When it comes to planning a gap year, the possibilities are truly endless. After all, a gap year is simply productive time away from a traditional academic or work setting. While there are certain things that a gap year is not (a gap year is not a year you spend on your couch watching Friends reruns), there aren’t too many rules about what a gap year can be.
This is really exciting. A gap year (or gap time...who says it has to be exactly a year?) can be practically anything you can dream of! Interested in learning how to become a ski instructor? There’s a gap program for that. Want to travel the world via boat? Yep, there’s a gap program for that, too. A gap year is not about what you do—instead, it's about dedicating time to grow as an individual through experiential learning.
All of this variety can make choosing a gap program a little overwhelming. So we’re here to make it easier. We’ve compiled a list of the best gap year programs broken down into popular categories to inspire you to dream big for your next adventure!
Why take a gap year in 2022
There's no denying the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on travel over the last couple of years. Many of us have found ourselves more isolated than ever, and the burnout rate for students and workers is at an all-time high. A gap year is an opportunity for a reset, and a chance to reconnect with the world around us.
While there are new obstacles to travel internationally at the moment, and uncertainty related to health and safety measures still exists, taking a meaningful gap year in 2022 is still entirely possible. To help with your planning process, read about the 10 Best Gap Year Destinations for 2022 and follow the Go Overseas Essential Guide to Taking a Gap Year.
Important: The COVID-19 pandemic has created a dynamic travel landscape. The following programs are hosted in countries that are open to international travelers at the time this article was written. However, it's essential to review travel requirements and stay up to date with regulations in any country you plan to visit as regulations can shift rapidly.
Where to take a gap year in 2022
Here at Go Overseas, we closely follow industry trends to provide readers with relevant and up-to-date information. Throughout 2021, these were the most popular with listed countries for gap year programs from our community members. The with list feature allows users to save programs they're interested in to quickly find them again in the future.
Not seeing your dream destination on this list? Don't fret! Just because the country that best matches your gap year goals didn't make the list of the most popular gap year destinations of 2021 doesn't mean it's not the perfect place for your next adventure!
How did we pick these programs?
We read the reviews left by community members and check to see what they love, what they hate, and everything in between! The more positive, highly-rated reviews there are, the more confident we feel to give our stamp of approval!
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!
Best Adventure Travel Program: Warriors Academy
Length: Four 7-week long seasonal quests
What's included: Accommodation, meals, activities, local transportation, and equipment
This year-long program is broken up into four action-packed adventures corresponding with the seasons. Each quest will combine adventurous activities with soft skill development to prepare participants for university, the corporate world, and life in general. Warriors Academy focuses on community service, self-development, eco-consciousness, and workplace readiness activities, to give students a well-rounded gap year experience. This program is based in South Africa and includes travel around the country and region.
With over 16 years of experience facilitating gap years, Warriors Academy has a proven track record and is highly reviewed by program alum. Participants are signing up for the adventure of a lifetime but will also be challenged to become a more critical thinker, better problem solver, and more confident individual.
Best for cultural immersion: Irish Gap Year Leadership Program
Length: 79 Days (fall), 80 days (spring)
What's included: Accommodation, meals, activities, local transportation, and equipment
Develop leadership skills, give back through community service, and immerse yourself in the Irish culture through the Irish Gap Year Adventure and Leadership Program. Gappers who partake in this program will be challenged both physically and mentally through adventure in the rugged Irish wilderness.
The Adventure and Leadership program goes far beyond camping in remote areas, surfing the Donegal Bay, and visiting towns across Ireland. Gappers will focus on "4 cornerstones" designed to provide soft skills and build independence throughout the two-and-a-half-month program. These cornerstones are outdoor adventure, leadership skills, cultural immersion, and community volunteering. Participants will ultimately complete 80 hours of volunteering within the local communities to give back between the various excursions.
Best for volunteering: Plan My Gap Year in Ghana
Length: 2-weeks to 6-months
What's included: Airport pick up and drop off, accommodation, meals, SIM card, on the ground support, certificate of completion
Volunteer in Ghana with Plan My Gap Year (PMGY) facilitates community development projects in the historic city of Kumasi, Ghana ranging from English teaching to childcare and much more. Volunteering abroad can be an expensive endeavor, but PMGY provides access to high-impact projects at an affordable price. Volunteers will go through an orientation with a local team and work on projects either in schools or hospitals.
Gappers will share accommodation in a volunteer house outside the city center. This is an excellent opportunity to connect with fellow volunteers in safe and (relatively) comfortable living quarters. All prospective volunteers must pass a background check, and those interested in healthcare-related projects will need to provide relevant credentials.
