show the kids their own commercials and watch their smiling faces. To see them watching themselves back and be filled with joy and the realization that they had created a commercial themselves, which was now unfolding in front of their eyes.
This is a sight I will never forget.
We said our goodbyes to all the teachers and children In assembly where Jed had thanked us for our work and the kids one by one shook our hands, however the shaking hands quickly turned into hugs!.

During our time in Thailand we did have lots of time to explore the culture including small side trips on the weekends to different areas. Me and my sister were very lucky in going to Pai on the weekend with a few volunteers. With help from David, he had organized us to stay in an amazing guesthouse and helped us plan our bus journey into Pai. He also had loads of knowledge of the area as well, in which was awesome when we came to planning what we could do in Pai. So with David’s amazing help we set off on a small weekend away in Pai. In Pai we did all sorts of activities and explored waterfalls, temples and the world famous White Buddha!.
Pai was full of nightlife and had many street markets, restaurants and bars to go to!

I would like to say to anyone who is thinking about volunteering to go for it!!. Whether it be Teaching English, Art or P.E, to being a Media and Film Volunteer, or helping out with construction projects in partner temples and schools. You will have the experience of a lifetime!
All whilst making a difference to the local community!
It is honestly the most rewarding experience you will cherish and carry with you!

On a personal note I want to Thank everyone for giving us this amazing, unforgettable experience. I would also love to thank the Students and teachers of Wat Nong Bua, Pangnew and Mae La! for welcoming us with open arms.

What would you improve about this program?
The programme was extremely good and was so intricately put together, with a lot of thought from the team. I would say personally I loved spending time filming in the Hill-Tribes as there is so much culture to film. The villagers, students and teachers where so interesting to us.
Their way of life we had not yet experienced, prior to our stay in the Hill-tribes.
We loved documenting parts of their lives in order to learn more about them. So I would definitely say for me this was a huge opportunity and a part of the programme I really loved and I'm sure future Media and Film volunteers would as well. I would say my biggest regret is not staying out there for longer! We definitely didn't want to leave when we left.
Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

I really want to go back to Chaukot! (Nepal)

Everyday I would wake up to freshly cooked organic meal made by the family in the homestay. I taught at least 4 lessons a day starting from 10 AM and the children were a delight to teach. The staff were extremely friendly and supportive. One of the highlights was seeing the kids enjoy a sports day at the school. In the evenings I'd go for a walk with one of the family members to one of the hilltops as it's a really beautiful area. You can even see the Himalayas from the school on a calm day. The wifi wasn't that good at times so I'd have to go to a wifi cafe in a town, although this was only a two minute bus ride away. On my off day at the weekend (saturday) I'd go to Kathmandu to see some friends or interesting sights.

What would you improve about this program?
It's a very quiet and peaceful area which is great. The weakness of this though is that it could get boring after some time so finding fun events in the evenings would be a great addition to the project. Improving the wifi connection in the homestay would help for future volunteers as well.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Emma Weller, Sophie Weller

Emma and Sophie Weller are 19-year-old filmmakers based in England; they have been featured in a documentary, produced promotional videos, short films and music videos.

In addition to producing songs and digital paintings in their spare time, the girls have been busy working. Emma is currently working as a Post-production Intern for a TV and film Advertising agency in London. They will be starting their first year studying Filmmaking at the University of West England in September 2015.

Why did you pick this program?

We chose to be a Media and Film Volunteers in Thailand because we wanted to explore the Thai culture. Learning their norms, values and customs combined with seeing Media and Film in a whole new light. For us this was a filmmakers dream, to film the practices in the Temples and learn about the religion first-hand as well as see some unforgettable events plus scenery. We were also very intrigued as to how Media and Film is perceived from a whole new cultural perspective.

We wanted to make a difference by using our media and film knowledge to teach the subject in a developing country. We personally loved to see the students of Pangnew school in Doi Saket and of Mae La school in the Karen Hill-tribe. They were able to harness their imagination and creativity to tell their own stories, which was something totally new to them.

Furthermore, we loved helping the students gain a better understanding of the subject. It is a personal belief that teaching is a great way to meet new people and connect with them.

What is the most important thing you learned abroad?

One of the most important things we learned abroad was that you don’t need an abundance of material possessions or technology to be happy.

Living among the teachers, kids and villagers of the hill tribe in particular, we began to understand that we don’t need half as much as we have in a western society. The kids that live in western society have a greater access to technology in a way that the hill tribe kids don’t; but the kids in the hill tribe are 10 times happier.

