How to plan a working holiday in India

A journey to the subcontinent can be a daunting prospect, but help is available. reports

A friend travelled to India on his gap year. He'd developed a bit of a paunch with all that comfort eating at A-level time, and heard that India was the best place to lose weight with a quick spell of aggressive diarrhoea. To his dismay, the only condition from which he suffered on the subcontinent was constipation. Always expect the unexpected from India.

Modern India is the world's largest democracy and has its second-largest population and seventh-largest area, enveloping myriad landscapes, from the mountain lakes of Srinagar to the Himalayan peaks; from the beaches of Goa to the banks of the Ganges; from the sprawling slums of Mumbai to the deserts of Rajasthan. All these are within reach of the intrepid gap-year traveller willing to risk the odd bout of culture shock (and tummy trouble).

"I chose India because it was a challenge, and very different to the world I'm used to," says Lizzie Russell, 22, who has been working in a school for underprivileged children in Calcutta. "I love it: the colour, the culture, the sounds and smells, the sights."

At university, Russell campaigned for Make Poverty History and volunteered at Oxfam. She is one of many conscientious and ethically minded young backpackers who take the opportunity to experience unfamiliar cultures through volunteer work. "Working in Oxfam gave me an awareness of what was going on in the world and the thought of making a difference myself," she says.

Recently, Russell moved from Calcutta to Bangalore, where she's working in an after-school centre for six-to-16-year-olds. "They're children who may have illiterate parents, and at home they have no facilities or motivation to learn," she says. "At the centre there are computers, toys and games, and reading and educational tools. It means they can strive for higher educational ideals than their parents might expect."

Russell organised her trip through India gap specialists Gap Guru, who tailor programmes that combine volunteering and travel. By the end of her seven-month trip, Russell will have taken in Delhi, Mumbai, Agra, Goa, Rajasthan and Ladakh, as well as her volunteering placements.

Gap Guru has representatives in each city to meet gappers at the airport and keep in close touch, giving backpackers and their parents peace of mind. The company has established an essay competition for UK schoolchildren, with the prize of six months in India.

The variety of work placements available for British gappers in India is staggering, ranging from education to medical to journalism. Carly Ennis, on a year out between school and university, organised work experience through the gap company Changing Worlds with The Indian Express, an English language newspaper in Chennai. "Chennai's population is 7.5 million," she says. "It's quite a big readership! I worked for the features section, and they'd send me off across Chennai to do reports and interviews at a moment's notice. I would also have to come up with three story ideas of my own each week, and if they were good enough they would get published."

Ennis was the first British work experience trainee the paper had hosted. "I've travelled in Europe, but India really is totally different from anywhere else," she says. "It's a quasi-globalised mixture of the rising middle-class, with their mopeds and their mobile phones, and crushing poverty."

James Hibberd, 23, recently returned from a strenuous but spectacular trip to India and Nepal with VentureCo. His group undertook a 10-day trek in Sikkim in North-east India, which took them high above sea level. Next, they crossed the Nepalese border to go white-water rafting and brave the world's second-highest bungee jump, before making the three-week trek to Everest base camp. The team also spent three weeks in Rajasthan, painting walls, installing electricity and building a kitchen for a school.

After each VentureCo group returns to the UK, they have a feedback session, which allows the company to tweak the experience for subsequent groups. "It would be possible to do those things alone," Hibberd says, "but I don't think I'd have had the initiative. The base camp trek gave me a real sense of achievement, and I wanted to experience India, because it seemed so far away from British culture. It's quite a shock at first. But you get used to it."

See www.gapguru.com; www.changingworlds.co.uk; and www.ventureco-worldwide.com

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA

£20 - 25k: Guru Careers: A Graduate Database Administrator / Junior DBA is nee...

Guru Careers: Graduate Administrator / Junior Operations Admin

£20 - 25k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Graduate Administrator / Junior Oper...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software Developer - Entry Level

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate Software Developer i...

Guru Careers: Graduate Print Producer / Account Executive

£18 - 25k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Graduate Print Producer / Account Execut...

SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen