You may be finding yourself checking out Gap Years without knowing much about them – only that the thought of traveling and breaking up your education experience is so much more appetizing than running straight through college and into a job. While you’re on your adventure year to figure out what you want in life, why not gain some work experience by applying for an internship?

Length

When talking about a gap year, many forget that it is possible to split the gap year between multiple places. Programs can range anywhere from two weeks to a year. Think about what you’d like to get from this experience. Is your main focus simply on obtaining skills for your future? Or is it to grow international understanding while also traveling as much as possible? This info will allow you narrow down your program selection.

Career Prep

If you definitely know what you want to do when you grow up, an internship dedicated to that profession is perfect for you. For many industries, having applied experience in your selected field is essential on a resume. Using your gap year to obtain this experience will help your chances at your dream career in the future and make your resume stand out from the rest.

Cultural Immersion

If you want your gap to be more of a discovery, look into more cultural programs that involve the language, traditions, and people of the country. Even though this option is more for discovery than your resume, adding another language to your qualifications is never a bad thing. Try to find a program with a home-stay option to truly understand the people of your new country.

Expeditions and Farm Work

If you are ready to rough it and are tired of being cooped up in a classroom, try using your gap year to broaden your horizons, literally, by picking a program that has you working outdoors. Everything from national reserves to animal rehabilitation sites will allow you to gain hands-on experience you couldn’t possibly get from your freshman year or training on the job!

Australia

Australia is one of the top destinations for a gap year and with good reason: it’s an entire continent! There's what seems like an endless amount of options for your internship with anything from au pairing to a conservation project. With the ease of speaking English but being as far as possible from home, you’ll learn a different pace of life and the answer to if those toilets really do flush clockwise.

France

Put those high school French classes to good work and grab that flight to the land of l’amour. Political, business, and art thrive here and will look marvelous on any resume once back home so take advantage of this European gem. Indulge in a community with a foreign language to truly test those people skills while gaining some international work experience that’ll take you far.

India

If Australia and France put you out of your comfort zone, India is an additional step away from of home. Great for those on a tighter budget, India has low living costs but doesn’t lack in liveliness and culture. Explore this part of Asia and learn to meditate, speak Hindi, or experience the Indian economy. Regardless of what you choose, it is assured that you will fly home with appreciation for diversity different cultures of the world.

Costa Rica

Anyone looking to take part in an internship focused on conservation should head to Central America; Costa Rica is rich in rain forests, biodiversity, and gap year programs. Take your gap year and perfect your Spanish, and maybe a new sloth friend. Or find programs in journalism and business, all while relaxing on some beautiful terrain…just watch out for those howler monkeys.

Tanzania

If Costa Rica is too close to home, cross that ocean and touchdown in Africa. Almost a quarter of Tanzania is replete with national parks but also has internships of every kind – from medical gap years for those med majors, to protecting coral reefs off the coast, you can find your perfect program in this fascinating country.

Letting Your Family Know
Here’s the doozy: that horrible component when you have to break it to your parents (or other family) that you want a large amount of independence at a pretty young age. Do your research and present the benefits of taking a gap – for an additional voice, show them the positives like what American Gap Association has written here. Easiest way to win their acceptance - show how you’ll fund this adventure (and that you’ll work for it and not just use their credit card).
Timing

Generally speaking, most students time their gap year right before or after college. In high school, you can apply and be accepted into college, and then defer your first semester or year. This is ideal because you may still be eligible to use your financial aid to help fund your gap, and will make it easier to decide what internships you could gain college credit from. After college, most tend to look for a more career-focused internship.

Budget

Though some programs may run on the more expensive side, don’t let that deter you from fulfilling your dreams. There are plenty of scholarships and possibly some financial aid if you’re enrolled in a college. You can go the additional step to fundraise for your travels or improvise with small side jobs around your neighborhood to earn some extra cash. Extra tips on funding can be found here.

College Credit

If you are looking to ease up your class load in college, make sure you inquire about college credit when looking at specific gap year programs. Some schools will accept the college credit if the program offers it. If not, it is sometimes possible to get a paid internship. Make sure that the program is legitimate and that you or they provide the proper documentation or visas so your work will be legal.

Visas

For many programs depending on the country and length of time, you may need a proper work or tourist visa to participate. Make sure you understand the requirements of your program or country before advancing too much into the process. Sometimes this process can be difficult and time/money consuming.

Contributed by Lisa Harvey

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