Do you want a gap year where you learn practical skills? Or get a chance to learn first-hand how to do something new? Whether it's cooking classes or scuba diving certification, a hands-on learning gap year might be the type of program you're searching for.

A hands-on learning gap year or semester is one that's designed to teach gappers a new skill by doing it. Typically, hands-on learning gap year programs will focus on practical skills such as scuba diving, cooking, massage, or wilderness training. Unlike a traditional education, these programs aim to learn outside of the classroom -- often in a corner of the globe that's well known for the skill gappers are learning.

Europe

From fashion design to culinary arts; architecture to historical restoration; Europe has a diverse set of skills that gappers can learn.

Asia

Learn how to scuba dive or give a Thai massage in Thailand; learn meditation and yoga, or how to create a Bollywood film in India; take a cooking class in the Philippines or China. Whatever you do, Asia is rich in hands-on learning options.

South and Central America

South and Central America, especially Costa Rica, have quite a few destinations for scuba diving certifications. You can also learn Spanish (obviously) or about environmental conservation.

Africa

Head to one of Africa's 52 countries and learn more about dance, music, environmental conservation, or photography.

What Can You Do?

What are the possibilities are for hands-on learning? Everything. You can become an expert in Thai cuisine, become certified in scuba diving, learn how to build a shelter and survive in the wilderness, become a yoga master, participate in animal and marine life conservation, become a documentary filmmaker or a writer, and any other possible skill that you can dream up.

Visa

Visa regulations vary widely by country, but generally if your visit is under a certain amount of days a visa won't be required. That differs greatly depending on the country, as does the process and difficulty level in obtaining a visa.

Housing

The type of housing you'll be staying in varies by program. If your gap year is focused on teaching wilderness survival skills, it is likely you'll be camping. If you're learning a language, you'll likely be placed with a host family (or at least given the option).

General Tips

Packing: You may have heard it already, many times probably, but pack lightly and sensibly. Think about where you're going, what kind of natural environment is it? What skills will you be learning? For instance, if you're going to be farming, leave the high heels and your expensive clothes at home.

Be respectful: Make sure to understand and be mindful of the laws and customs of the country where you are learning new skills. You want to portray yourself and your own culture in a positive light and you definitely want to stay out of trouble.

Safety first: Whether you're dealing with the wild animals of Africa, climbing a mountain, or scuba diving, chances are there will be rules put in place. These are for your own safety as well as the safety of those around you, so be smart with your decision making.

Contributed by Rachel Westmore

Hands-on Learning Gap Year Programs

Displaying 1 - 15 of 311 programs
Dynamy Internship Year
Dynamy: Full-Year
United States of America
9.33 •9 reviews

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

Pacific Discovery
Australia & NZ | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries
9.63 •38 reviews

Engage your passions! Join us for a life-changing, overland journey...

Pacific Discovery
SE Asia Semester | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries
9.93 •30 reviews

Who do you want to be in our world? Join us for a life-changing...

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...

Pacific Discovery
Pacific Discovery | Australia Summer Program
Australia
9.94 •16 reviews

Join our Australia summer program for an amazing 4-weeks down under in...

GapForce
Expedition Leader Training with Gapforce
Multiple Countries
9.26 •39 reviews

Follow in the footsteps of past Gapforce Leaders including Bruce Parry...

Pacific Discovery
Pacific Discovery | Thailand Summer Program
Thailand
9.87 •15 reviews

Experience the exotic and varied landscapes, tastes, wildlife and...

Projects Abroad
Projects Abroad Global Gap Year Program
Multiple Countries
9.5 •2 reviews

Projects Abroad has designed an innovative gap year program designed...

Pacific Discovery
Pacific Discovery | New Zealand & Fiji Summer Program
Multiple Countries
9.94 •16 reviews

Experience the local lifestyle, explore incredible landscapes, and...

GapForce
Australia Adventure with Gapforce
Australia
9.3 •30 reviews

Join one of our groups for an action-packed 7 week tour combining...

Thinking Beyond Borders
Gap Year Semester in Latin America with Thinking Beyond Borders
Multiple Countries
9.68 •22 reviews

Explore solutions to critical global issues in communities throughout...

112 reviews
Warriors Academy
Warriors Academy Gap Year Program in South Africa
South Africa
9.71 •112 reviews

The Warriors Academy Gap Year program is aimed at developing each...

Pacific Discovery
Nepal & Tibet | Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries
9.75 •8 reviews

Discover your passion and purpose. Join us for an impactful, overland...

Carpe Diem Education
Carpe Diem Education | Central America Semester: Sustainability & Spanish Immersion
Multiple Countries
9.64 •22 reviews

Learn about Sustainability and immerse yourself in Spanish language...

Seamester
Seamester: Antigua to Grenada - 80 Days
Multiple Countries
10 •14 reviews

Discover the Caribbean as most never will. Dive among her celebrated...

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

Before I started this program I had no clue who I was and what I wanted to do with my life. This program helped me discover my values, and helped me gain the confidence to follow my own path in life...

Top of the rock

There is no way I can adequately describe this program in 500 words, however, I will try my best. Before this program, I was broken, lost and torn apart by the idea of living my life for others. This...

Went hiking in Argentina for my travel period of the program.

Related Gap Year Articles