Cancun (creative commons)
Cancun (creative commons)

Taking a gap year is one of the best opportunities you can have to explore a country fully and totally immerse yourself in its culture. Mexico is a country that is often stereotyped. Even though it’s true that you can spend your time on the beaches of Cancun eating tacos and burritos on Mexico holidays, you can also put that time to good use and experience something that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

Gap year volunteering is becoming one of the most popular ways to spend a gap year. Not only does it give you the opportunity to experience the “real” Mexico, it looks good on your resume and you’ll give something back to the community. Volunteer programs can vary, meaning that you can choose a project that will best suit your tastes and abilities. You can help conserve the Mexico Sea Turtle, teach English in public schools or volunteer with PEACE, an organization dedicated to help residents develop life skills and contribute to their communities.

Of course, you don’t have to spend your entire gap year grafting. It’s quite common to spend a certain amount of time volunteering and then taking in the sights and culture of Mexico the rest of the year. While you’re in Mexico, make sure you explore as much of the country as you can. Mexico has plenty of activities both inland and at the coast. There are many cultural and archaeological sites that you can visit; Chichen Itza is an essential stop for anybody who is interested in history or archaeology. There are also plenty of volcanoes and ecological parks if you’re more inclined to spend time in the great outdoors. The coastline has plenty of attractions as well, including snorkeling and scuba diving, and plenty of beaches and party spots.

The Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico (Creative Commons photo via Flickr)
The Chichen Itza Ruins, Mexico (Creative Commons photo via Flickr)

Each region of Mexico has its own attractions for you to discover. If you want to do some volunteering in the country you’ll need to do your research well ahead of time. Putting in a bit of planning beforehand will make your gap year in Mexico much sweeter because you won’t be stressing about where you’ll be sleeping that night. Booking everything in advance also helps you to save money, as bookings can get more expensive the more urgent they are.

Mexico is a country rich in culture and history and spending a gap year there will surely be a lasting and gratifying experience.