Dear student,

these are the four most important things to do prior to embarking on your career. I will delve into each one of them separately, and please notice that they are doable in any time of your life, you can start at the age of 14 or the age that you are able to work in your country of residence.

Study abroad:

This is part of a university programme.  Many universities sign exchange of student’s agreement, so a student can take one semester or one year in another university, and in most cases the credits will be transferable to his current university.  Sometimes the students go and take subjects that are easy and non-credit bearing, because they want to utilize the time in seeing that country. I can give you an example here of the American students who go to New Zealand to do a study abroad year.  Their fee will be paid by their home university, and they have to pay only for their trip and accommodation, and during their study their will tour around and visit the various sites and learn about the culture. 

Volunteering:

This can also be done while studying at the university, before going, and after one returns from his/her studies.  The volunteering jobs can be Habitat for humanity, where they will build houses, or teach in remote areas, or work with doctors (medicine san frontier) or help nurses and so on.  Most of the volunteering work happens in underdeveloped countries, and sometimes top medical schools puts this as an acceptance requirement. Of course, you can also volunteer in your own country to teach the poor or clean the beaches or build/renovate houses.  Most of the volunteering companies are pro bono, and one needs to pay only for his/her board and food. It’s very inspiring to see the young people from AIESEC coming to Bahrain to teach English. I am in a volunteering group that teaches English to students with low income and we receive many students from various countries who come to help.

Internships:

I recommend this to every student. learn the basics of work, being diligent, understanding the work environment, following work culture, working with people that are older and maybe wiser than you are. Internships teaches you skills that you need for your future career and maybe opens your eyes to the major you want to specialize in.  please do not wait to graduate from university before doing an internship, try to utilize this free training by companies in all your school holidays or university holidays, I would recommend it even once you graduate, just push yourself and say that you want to learn only and do need the pay.  Who knows, maybe that company will take you full time.  Remember, the world of work is different than the world of studies, here you will see first-hand the types of jobs available and maybe you will even change your mind and study something that you found interesting.  Some universities have internships as part of the curriculum, which is at times called sandwich programme.  Most of the hospitality programmes have 6 months a year in industry, and these are paid internships.

Gap year:

Some students take a gap year prior to embarking on their university studies or after they complete their studies.  The gap year can be used for many things but no studying or attachments to any education sector is needed in it.  Some students take it to think of their future, some take to experiment on various jobs before choosing a major, some may even establish small businesses to try their luck.  Whatever it is you want to do and unsure of, then my recommendation is a gap year.  However, I must warn you here, don’t take it and just sit at home watching TV or going to Cafes, it’s your year of thinking and making important life changes.  You need to cherish every moment of it

Finally, I want to speak about something I saw in other countries which is called “The Big OE” which means the big overseas experience.  Some countries provide the citizens of other countries (they need to have signed a sort of memorandum of understanding to grant the citizens a visa to stay in the country for certain amount of time) and the work the students or the people who want to go on their big OE should not be related to their majors. For example, if I am an accountant, I can work in any field but the field of accounting and so with doctors, dentists, film makers and so on. The benefit is dual, one is to try other jobs, and the other is to see countries, or learn the language and engross in the culture.  This is not to be confused with study abroad, as it has nothing to do with studying, you will earn money and you will live like a worker, whereas study abroad you will study at a university and life in the dorms. The two are totally different.

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