Life can be an incredible adventure, especially when we take the time to create our own opportunities. Gap years are a great option for any student or professional needing a change of pace-- whether you’re fresh out of high school, college, or somewhere along your professional career path.

Essentially, this type of exploration involves spending a year in a new place, usually abroad, participating in experiential learning with the intention of discovering more about yourself while developing new skills or helping others.

Maybe the most overwhelming, and yet the most exciting, part of deciding to take a gap year is considering what exactly you should do. If you're going to take the adventurous step to travel for a year, you want to make sure it's the right decision for you and that you'll get as much out of it as you can.

Luckily, many of these programs offer tons of guidance before you make a decision. They also incorporate ways to practice real life skills like learning a language, leadership, teaching, while giving you the opportunity to try out lots of different kinds of programs, like what you see below. The wide variety can potentially help you decide what you want to study in college, what kind of career you want to enter, or just give you the chance to try lots of different things!

Adventure

What would life be without a little bit of adventure? Many of the programs listed on Go Overseas involve high intensity, adrenaline inducing fun, like bungee jumping, white water rafting, sky diving, and rock climbing. Still more offer components with hiking, surfing, sailing, scuba diving, mountain climbing... and the list goes on! If you love being outdoors and taking risks, you'll have no problem finding a program to suit your needs.

Volunteer

You can do volunteer work, such as working at an orphanage or helping to build homes in areas that have been torn apart by natural disasters. You can even help out with rainforest conservation in Peru or get your PADI Coral Reef Research Diver qualification while assisting with marine conservation in Seychelles. There are so many options to volunteer, so start your research at Go Overseas to find what program best fits you.

Study

You can choose to take some courses abroad without confining yourself to being a full-time student; maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to cook, so you decide to take a culinary class in France while travelling in your free time. Language schools are also an excellent study option; for example, try learning Arabic at a university in Abu Dhabi or taking some classes in Afrikaans while studying in Cape Town. You'll also learn plenty of culture and history just be being in the country.

Work

You can also decide to fund your travels by working abroad-- whether it be as a waitress, bartender, temporary employee, or a farmhand. You can be a WWOOFer (a participant in the Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms), where your room and board are provided in exchange for help on a farm or vineyard. If you have a love of children, Au Pairing as a nanny is a popular choice. Yet another option is to teach English, which is actually a very marketable skill. Many of the teaching and au pairing programs like to hire participants for at least a year, which would be another great reason to choose a gap year over a shorter amount of time.

Gap Year Timing

Something else that should be taken into consideration is the timing of your gap year adventure. It’s common practice in the U.K. and Australia to take time off after high school to travel, something that allows you to have a variety of experiences before settling down at college and picking a major.

In the U.S, it’s a bit more common to take a gap year after completing college--hoping for an adventure before settling into rigorous grad programs or a full time job. Many hope to make this move at a point in their life when they aren’t tied down by future family/career/studies.

However, it doesn’t matter what point you are in your life-- if you decide a gap year is right for you, it’s never too late to take some time to explore the world and test your limits!

Where to Start Your Gap Year Program Search

The options are endless. So where to start? Go Overseas provides multiple guides for those interested in specific programs or those hoping to do more research. A general Google search will often give great results and lead to blogs with some interesting insights and personal narratives; these can give you a great idea of what it’s like to live abroad.

The Take-Away

And what’s the point of going through all this trouble? What do you take away from a gap year? You’ll absolutely gain independence and confidence in yourself and your abilities to travel and live on your own. You’ll have an increased awareness of the world around you and how other people live in different countries. You may even gain a new perspective on what happiness means to you, and how you work to achieve it in your everyday life.

Future employers will love to hear about your experiences and the new skills you’ve gained. You’ll also hopefully have some new friends and have forged many meaningful relationships, based all around the world (a.k.a., excuses to travel and visit new places later on!).

So what do you have to lose? There is no rush to figure out your life’s purpose, so take some time to explore this magical world we live in, at a time when traveling has never been easier or more within your reach.

Why Take a Gap Year?

Say you’re in a situation where you aren’t quite sure how you want the next few years of your life to unfold. You’re graduating, not ready to take a “real job” or go to grad school. Or maybe you have a very clear picture of your life, but want a bit of adventure before you get too settled. You may even be taking a break from a job you already have.

