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 91 - 105 of 286 programs
Scotia Personnel
Au Pair Cultural Immersion Gap Year in Italy
Italy
11 reviews

Cultural immersion in beautiful Italia! Learn Italian, and gain...

University of Pennsylvania Social Innovators Program
Social Innovators Program (UPenn CSIS / Schoolyard Ventures)
Online
1 review

The Social Innovators Program is a thirteen week virtual program...

Reading Corps and Math Corps
Math Corps Tutor Program
United States of America
1 review

Thousands of kids struggle in math and you can make all the difference...

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

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

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

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

Go Abroad China
Explore the real China with a Fun Gap Year - Intern, Learn Chinese or Volunteer in China
China
1 review

Are you seeking meaningful activities that you can take on during the...

Amigos de las Americas
Amigos de las Americas - Ecuador Gap Year
Ecuador
3 reviews

Spend your first month in intensive Spanish classes, including outings...

Outward Bound Costa Rica
Gap Year in Costa Rica, Panama, & Nicaragua
Multiple Countries
3 reviews1 interview

Two course options available: Outdoor Leader Semester and Coast to...

Free Spirit Experience
Free Spirit Experience Gap Year in Israel and Italy
Israel
9 reviews

Free Spirit offers a unique experience in Israel and Italy, filled...

CIEE Global Navigator
CIEE Gap Year Abroad in Legon, Ghana – Service & Leadership
Ghana
1 review

Help underprivileged children while exploring the rich culture of...

Ocean Passages
Spend your Gap Year at Sea with Ocean Passages from Canada to Cuba!
Multiple Countries
7 reviews

Navigate the waters of change from Canada to Cuba aboard our 131-foot...

That's Mandarin Chinese Language School
Gap Year in China Programs
China
6 reviews1 interview

Gap year in China students can work with teachers to design a...

Smaller Earth
Kiwi and Kiwi: Resort Jobs in New Zealand
New Zealand
2 reviews1 interview

Work at one of the top ski mountains that New Zealand has to offer...

Year On
Year On | The Year Experience | Gap Year Program
Multiple Countries
5 reviews2 interviews

Year On is a multi-phase experiential learning program that combines...

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

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

What People Are Saying

We traveled to the West Bank for the day to learn about the history there

I was on the program for 2 semesters and I had a great time. I cannot imagine doing anything else but this program for my gap year. The program really allowed me to grow as an individual and have a...

Jerusalem semester at the Kotel before shabbat.

Aardvark was the best 7 months of my entire life! I spent a semester in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem which allowed me to experience the vastly different aspects of Israeli society. In both places I got to...

Purim party on the roof

I spent 2 semesters on the Aardvark Israel program and I look back at the time I spent there as truly the best year of my life to date. The program allowed me enough freedom to enjoy my time here to...

Related Gap Year Articles