We found ourselves communicating by talking with people more and learning about their culture whilst playing with the kids too. Even looking back we still can’t get our heads around how free the kids were and how happy we were without the normality’s of a western lifestyle.

We have learnt the importance of simplicity and just how wonderful it is to live in an area where your possessions don’t have a hold over what you do everyday. We live in a digital age where technology is handy and more often a necessity, but it does it truly make us any happier?

What do you tell your friends going abroad?

Go for it, what have you got to lose? It’s a learning experience you can’t gain from being at home and it’s also one of those things that you’re going to remember for a lifetime. It’s an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and live, learn and experience things that others might not. You learn from the people you meet and they also learn from you.

When you help them, whether it’s building new places or teaching new things, you are comforted in the knowledge that you are benefitting their future.

One of the greatest parts of going abroad is meeting new people you would not have encountered plus helping them. The experience is what you make it, if you go with a positive attitude and with no pre-conceived judgment of what it will be like, the people you help will benefit the most and you will learn more from them.

What made this trip meaningful to you, or how did this trip change your perceptions, future path?

This experience to us has been incredible for the both of us; throughout this trip we have encountered so many things that are so different from life back in England. These experiences have not only expanded our perceptions and skills as filmmakers but as individuals as well. It’s changed our perception on language barriers and how we can still form rapport with people even with a different native tongue.

I believe that the program has also changed our perception on our own abilities, if you asked us a few months back “do you think you could interview monks and film a promotional video and teach Thai children media and film?” we would probably say you got the wrong girls!

The media program changes your perception by allowing that versatility to explore, create, and film parts of a place you have never set foot on. It allows you to gain a rapport with people and open a gateway to a whole new community. It’s through these things that change us and challenge us and alter our perceptions. You might not notice it while your there, but you definitely look back after each day saying, “wow is this real, this is awesome”.

We like to say that this experience exceeds the boarders you never thought you could reach both physically and mentally.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Samina Bunker

Job Title
Country Manager

What position do you hold at GapGuru? What led you to join their team?

I am the GapGuru country manager in Tanzania. My affiliation with Tanzania, having spent my childhood here, coupled with my love of working with and for people to inspire change and development are what inspired me to join the programme as a member of in country staff.

I believe in the impact of volunteering and like to be someone who advises to support this. My knowledge of the country and development issues of the region allow me to do this in a way which has positive impact for our local partners.

GapGuru offers meaningful placements which are customised to meet volunteers and partners needs. This is something which I am proud of and happy to be a part of.

What makes GapGuru's programs special?

I enjoy the role because it is so varied. But the best aspect for me is designing placements which tick all the boxes from both a volunteer and partner perspective. If I match a volunteer with a project well it makes me very happy.

Furthermore, if the volunteer and members of the project feel engaged with the work and can see the benefits than you know it’s right. While I am a believer in the positive impacts of volunteering I do think that a placement needs guidance and structure to ensure the highest levels of impact.

What's your favourite story of a student's experiences on a GapGuru program?

I am always so impressed by the drive and focus of volunteers on the GapGuru programme considering they are often very young and come here with little or no work experience. In June 2013 I had a school leaver called Jeremy who joined us for 6 weeks on the GapGuru Tanzania Encompassed programme.

He worked at a small community school in a teaching capacity and really got stuck into his work and even teaching his own classes without any support from teachers. He was an exceptional GapGuru volunteer, so hard working and so flexible.

I think why I remember him so much as that when he returned home after his experience he sent us the most lovely email exclaiming that he had had the best time of his life! I think the experience had surpassed all his expectations which was really nice to hear.

What do you think is the most common misconception about gap year travel?

A good think to know when travelling in Tanzania is that people are very friendly; what may seem intrusive or overt to someone from the West is perfectly acceptable here. One of my favourite things about living here is the openness, the directness of the people.

I have never and will never feel as supported by people as I have done throughout my experiences of living in Tanzania. People will go out of their way to make you feel welcome and often it purely altruistic.

What tips do you have for students if a gap year trip would be their first time abroad?

The great thing about the GapGuru programme is its location. In Arusha we have good access and transport links to the North of Tanzania as well as affordable internal flights to other regions of the country. From climbing mountains to safaris, beaches to cultural village tours, Tanzania has such a variety of things to offer and they are all so insightful and beautiful. It really is an interesting place to travel and during the last 10 years the service industry has become so much more facilitated make it much more comfortable to travel.