Best for language immersion: Tico Lingo in Heredia, Costa Rica
Length: 1-24 weeks
What's included: Homestay accomadations, class materials, airport pickup and drop off, certificate of completion
If you inspire to improve your Spanish speaking skills during your gap year abroad, Tico Lingo offers an Intensive Spanish Immersion Program in Costa Rica designed to improve your linguistic fluency through immersing you in the local community. Gappers will live with a local family through homestay accommodations and take conversational classes to provide an authentic and meaningful experience in Costa Rica.
Gappers can choose between either group or private class options, depending on their budget and goals. Outside of class, students will enjoy tours and activities, including volcano hiking, dance and cooking classes, and white water rafting. In addition, living with a family will provide a truly immersive experience as you learn Costa Rican customs and home life.
Best for domestic (US-based) experiences: High Mountain Institute Adventure
Length: 4-24 weeks
What's included: Accomodation, group gear, group meals, transportation
The High Mountain Institute (HMI) Adventure, Conservation & Leadership in Wild Places program combines outdoor adventure with environmentalism and leadership experience. As a participant, you’ll get to explore beautiful natural destinations while learning about yourself and your surroundings. Destinations include the Canyonlands of Utah, the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and the deserts of Arizona.
HMI provides US citizens looking to avoid international travel during their gap year with an incredible experience filled with experiential learning. That said, their programs also extend past the US, as gappers can choose to travel through Chilean, Patagonia if they participate in the Rock or Trek Semesters.
Best for studying art and creativity: Art History Abroad in Italy
Length: 6 weeks
What's included: Accomodation, transport, breakfasts, museum fees
Travel throughout Italy while studying each city's history, art, architecture, politics, and culture with Art History Abroad on a 6-week gap year course. Enjoy local food, literature, and music while completing hands-on workshops and visiting historical sites throughout the country.
Gappers will gain an authentic experience and attain an in-depth understanding of Italy, Italian culture, and some of the great artistic masterpieces to come out of the region. Participants will be pushed to improve their creative approach and gain international experience that will stick with them far after the program has ended.
Best for interning: VACorps Internships in Cape Town
Length: 4-12 weeks
What's included: Accomodation, regular check-ins, optional weekly excursions
VACorps offers internship placements in Cape Town, South Africa, in various career fields, including Finance, Clean Energy, Engineering, Media, Technology, Law, Public Health, and many more. Internships will provide gappers with relevant professional experiences and the opportunity to expand their professional network. The internship options also include a more generalized gap year specific program.
The gap year internship program is designed to give participants a preview into their desired career path or studies while immersing them in the South African culture through social engagement. Gappers will learn to expand their comfort zone, become more independent, and develop crucial time management skills while enjoying life in the beautiful city of Cape Town.
Best for a virtual experience: Outreach360 Virtual Volunteer Teacher
Length: 5 weeks
What's included: 2-week training program, weekly leadership lessons, support
Are you interested in gaining many of the benefits of a gap year from the comfort of your own home? Many young adults are searching for ways to make an impact on the lives of others but are hesitant to travel due to health and safety concerns. Outreach360 offers virtual volunteer English teacher positions that connect volunteers with Latin American students in their Virtual English Acadamy.
Volunteers will develop leadership and teaching experience while positively impacting the lives of young students throughout Latin America. Teaching in a virtual environment will force volunteers to develop their communication skills, adaptability, and creative problem-solving. Additionally, participants will work with at least one other volunteer, requiring teamwork to succeed and provide the best experience for students.
Note: Volunteers do not need to speak Spanish
A life changing adventure awaits
Choosing a gap year is a very personal process. There are many factors to consider, such as timeframe, budget, and interests, and what works for one person might not work for another. Consider reading up on Why and How to Defer College Acceptance for a Gap Year and our 10 Steps to Planning a Gap Year Before College to get a better sense of what goes into the planning process.
Most importantly, remember to seek out the advice of those who have already taken gap years, as this first-hand knowledge will provide so much insight into what your year could hold. The reviews here at Go Overseas are a great place to start, and we encourage you to ask questions and get involved. You can also find expert advice, answers to frequently asked questions, and upcoming gap year planning events on the gap year counselors page.
A gap year is a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn about the world in an immersive and engaging way. Take advantage of this time, and have fun! No matter the program you choose or the destination decide to immerse yourself in, a gap year is a life-changing experience that will push you to grow, expand your perspective, and build your global network.
Still haven't found the perfect gap year program? Use the Go Overseas Program Search Feature to explore hundreds of other gap year programs and read real alum reviews.