Canada is a massive country, full of unique experiences and places for you to explore. The country stretches from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean and deep into the Arctic. Canada's inspiring landscape is truly unparalleled, so think big and be prepared for the exploration of a lifetime during your gap year!
Why take a gap year in Canada, you ask? We say, why not? You can take a semester or year between the end of high school and the first year of college to take a much-deserved break from studying. It can be a time to travel to see Lake Louise and play hockey while also shaping your perspective on the world and how you want to impact it. Maybe you prefer to spend your gap year with purpose, volunteering to preserve parks, or passing on your awesome shredding skills as a ski instructor. The sky is the limit! Plus, your gap year can make you stand out on job and grad school applications and makes for great talking points in interviews.
Read on to learn about volunteering, traveling, and interning during your gap year in Canada. We'll also explore how much your gap year program might cost, what visa you need to enter Canada, and how to stay safe and healthy while abroad.
Types of Programs
Ski or Snowboard Instructor
Training and working as a ski instructor is one of the most popular gap year activities to do in Canada. Not only can you share your skills with kids and adults, but you also learn how to teach, manage groups of people, and effectively communicate, which can all help you in a future career. And, you can carve the mountainside at any time you want and improve your own skills! A few programs that offer training and certification include Timberline Academy and EA Ski & Snowboard.
Conservation organizations offer opportunities throughout Canada, protecting and enhancing parks and other natural areas through various activities. Volunteers are crucial in assisting these organizations in helping reach their goals. These organizations work to offset our carbon footprint by researching and informing the public of environmental devastation.
Other volunteer programs aim at offering a safe place for children, working to channel their energies into positive, challenging activities that encourage personal growth, learning, community involvement, and healthy living. There are plenty of after-school and weekend organizations that provide invaluable support to parents, children, and their communities.
There is no lack in adventure travel around Canada. Visit the stunning Niagara Falls in Ontario. Travel the pedestrian bridge that links Canada with the United States without the inconvenience of border patrols! Canada is great for sightseeing. Visit popular spots such as Quebec, Vancouver, Toronto, and Ottawa. Explore Canada’s stunning crystal clear lakes, thousand-year-old glaciers, and breath-taking mountain ranges. But remember to bring a coat! Canada is the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and sightings are year-round. You can also see stunning Beluga Whales and catch a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis in Churchill.
The cities have adequate public transit, but the countryside is widespread. The distance between one to another can be daunting. Renting a car is always a good option. And remember to look up times for train rides and long-distance bus rides.
Internships are a great way to spend your gap year in Canada. The experience allows you to create extensive social networks that go a long way towards building a career. In Canada, qualified participants can be placed in a variety of locations, including Vancouver and Toronto. Participants can live in home-stays or hotels if they’re taking part in hospitality internships. Applicants must be at least 18, and certain nationality restrictions apply in regards to visa procedures.
Internships are often flexible, lasting 6-12 months, and are available year-round for interested students. While you're interning during the week, you also have time to travel during the weekends! Students are encouraged to research available internships in Canada ahead of time.
Advance and spur your professional development! There is no better way to gain an edge in the job market than by gaining professional experience in an international setting.
Planning Your Trip
Visas for your Gap Year in Canada
Depending on what you plan to do and how long you plan to stay for your gap year in Canada, it will change which visa you may need to apply for. If you plan to travel and do a few weeks of volunteering, you may be able to get a visitor visa that allows most people to stay in the country for up to six months. Your gap year program coordinator will most likely tell you which one you need or will help you figure out which visa you qualify for. Canada also has a Working Holiday Visa option, which provides young people between the ages of 18 - 30 from certain countries to get paid and travel for a year.
Cost of Living in Canada
Canada has a strong middle class and the cost of living is similar to the United States. Taxes tend to be high since there are many social programs like healthcare. Doctors are affordable and the streets are clean. Depending on where you live, your average income can seem lower than what you’re used to, but you can still live comfortably in Canada. Public transit is affordable and Canada’s steady economy provides many opportunities for students and travelers alike.
Rent can be expensive in Canada. For example, a one-bedroom apartment in the city center is likely to be around $1,300 per month and a night out at a restaurant can be between $16 - $70. Some gap year programs in Canada may provide housing as part of your program fee. Your accommodation may range from hotels to apartments shared with other participants. For more info on cost of living in Canada, visit Numbeo.
Culture and Etiquette in Canada
Canada draws influences from a broad range of constituent nationalities and policies. These policies promote multiculturalism and constitutional protection. While distinct from the United States, American media and entertainment are popular, if not dominant, in English Canada. When meeting a Canadian, many of the same standards apply as with the U.S. Eye contact is important, smiling brings a sense of security and friendliness, and shaking hands firmly is the norm. Greetings are generally friendly, but formal.
Health & Safety
Health and Safety in Canada
Canada provides universal healthcare to its citizens, the system is always changing in little ways, but the basics remain the same - meeting everyone's basic healthcare needs. Physicians are readily available but rarely needed for the young traveler. If you are not a citizen, you will need to buy health or travel insurance before taking your gap year in Canada. Your gap year program should be able to provide the information you need to get this completed.
Canada generally doesn't have widespread diseases. So if you’re scared of needles, don’t be afraid. You don’t need tons of vaccinations to visit the country. However, you should always take precautions as Canada’s weather can be intense, and hypothermia is a real concern. Stay warm, stay dry, and know your limits when traveling throughout the country. For more info, visit the Health Canada website.
Gap Year Programs in Canada
What kind of gap year programs are available in Canada?
There are a lot of different options for gap year programs but some of the most popular include volunteering in conservation, teaching as a ski instructor, traveling the country, and interning in the hospitality industry.
How much money do I need for a gap year in Canada?
The cost of living in Canada is similar to the United States. You will need to budget enough money for your gap year program fees, housings, meals, and additional travel. You will probably need at least $1,500 - $2,000 per month to live in Canada, which you can subsidize with a job or by applying to grants and scholarships.
What are the benefits of a gap year in Canada?
Canada is the second-largest country on earth and spans from the arctic down to the northern US-Canada border. Canada has more lakes than the rest of the countries on earth combined. With its size comes a multitude of gap year opportunities in the outdoor adventure and winter sports industries. Canada is also one of the most multicultural nations on earth, making it an excellent place for those interested in expanding their perspective on the world.
What kind of visa do I need for a gap year in Canada?
Like Australia and New Zealand, Canada offers a working holiday visa that permits young adults from specific countries to work and travel within Canada freely. Additionally, the International Experience Canada (IEC) work permit provides eligible gappers to work and travel in Canada through a recognized organization. Check your eligibility and apply for a visa at the Visit Canada website.