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 61 - 75 of 310 programs
Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Make a Difference with Volunteering and Adventure Travel in Uganda - Gap Year
Uganda
9.72 •18 reviews

Go on Safari, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, bungee jump over the Nile river...

InterExchange
Sustainable Action Costa Rica
Costa Rica
10 •4 reviews

Quick facts Eligibility: U.S. citizens 18+ Program Fee: $2,195 Dates...

Outward Bound
The Best Way to Become an Outdoor Educator—Learn from the Best!
United States of America
9.86 •7 reviews

It takes a special kind of person to become an outdoor educator. They...

United Planet
Gap Year: 6-month+ Service Learning Opportunities in New Zealand with United Planet
New Zealand
9 •1 review

United planet offers long-term volunteer opportunities to those...

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...

Cow House Studios
FieldWorks: Enrichment Arts Gap Year Program in Ireland
Ireland
10 •9 reviews

Students ages 18 to 22 have an opportunity to make new artistic works...

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...

Outward Bound
Earn College Credit & Explore Incredible Locations in the U.S.
United States of America
10 •4 reviews

The Outward Bound Semester & Gap year program won the Top Gap Year...

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...

Outward Bound
For Young Adults to Discover Who They Are & Where They Want to Go
United States of America
10 •2 reviews

Outward Bound Pathfinder expeditions, for ages 18-25, take place 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...

Tru Experience Travel
Gap Year Volunteering with TRU Experience Travel
Multiple Countries
10 •8 reviews

Have you ever wanted to use your skills in less developed parts of the...

Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Live in Tanzania on a Volunteering & Adventure Travel Gap Year
Tanzania
10 •4 reviews

Volunteer in Tanzania and become one of the locals, welcomed with open...

Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Visit Nepal for a Gap Year of Volunteering & Adventure Travel
Nepal
9.6 •5 reviews

Climb to the Mount Everest base camp, trek through Nepals famous...

United Planet
Gap Year: 6-month+ Service Learning in South Africa with United Planet
South Africa
3 •1 review

Imagine yourself in this complex, yet warm and welcoming country known...

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...

Protovillage

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...

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