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 46 - 60 of 309 programs
CIEE Global Navigator
CIEE Gap Year in Seville, Spain – Spanish Language & Culture
Spain
9.5 •4 reviews

What will you find in Seville? The world’s largest Gothic church. The...

Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Adventure Travel and Volunteering on the Amazing Kenya Coast
Kenya
9.45 •22 reviews

If you like the idea of living beside the Indian Ocean near Mombasa...

United Planet
Gap Year: 6-month+ Service Learning Opportunities in Honduras with United Planet
Honduras
10 •1 review

Join United Planet on a gap year volunteer Quest in Honduras by...

Start Me Up
Gap Year Startup Program in Bali
Indonesia
9.5 •2 reviews

If you’re like most people, you’ll want to travel, explore and do...

Global Citizen Year
Global Citizen Year - Gap Year Program India
India
9.6 •5 reviews

Global Citizen Year is a non-profit social enterprise forging a new...

High Mountain Institute
High Mountain Institute Gap (HMI Gap) Semesters
Multiple Countries
9.63 •35 reviews

The conservation movement began with early explorers. In pursuit of...

Edu-Pal China
Chinese language and Cultural Exchange Program (Up to CNY8,000 scholarship and Airfares)
China
9.67 •15 reviews

Interested in Chinese language and culture? Want to learn Mandarin and...

GapForce
Ghana Volunteering & Internships with Gapforce
Ghana
9.5 •2 reviews

Join our community volunteering placement in the friendliest nation in...

Verto Education
Verto Education Semester Abroad With College Credit
Multiple Countries
8.95 •22 reviews

Verto was designed to give you the gap year experience while earning...

Global Citizen Year
Global Citizen Year - Gap Year Program Brazil
Brazil
9.14 •7 reviews

Global Citizen Year is a non-profit social enterprise forging a new...

Where There Be Dragons
Mekong: Tibetan Plateau to the Heart of Southeast Asia Gap Year Semester
Multiple Countries
10 •2 reviews

To Tibetans, the Upper Mekong is a powerful spiritual entity. To the...

Where There Be Dragons
China: South of the Clouds Gap Year Semester
China
10 •2 reviews

With 5,000 years of history and an expansive tapestry of cultures...

Youth International
Explore the Cultures of India, Nepal, and Thailand
Multiple Countries
9.71 •21 reviews

Get outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the cultures...

Alliance Abroad
Alliance Abroad | GapYear Programs in Australia
Australia
8.71 •58 reviews

Your GapYear should be more than just a "break from reality". Your...

Where There Be Dragons
Guatemala: Spanish Language & Social Justice Gap Year Semester
Guatemala
9.33 •3 reviews

Central America: A narrow strip of steaming jungles and fiery...

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