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 121 - 135 of 309 programs
Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Learn Mandarin and Experience the Culture of China
9 •3 reviews

Experience China whilst fully immersed in the language and community...

Smaller Earth
Kiwi and Kiwi: Resort Jobs in New Zealand
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Africa & Asia Venture (AV)
Immersive Summer Abroad Program Uganda
9.5 •2 reviews

“So much fun I would do it again 100 times, there are few things...

The Dragon Trip
25-Day Tour of China with The Dragon Trip
9.4 •5 reviews

Explore the tropical south, rural west, historic north and the...

International Field Studies
Marine Science Gap Year: Andros, Bahamas
10 •4 reviews

Live on beachfront property, study on the crystal clear Caribbean...

Scotia Personnel
Cultural Ambassador Gap Program in China
9.75 •4 reviews

Discover the world and experience Chinese cultured on a budget! What...

Hutong School
Gap Year Across China
10 •1 review

If you are looking for a valuable experience abroad then our Gap Year...

Xtreme Gap Year
Gap Year in Thailand with Xtreme Gap Year
8.38 •8 reviews

Xtreme Gap Year is Thailand programs consist of group travel...

GAP Year Nepal
Adventure Volunteering Gap Year in Nepal
10 •3 reviews

GAP Nepal has designed this program to be a fulfilling blend of...

HHS Center
Paid Au Pair Job in China: Live-in English Tutor
7.83 •6 reviews

Before you land in China, HHS Center will offer 1. Free visa service...

Au Pair International
Become an Au Pair in Spain with API
9.67 •3 reviews

Our Au Pair Program provides young people with a wonderful opportunity...

Letz Live
Australia Gap Year Program with Letz Live
9.67 •3 reviews

We have a wide range of placements throughout Australia. Many are a...

Marco Polo Culture Exchange Program
Experience cultural exchange by living with a host family in China
9.67 •3 reviews

For the Marco Polos of today, we have paved a new passage to China...

Bridge Street Ministries
Grand Rapids Bridge Year
Multiple Countries
10 •3 reviews

The Grand Rapids Bridge Year (formerly called the Bridge Street...

Hands On Learning Eco-Gap Immersion at EcoVillage Ithaca
United States of America
9.33 •3 reviews

Eco-Gap Immersion give you a chance to experience life in a vibrant...

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.

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