“Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.” -- Ludwig van Beethoven
Music is a passion shared by people in every corner of the world. It’s a universal language that can be used to illustrate a wordless story. Sometimes, music is able to convey emotions that words are incapable of describing. The great thing about being a musician is that you can take your skill and passion with you anywhere in world. This guide will help you choose how and where you want to spend your gap year.
Maybe you’re in a band and want to pursue new opportunities. Maybe you’re a singer and want to learn a different style of singing. Maybe you love ancient and exciting instruments and want to learn about a country’s history through sound. Whatever your affiliation with music is, you’ll be happy to know that there are many musical gap year opportunities awaiting you, where you can hone your skills in an exciting new atmosphere, in a culture rich with music history.
Where to Go
You can play music just about anywhere in the world, as long as you have an instrument (or a voice). However, some regions of the world have particularly well-renowned musical cultures worth exploring. Whether you want to teach, study, volunteer, or do a combination of all of the above, consider going to any of these five countries to have a gap year you'll remember forever.
Morocco is a melting pot of musical genres, incorporating distinct styles from Europe, Africa, Morocco's indigenous Berber people, and Islamic musical traditions. Traditional Gnawa and Tuareg styles are celebrated throughout the country, from the Sahara desert to the Atlantic Ocean.
Morocco features many world-class music festivals -- including Fez Festival of World Sacred Music and Gnaoua World Music Festival -- that showcase some of the best Afro-Arab music from Morocco and around the world. A gap year here will not only allow you to learn about long-lived musical styles, but you'll also learn about the country's amazing history of music, and you'll be able export the country's diverse landscapes and culinary scene.
Germany may be at the top of your list if you’re a lover of classical music. Many of the classical world’s most renowned composers are from Germany, including Bach, Beethoven, Strauss, and Brahms. Logically, it’s one of the best places to go if you’re yearning to expand your knowledge of classical music, and Germany offers many rewarding opportunities to do just that.
This modern world leader has programs that allow you to continue the tradition of classical music, which is dying in many places throughout the world - but is of course living vibrantly in places like Germany. On top of learning about music, you'll be able to spend time in some of the world's greatest cities, such as Berlin, which is a German epicentre of diversity. We know you won't - but make sure you don't miss hearing the Berlin Philharmonic.
Music is life on most Caribbean islands, and Jamaica is no exception. The sounds from catchy dance hits can’t be ignored -- their groovy drum rhythms are ubiquitous throughout the country, and have a gravitational pull that just makes you want to dance. The Caribbean is full of amazing music styles, including soca, dancehall, calypso, and merengue.
Of course, Jamaica is most famous for reggae music. Reggae is now well-known throughout the world, largely thanks to Bob Marley. This musically-rich country is also home to ska and rocksteady, which go hand-in-hand with reggae. Spending a gap year in Jamaica will allow you to not only learn about these styles of music, but to really get down to their roots and learn where they came from and why they're so meaningful.
Sounds from the sitar and tabla roam through the loudly streets in many parts of India, while popular Bollywood songs fill alleyways in other alleyways. Whether it's traditional music or Bollywood smash hits, the music never stops. In India, you could spend a lifetime learning the complicated rhythms and time signatures used by professional tabla players. That just barely touches on the music culture in India, as this vast and ethnically-diverse country is home to a long musical history and array of genres and styles.
Seeing as it’s a developing country, there won’t be as much competition for music programs as in some other destinations. If you have what it takes, maybe you could soon be helping to write a song for the next Bollywood blockbuster!
Brazil is one of the best countries in the world for experiencing music, especially if you like to dance. It is most well known for the traditional styles of samba, bossa nova, and choro. Though Samba -- also a style of dance -- originated in Africa, it is Brazil’s most symbolic musical genre and can be heard in houses and clubs alike.
Like food and water, music is a key component of life in Brazil, and you can't go very long without it. Consider staying in Sao Paulo or Rio De Janeiro for the best gap year experiences and opportunities. Music in Brazil will pull you in and won’t let go, which is a good thing.
Planning Your Trip
The most important thing to remember is to be safe and always try and keep a good head on your shoulders, especially when in less developed areas of the world or places with higher crime rates. Though you will often stand out as a tourist, it’s sometimes beneficial to try and fit in -- wear local clothes, learn the language, make friends, and do as the locals do. Remember not to flaunt your valuables in order to stay as safe as possible.
Costs vary greatly depending on the region, program type, length of program, and what you do while you’re there. Living costs will undeniably be cheaper in much of Asia and South America compared to Europe, the Americas, and Africa. Program costs depend on a lot of factors, such as location, popularity, and if food or housing is included.
If you’re on a budget, there are many simple ways to reduce costs. Always consider walking or taking affordable public transportation and cooking your own food. One of the biggest factors depends on if you’ll be paid for your work or if you’ll be volunteering. Regardless, housing, food, and transportation will likely form the bulk of your expenses.
Most countries require visas for visits longer than 90 days days. All U.S. citizens traveling to India for a gap year require a Tourist Visa, which is valid for 10 years and allows uninterrupted stays in India for up to 6 months. Germany, Brazil, and Morocco allow visits up to 90 days, while Jamaica allows up to six months for U.S. citizens.
Some programs may help you with your visa, if one is required. Check with the embassy of the country you're traveling to for information about the type of visa you’ll need, which will depend on whether you're going to work, study, or volunteer.
Many long-term programs offer housing to participants. However, you should check with your provider to see if housing in provided and what it includes. Many short-term programs do not offer housing, but again, it depends on the program.
If you plan on working during your gap year, you will probably be able to afford housing yourself. Housing in countries such as India will be significantly less than in Germany, Brazil, Morocco, and Jamaica. Consider living with other gap year (or study abroad, or volunteer abroad) participants to save money.
Health & Safety
No matter which country you choose, there are a number of ways to protect your health and safety. If you’re taking a gap year in a tropical location -- don't forget the sunglasses and sunscreen! Visit your local travel clinic to see what vaccinations you’ll need to receive before departing. In developing countries, food preparation may be handled with poor hygiene -- try to avoid foods that have been sitting out and stick to drinking sealed bottled water.
Crime is an unfortunate reality in many parts of the world. Try to always be aware of your surroundings and don't put yourself in compromising situations. Learn as much of the local language as possible to make your transition easier. And lastly, make sure you have travel insurance -- you want to be covered in case of any emergency or sudden illness. Some programs may include insurance.