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 241 - 255 of 309 programs
Mandarin Spring
Gap Year in China with Mandarin Spring

You want to do a gap year to study, to work or for an internship. We...

Internships Kerala
Work Experience in Ayurvedic Beach Resort in Kerala, India

Work in an Ayurvedic Beach Resort and gain valuable experience as a...

EnRoute Consulting
EnRoute Consulting: Full Service Gap Year Planning

EnRoute's founder Julia Rogers works individually with students to...

ILAC (International Language Academy of Canada)
ILAC Gap Year Program

Get a real Canadian college experience by spending a year studying...

ART & HELP - Residence & Volunteer Art Workshop

Rurrana community program is a amazing way for artist to love...

Jamaica International Projects
Gap Year Abroad Program In Jamaica

Our gap year travel abroad programs in Jamaica will allow students to...

Experiences in the field at the Amazon cloud forest of Peru

This program is suitable for participants looking for a practice...

Artists on the Move
Painting, Drawing, and Printmaking Workshops in Greece

Drawing and painting workshops are held for seven days on the island...

Instructor Development Philippines
PADI Instructor Development Course in Philippines

Becoming a dive instructor is the dream of many and for some of us it...

Cherish Expeditions
Gap Year Fellowship Program India - The Awakening

We select twenty participants from diverse backgrounds to go on an...

Gap Year For Me
Pre Medical Internship in Mombasa, Kenya

Your gap year opportunities multiply if you are at the CPGH for...

Connecting Visions
Cultural Exchange Internship in China

This is a six month international volunteer experience we are bringing...

Camphill Village USA
Live-in Volunteer - Camphill Village Copake
United States of America

Just two hours north of New York City, in Copake, NY, Camphill Village...

Camp Bighorn
Journey Gap Year Internship
United States of America

Journey is an 8-month program of Camp Bighorn designed for young...

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...


I completed my Pioneer Project experience in the fall of 2013. I was 18 and had just graduated High School and I was looking to fill my life with adventure and purpose. Pioneer Project helped me find...

By the lake during our second expedition

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

Related Gap Year Articles