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Jansen van Vuuren
take control of your future with a gvi

‘The Future’ is a vast and scary place for young adults. Staring down the question of what to do with your life can leave you feeling stressed, confused, and uncertain. The good news is, there’s nothing stopping you from being the master of your own destiny. With a little proactive planning, you can gain a clearer vision of where you want to be and find the inspiration to move forward with certainty.

Here’s how you can do it.

click to down our guide for first time volunteers

Further Reading: 17 Excellent Reasons To Volunteer In 2017

Step 1: The Vision

create a vision for your future

The first thing you need to do is create a picture of your dream future. Not just a vague vision of something, somewhere, sometime future. You need a clear and concrete visual representation of your future plans. Think about it: Images are powerful things. A photo can galvanize people across the world to action. And a picture of your future can help you believe it, and then achieve it. Why is having an image important? We understand things better when we have a visual aid. Seeing is believing, so turning your goals into an actual image can help you map out more clearly how to get there, and find the motivation to stick to your plan.

Put down the future you want on paper, by drawing, painting or even making a collage if you aren’t confident in your artistic skills. Combine strategy and creativity for your visualization.

Further Reading: Top 10 Volunteer Projects For 2017

1) Start Where You Are

Create one image that represents where you are right now. Make sure it includes both the positives and negatives of your current situation.

2) Picture Where You Want To Be

Create another image of where you want to be in a year’s time. Add as many details as possible and don’t let ‘being realistic’ get in the way. This is where you can let your imagination run wild, and you get to decide what you include. You could depict yourself graduating with top grades, starting your dream job, turning your passion project into a career, or living a life full of creativity.

3) Flesh Out Your Vision

Connect emotionally with your vision. Fill it in with color and passion. Add as many details as you can to make it feel more real to you.

4) Remind Yourself

Put your image in a place where you’ll see it every day. Put it in your locker, save it as the background on your phone, pin it up where you study, or stick in your wardrobe so you’ll see it every morning when you’re getting dressed. It will act as a constant reminder of your goals and give you a shot of motivation every time you see it.

Further Reading: 10 Things You Need To Know For Your First Volunteer Trip

Step 2: The Plan

once you have your vision you can start thinking of how to get there

You have your vision in place – now you need a plan. To connect where you are with where you want to be, decide on three steps toward making your dream a reality.

We’ve put together three ideas based on where you might be at this stage of your life.

Further Reading: What Can Volunteering Abroad Teach Me That School Can’t

If You’re Still At School

This is the best time to get off on the right foot. You have plenty of time to examine study options and career-related activities that will help you reach your goals. At this stage in your life you have the freedom to explore a wide range of interests, so be open to new experiences! Here are some ideas:

  1. Trying out as many extracurricular activities as possible. Going on a volunteer trip abroad can help you try out many new things, you’d never have thought of and introduce you to new cultures and outlooks on life. Why not take a look at some of our under 18 programs.
  2. Contacting colleges and attending campus open days. This will give you an opportunity to learn what the college is all about and get a feel for the campus.
  3. Talking to people – careers advisors, current college students, your parents’ friends. Ask them for their opinion. They might be able to offer you sage advice or simply tell you about a college course you hadn’t considered before. You can also always contact us to one of our alumni or country experts.

Further Reading: This Is How Volunteering Will Help On Your College Application

If You Didn’t Get Into College

Don’t give up, just remember where you want to end up and look at the next steps you can take. There are still many options available to you, like:

  1. Applying for late admission colleges and community colleges.
  2. Applying to go on an internship to gain real-world experience.
  3. Looking into learning a specific trade, such as auto mechanics.

Further Reading: How To Choose The Right Internship To Boost Your Career

click to download our internship pack

If You’re In College And Not Sure Where You’re Heading

You’re in luck, most college students are in the same boat. College is the perfect time to try out new things. Explore your interests and actively look for ways to boost your resume and land your dream job. You can try:

  1. Going on a program during your spring break.
  2. Finding an internship to get a taste of working life and learn if a particular career path is for you.
  3. Joining on-campus groups that help you get out of your comfort zone – for example, join a foreign language conversation class, take a few dance lessons, or connect with a debating team to open your mind to new ideas.

Further Reading: Why You Should Choose A Volunteer Trip Abroad For Your Alternative Spring Break In 2018

volunteering during spring or summer break gives you valuable experience that you can use when applying to college

You’ve Got A Degree, But You’re Not Sure What To Do Next

That’s great. A degree opens up a world of possibilities. You have limitless opportunities before you, so now’s the time to explore different options and take the time to figure out what you enjoy doing. Why not:

  1. Try out a job for several months, even if you aren’t sure you’ll like it. There’s nothing stopping you from dipping a toe in to find out what suits you.
  2. Speak to people doing work you think you might enjoy.
  3. Try a volunteer program. It will provide practical work experience that will look great when applying to jobs and maybe even help you get clear on what you’d like to do in the future.

Further Reading: 5 Great Reasons To Volunteer Abroad

You’ve Got An Idea Of What You Want To Do, But You’re Not Sure How To Get There

Awesome, you’re halfway there. You’ve got your goal, now you just need to get started on planning your way to getting there. You can:

  1. Work all your contacts to find someone doing what you want to do, then sit down with them to find out how they got to where they are now.
  2. What’s the title your dream role? ‘Marine Biologist’? ‘Art Director’? ‘CEO’? ‘Type it into LinkedIn. Find someone with that title and read over their work and education history to see what they did to get to where they are today.
  3. Whatever you want to do, it’s likely that you’ll need international work experience to get there. One of the fastest and easiest ways to get there is by joining a volunteer project.

