The Millennials on the Move series‘ goal is to showcase candid interviews of young millennials and the inspiring stories of how they navigate the world despite the many challenges of travel at such a young age. From study abroad to becoming an expat in some of the most remote corners of the world, these young travelers share their stories to educate, inspire, and empower others to take a travel risk or two.

I’m excited to share my talk with Amiera on why she chose to take a gap year after college, and specifically why she chose to spend that year charitably volunteering with disabled youth in Turkey.


1) Hi, Amiera! Please introduce yourself.

Hello. My name is Amiera Shakina, and I am 25 years old at the moment. I am a college graduate with Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine, currently based in Malaysia as freelance tutor and writer while waiting for medical residency placement; apart from spending my time seeking experiences around the world.

2.) What prompted you to take a gap year?

As soon as I completed my study in Medicine I’d been aware of the long waiting period for medical residency placement in my country. I felt it natural for any traveler to be curious to know more about the world around us, and to want to seek out experiences for our own personal development. For these two reasons I reached my decision to take a gap year and travel.

The culture and the norm of living in different countries, the kindness of human nature and the simultaneous need to serve local communities keeps my nomadic soul wandering. It feeds my want of world knowledge and offers help to those in need. Volunteering while traveling is the most fitting option for those who still question the purpose of globetrotting.

Volunteering while traveling is a great option for those seeking purpose in their travels. Click To Tweet

3.) Did you use a specific program to facilitate your gap year? What were your feelings on traveling to Turkey at that time?

I’ve constantly used Workaway.Info as my platform to concurrently travel and volunteer. Among the countries I visited, Turkey has been the most geographically and culturally inspiring country.

I know many people may have been shocked that anyone was willing to travel to Turkey at this moment with their current political situation. But I always hold in principle to believe the good of unconventional decisions, so I took the risk despite the shallow picture mass media had been portraying on Turkey.

The reality is that the citizens were often the most giving and willing to extend a great length of helping hands to the
foreigners. It was not only because I was privileged for being a Muslim traveller in another Muslim country, their culture discards xenophobia. I promise that any traveller scared to visit Turkey would be feel ridiculous after doing so.

4.) Tell me more about your volunteer experience in Turkey. Where did you go, and what were your responsibilities?

In total, I’d spent two months within Turkey and visited few cities and villages from the Eastern till Western side includes Trabzon, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Adiyaman, Cappadocia, Antalya, Kas, and the capital Istanbul.

Ameira Shakina - Autism Volutneering - Millennials on the Move5
Ameira volunteering at the Little Prince Academy in Istanbul.

In Cappadocia specifically, I volunteered in a non-profit academy for disabled children named Little Prince Academy. The place was inspired from Le Petite Prince Book by a French author, Antoine de Saint-Exupery. It was simply my favourite book, as venturing Cappadocia you feel like you are stranded on a different planet with a fairy-tale landscape while learning valuable life lessons.

While there I was responsible for organising activities for the mentally disabled children with Down Syndrome, Autism and other psychiatric-related problems. Although language was a barrier, I worried not as playing with the kids requires only fun and games. The academy has been organising horse-riding therapy as well and would soon like to develop farming activities for the kids.

As for accommodations, they provided dormitories which could fit 20 volunteers during the summer time.

In Mediterranean region of Turkey I volunteered to be a photographer, writer and artist with a local mosaic artist. The best part of that is that I have been living in an independent house by the mountain and sea, with the small town vibe perfect for a nature-seeking traveller.

5.) What skills did you pick up from your gap year that you found valuable? 

Some of the skills that I learned include:

Coping with mentally disabled children—To raise these ‘special kids’ is beyond standard parenting level. It requires anyone to be highly patience emotionally and cognitively. An honour respect for their parents and the academy for providing and understanding the different needs of these ‘special kids.’

Animals Care–as I’ve lived in suburban area where the nation doesn’t grow its own foods and rear animals, living in farm surrounding developed my hands-on skill regarding feeding the animals such as chickens, cows, sheep, and horses. Such a greatest gift of farm life when every day you cooked from your build-up grocery store.

Art and Creativity–A creative soul and scientific mind is crucial for my living principle. In building my self-innovation, I couldn’t be more grateful to be offered a chance to learn and expand my art skill based from mosaics and glasses techniques.

Interview series with millennials who are determined to experience the world while their young, and want to inspire, educate, and empower other young people to do the same. Click To Tweet

6.) What are some amazing moments from your volunteering that stand out?

I believe amazing moments are created from our own processed-thoughts while encountering a certain situation, a reflection of our inner-self. But to list a few of moments that I created as a traveling volunteer:

– To meet and exchange culture with other fellow volunteers and locals.

– The food, always the different taste in food created the best moment to bond with locals, be it whether you cooked or eating outside.
– The intellectual talks with the people I met have expanded my perspectives regarding many things that I was ignorance about before.
– To be able to explore the nature and cities as a whole while volunteer at places distinct from my own living surrounding.

Ameira Shakina Millennials on the Move1
Ameira found Turkey to be a magical place.

7.) What advice would you give to another 20-something who wants to volunteer for their gap year, but don’t know if the benefits outweigh the hardships?

I would say, don’t be afraid to give a helping hand while self-indulging in an exquisite beauty of the world. There are many volunteer opportunities that suit your needs and skills. Be it in third world, second world or first world nation.

We live on this Earth co-dependently with each other, regardless of genders, races, religions or social statuses. The hardships will always there, what made we different from each other is our determination and ways to overcome every hardship we face.

8.) Do you have any closing remarks that you’d like to add?

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly, and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love – for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment is it perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you from misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labours and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all it’s sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.

– Max Ehrmann, Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life

Amiera’s Facebook • Amiera’s Instagram


What is the purpose of this series?

This initiative share the same mission as my blog as a whole—to inspire other people in my age group by showing them that travel can be accessible, life changing, and 

If you’re interested in being featured and you’re younger than 26, you can see how to apply in the FAQ of this blog and shoot me an email at gabby@packslight.com.

25 yr old Ameira took a #gapyear after med school and found her calling by #volunteering all over the country of #Turkey. The #Millennials on the Move series' goal is to showcase candid interviews of young millennials and the inspiring stories of how they navigate travel at their age despite the challenges. From studying abroad to becoming an #expat in some of the most remote places in the world, these young travelers share their stories to educate, inspire, and empower others to take a #travel risk or two. #interview #MOTM
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25 yr old Ameira took a #gapyear after med school and found her calling by #volunteering all over the country of #Turkey. The #Millennials on the Move series' goal is to showcase candid interviews of young millennials and the inspiring stories of how they navigate travel at their age despite the challenges. From studying abroad to becoming an #expat in some of the most remote places in the world, these young travelers share their stories to educate, inspire, and empower others to take a #travel risk or two. #interview #MOTM
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