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Hands-on Learning Gap Year Programs

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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.

Photo credit: Todd Diemer.

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

Showing 36 Programs

United States of America
Rustic Pathways
A gap year is not a one-kind-fits-all experience. That's why Rustic Pathways offers four unique types of gap semesters, ranging from group adventures...
17 reviews
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Malaysia
Fuze Ecoteer Outdoor Adventures
Malaysia is blessed with a high biodiversity of wildlife. Unfortunately many of its most emblematic animals are under severe threat. At this project y...
18 reviews
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Bangkok
Volunteering Journeys
How about an alternative winter, spring or summer break that gives you life's best moments but also gives you an opportunity to learn and travel to fa...
1 reviews
United States of America
Gap at Glen Brook
Gap at Glen Brook is a place-based experience for gap semester students on a 250-acre campus in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, USA. We are a c...
3 reviews
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Winterline Global Education
Try it all. You'll be in a new place every week, learning a crazy new skill. You will produce a documentary film. Launch a business. Learn to scuba di...
8 reviews
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Panama City
Kalu Yala
At Kalu Yala, we are in the process of building the world's most sustainable village in the Panamanian rainforest. Programs take place in 3 venues: cr...
17 reviews
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Nepal
Where There Be Dragons
The Himalayas. Since time immemorial, these colossal peaks with their vast web of rugged, isolated valleys and distinct ethnic groups have drawn only...
5 reviews
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Kunming
Bridging the Gap China
Our 1 month gap year program is ideal for those that are looking to combine some fun-filled traveling with Mandarin tutoring. The program starts in Be...
2 reviews
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Kivu Gap Year
Benefits: + 900 hours of internship experience + 150 hours of reflective leadership training + 9 hours of general college credit available + Cultural...
26 reviews
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Europe
American College of Thessaloniki
This program is ideal for recent high school graduates who need a change of pace, a change of scenery, new motivations and horizons to reach into and...
0 reviews
Malaysia
Raleigh International
Would you like the chance to live in the Malaysian cloudforest? On a Raleigh expedition, you'll travel to remote, untouched parts of the world. More i...
2 reviews
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Shanghai
That's Mandarin Chinese Language School
This program offers the freedom to explore China’s vast and complex language and culture while offering a rigorous, results-oriented way to build up u...
4 reviews
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Beijing
Academic Explorers Martial Arts and Mandarin in Beijing, China
Challenge your body and mind with martial arts and Mandarin Chinese language study! For over one thousand years, Chinese martial arts have inspired pr...
11 reviews
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Love Volunteers
Are you a Doctor, Nurse, Med or Pre-Med Student? Your skills are desperately needed! Our Healthcare and Medical projects allow volunteers the opportun...
5 reviews
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Canada
Yamnuska Mountain Adventures
The Mountain Skills Semester is designed from the cumulative experience of over 35 years as Canada's top mountain guiding and instruction school. Over...
1 reviews
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