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 256 - 270 of 310 programs
Milan Fashion Campus
Milan Fashion Academy: Fashion Master Courses

Who dreams to work in the fashion field is attracted – most of the...

Ascension Trust
London, Lambeth Based Gap Year Program

The 60/40 is offering a Gap Year program for individuals who wish to...

The Open School of Ethnography and Anthropology
Sustainable Community Tourism Research Project

This research project is an ethnographic investigation of sustainable...

CIEE Global Navigator
CIEE Gap Year in Rabat, Morocco – Arabic Language & Culture

Enjoy everyday life in this vibrant, friendly, and relatively small...

Where There Be Dragons
Morocco: Ancient Cities to the Atlas Mountains Gap Year Semester

Within and beyond the city walls we explore incredible sites, tastes...

Kroka Expeditions
Winter Semester Abroad in Northern Canada

Kroka's semester programs combine wilderness adventure with conscious...

Where There Be Dragons
Bhutan: Environmental Sustainability & Community Happiness Gap Year Semester

Cloistered amidst the dramatic backdrop of the Himalayas, Bhutan has...

Wanderlust Exchange
Surprise Host Family Program in China

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

Give and Surf
Culturally Immersive Gap Year Semester in Panama

Spend three months immersed in the local culture of Bocas del Toro...

Pangaea Abroad
Pangaea Innovators Summer Program in Brazil

Travel to Brazil on our 14 days Pangaea Innovators Summer Program...

Rosemary Dream
Personal Development Program in Brazil

The Heart Attack Program is the next wave of program. A carefully...

Masa Israel Journey
Gap Year Programs in Israel

Intrigued by the opportunity to spend a semester or year experiencing...

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

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

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