Further Reading: 3 Key Reasons International Career Experience Is A Must

volunteering to teach english abroad is one of the easiest ways you can gain international experience

Everything You Want To Do Looks So Expensive

Don’t give up. If you’re committed and determined, you can make your dreams happen. There are many options available to young people who’d like to pursue study or internship options but don’t have the funds yet – you just have to jump on them! Here are a few things you could try first:

  1. Apply to scholarships.
  2. Start working and saving. You’ll need to keep your goals firmly in mind, as it can be tempting to spend as much as you earn, but with a good savings plan you can stash away enough money for the future. Try setting up automatic bank transfers to a savings account, shopping in thrift stores, and cooking meals at home instead of eating out – small changes can make a big difference!
  3. Start your own fundraising campaign. You can set up crowdfunding campaigns, get sponsorship to run a marathon, sell cookies, or use your creativity to come up with dozens of other ways to raise the funds you need.

Further Reading: 10 Of The Best Fundraising Ideas For Volunteers

There’s Too Much Cool Stuff Out There, I Just Don’t Know What To Do

This isn’t a problem at all! This is your chance to pursue anything that takes your fancy. You just have to start somewhere. Here are some first steps you could look at taking:

  1. Try anything for a little while. You don’t have to commit to it as a career, just try it out. You could work, develop a creative project, or learn a new skill.
  2. Find a volunteer project abroad. This will allow you to explore your interests as well as potential career paths. We have helped many young people get a better idea of what they’d like to be doing in the future.
  3. Take a gap year to travel abroad. You’ll expand your horizons and have plenty of time to think about what you want to do next.

Further Reading: Know Your Skills: How To Explain Your Volunteer Abroad Experience On Your Resume

click to download our ultimate gap year guide

When you’ve decided on what you’d like to do, create images for these three steps and put them up between the pictures you’ve created of your present and your future. These are your ‘stepping stones’. Check in at the one-year mark to see how far you’ve come – you might be surprised!

But of course, you won’t always hop effortlessly from one step to the next. You may come across some obstacles on the way.

Step 3: Conquer Your Fear

overcoming your own fear will be one of your biggest challenges, that's why you need as much help as you can get

The most difficult obstacles you’ll have to overcome are internal. This isn’t anything to do with your levels of motivation: as humans, we are simply programmed to resist change. Our brains are hardwired to protect us from the danger that change presents, so we’re struggling against ourselves when we try to do new things. Feeling overwhelmed, confused and afraid are all instinctual reactions to taking action. You just have to recognize this and then work on overcoming your resistance.

The best way to get past the fear is to create a solid support structure. Having a close circle of people who understand and support your drive to reach your goal can keep you going when the going gets tough. Surrounding yourself with positive thinkers will give you uplifting energy and inspiration when you need it most.

Some of the resources you can call upon include:

Parents, Family, and Friends

The people closest to you want you to be happy and successful, so they will cheer you on as you get closer to your dreams.

parents, family, and friends can help provide the support you need to achieve your goals


You can also reach out to mentors. This could be anyone you admire, like a teacher, boss, or a family friend. You can either approach them in person or get in touch over social media through networks like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. Many of the people you admire were exactly where you are today, so they will be able to offer any words of wisdom they have on how to take steps in the right direction. GVI Alumni make great mentors. Find out if one will be in your city soon.

Further Reading: Alumni Showcase Interview | Session One | Sami Dawes

Educational Institutions

Educational institutions are always keen to help and GVI is no exception. Contact us if you need help choosing your next step. You should also look into contacting your 4-year institutions and attending their on-campus open days.


You can also be your own biggest cheerleader. To keep yourself motivated, think positive and take an experimental attitude. It’s okay to try something out for a few months, it’s not for the rest of your life. Don’t beat yourself up if it doesn’t work out – that just means you can cross that option off your list!

Celebrate even the smallest changes or steps toward where you want to go. Just getting in touch with a person you admire or sending an application to an educational institution could be a big success. Most importantly, go back and look at your visualization. Don’t lose sight of what you want or how far you’ve come. You’ve got this!

Further Reading: How To Choose The Trip That’s Best For You

Step 4: Take The First Step

the first step will often be the most difficult

The final step is the most difficult – but it’s also the most important, so don’t let yourself stumble. See this through!

Pushing yourself beyond your comfortable present isn’t easy. The hardest part about taking control of your future is summoning up the courage and motivation to act.

Use Your Resources

You can encourage yourself to take action by making use of those resources we mentioned above – call upon your support network and nominate some accountability buddies. They can help you move forward when you lose momentum. Post your plans on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, to keep people up to date on your journey and draw inspiration from their encouragement.

Further Reading: How To Take A Gap Year: Before, During And After

Take Action On Your Goals

Set yourself clear challenges related to the action plan you formulated in step two. Give yourself a task, such as browsing GVI’s programs and signing up for at least one, or arranging a meetup with our alumni.

Further Reading: 9 Inspirational Travel And Volunteering Quotes

be a champion for your own goals

Track Your Progress

Stay organized and make lists of things you need to do, and things you have done. Keeping track of these things will help you to maintain an uncluttered and stress-free mind, so you don’t get bogged down with feelings of being overwhelmed.

Further Reading: How Volunteering Will Help Us Achieve The Global Goals

Ask For Help

Ask for help when you need it. One of the easiest ways to take the next step is to contact an organization like GVI. DM us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or complete an inquiry form. You can also join the Livestream on our Facebook page on the 7th of October. Finally, you can always call us for more information about GVI or to ask advice on which program is for you. Just let us know what you’re interested in and we’ll help you find the perfect program.

Your destiny is in your hands – take hold of it and shape it the way you want!

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