Gap years provide an excellent way to figure out what you may want out of life before you make a decision based on outside pressures or internal confusion, or to simply take time for yourself to reorient your interests and goals. For many, it’s a year of personal growth and exploration-- a chance to gain independence and valuable work skills along the way. Making the decision to take a gap year shows courage and maturity, and serves as an investment for your future.

Benefits of a Yearlong Gap Program

One important point to consider is why it might be more beneficial to take a gap year over choosing a program with a shorter duration, like a semester abroad or a summer internship. It goes without saying that the longer you spend abroad, the more time you have to explore different places, meet different people, and learn about yourself.

Programs like the ones listed below give you the opportunity to take an alternate educational route while still providing a structured itinerary. You'll visit one country, or multiple, and participate in a wide variety of travel-oriented learning experiences.

Contributed by Lauren Fritz

Yearlong Gap Year Programs

Displaying 1 - 15 of 124 programs
Maximo Nivel
Gap Year Program — Work, Study, & Travel in Latin America
Multiple Countries
10 •2 reviews

Work, study, and travel. Connect, learn, and grow. Discover something...

Dynamy Internship Year
Dynamy: Full-Year
United States of America
9.33 •9 reviews

Dynamy Internship Year offers full-year, semester (fall/spring) and...

API
API Gap Year in Spain
Spain
9 •1 review

API offers study abroad programs for those who want to take their gap...

API
API Gap Year in France
France
7 •1 review

API offers a wonderful opportunity for students to take a gap year in...

Thinking Beyond Borders
Gap Year Opportunities Around the Globe with Thinking Beyond Borders
Multiple Countries
9.71 •49 reviews

We believe that a gap year should offer more than just travel or...

LoPair Education
LoPair Education: Au Pair Cultural Exchange Program in China
China
8.54 •92 reviews

Nǐ hǎo! LoPair offers an award-winning cultural exchange program which...

EF International Language Campuses
EF Language Year Abroad in Dubai
United Arab Emirates

Travel to Dubai for a semester or year and learn Arabic in a city an...

EF International Language Campuses
EF Language Year Abroad in Lisbon, Portugal
Portugal

Travel to Lisbon for a semester or year and learn Portuguese in Europe...

Amigos de las Americas
Amigos de las Americas - Uruguay Gap Year
Uruguay
10 •4 reviews

Accredited by the Gap Year Association, our Gap Program provides...

John Cabot University
Gap Year in Rome, Italy at John Cabot University
Italy
10 •3 reviews

John Cabot University is an American-accredited university in Rome...

Wanderlust Exchange
Wanderlust Au Pair China Program
China
9.15 •68 reviews

Wanderlust Au Pair China Program integrates educational travel...

Cross-Cultural Solutions
Cross-Cultural Solutions: Spanish Immersion Gap Year Program
Multiple Countries
9.5 •2 reviews

Soak up the Latin American culture and learn the Spanish language. Our...

EF Gap Year
EF Gap Year: Customizable 25-Week Program in Multiple Destinations
Multiple Countries
9.56 •9 reviews

Eager to become more worldly and prepared for college in just 25 weeks...

Amigos de las Americas
Amigos de las Americas - Ecuador Gap Year
Ecuador
9.33 •3 reviews

Spend your first month in intensive Spanish classes, including outings...

Winterline Global Education
Explore the World & Learn New Skills on a Winterline Global Gap Year Program
Multiple Countries
9.53 •15 reviews

Are you prepared for life? Are you not sure what you want to do after...

What People Are Saying

I always wanted to travel to China and see the culture from inside so this program was like a golden ticket to me. Of course I felt a little bit uneasy moving 7000 km away but the agency did its best...

My baby

This was my first time traveling outside of the U.S. and it was life changing. This trip was a great way to make new connections because you never know who you will meet along your journey. I had met...

1 of the 7 World Wonders

I found out about Verto Education at a time in my life when I really needed to know that there was another way for me to begin life after high school. I feel so lucky to have been able to travel with...

Our last night was truly sad and sentimental. All of the excitement of going home was followed by the sadness of leaving such beautiful places and wonderful people.

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