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.


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


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.


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 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.


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 181 - 195 of 310 programs
Thoreau College
Thoreau College Semester Program
United States of America
9.33 •3 reviews

Rooted in the hills and valleys of western Wisconsin, the Thoreau...

RIDGE Mountain Academy
RIDGE Mountain Academy
United States of America
9.5 •2 reviews

RIDGE Mountain Academy is designed for male and female student...

iALA Events
iALA Gap Year: Outdoor and Adventure Leadership Programme
South Africa
9 •3 reviews

The iALA vision is to develop leadership via the medium of adventure...

Wayfinding Academy
Live Your Life on Purpose - Wayfinding Academy
United States of America
9 •2 reviews

We believe there's more than one way to do life, and one definition of...

Outward Bound
Skills-Focused Semester in the American Southwest
United States of America

This Semester expedition is a 50-day journey through the mountains...

Outward Bound
Explore Two Different U.S. Regions on This Leadership Semester
United States of America

Undertake a dog sledding and cross-country skiing adventure during a...

Outward Bound
U.S. Leadership Semester: Journey Through Oregon & Idaho
United States of America

This 65-day Semester is a chance to escape your usual routine, explore...

Outward Bound
75-Day Semester: Maine, the Florida Keys & Everglades National Park
United States of America

Earn an advanced Wilderness First Aid certification on this 75-day...

Work Exchange as Healthcare Counselor at International Ski Camp
10 •1 review

Responsibility for the health and well-being of a group of children...

Wanderlust Exchange
Surprise Host Family Program in China

Surprise Host Family Program – Are you ready for the surprise of your...

Wanderlust Exchange
Spend Your Gap Year as a Tennis Coach in China

This project gives you the opportunity to have fun helping Chinese...

Travel Hokkaido
Language and Personal Development Program in Japan
10 •1 review

Be The Change (BTC) is a Japanese language and personal development...

Academic Programs Abroad (APA)
APA Level Up: Launch Your Global Career

Over the course of this semester-length, French language-based program...

Siena Italian Studies Program
Service-learning and Language in Siena with SIS Gap Year
10 •1 review

Expand your horizons and earn optional college credit studying abroad...

Karstaway Sustainable Development Programs in China
9.5 •2 reviews

If you're looking for a Gap Year experience that has it all, look no...

What People Are Saying

Although our trip was cut short because of COVID19, I still had a blast. I made a lot of friends whom I still talk to even after we returned home. My overseas educators Rebecca and Adam were so kind...


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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...

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