A spring gap year program is the perfect way to prepare for your upcoming university studies by relieving some of the stress of school while also broadening your outlook on life. A gap year can be whatever you want it to be -- you can take the opportunity to learn a new language, intern, volunteer, or do an academic exchange in order to experience a completely foreign culture.
Spring is the perfect season to take advantage of some of the best weather around the world and get to know a culture different from your own. The season has mild, comfortable weather and some of the world's most well-known festivals and celebrations. Who wouldn't want to be celebrating cherry blossom season in Japan?
Depending on your interests, a gap year can be one of the most meaningful and memorable experiences of your life. If you plan carefully, you will get the most out of a wonderful spring gap year overseas.
Where to Go
Although a gap year can take you anywhere in the world, here are some popular destinations that are particularly wonderful during springtime.
Spring is cherry blossom season all over Japan. Though the period is brief, it's an incredible sight that draws thousands of visitors from all over the world to cities like Osaka and Kyoto. Doing a gap year in Japan is a great opportunity to learn a new language or even pursue a culinary internship if you find yourself inspired by the country's world-class cuisine. Japan is also one of the world's most popular centers for English-teaching, giving you a chance to work during your gap year.
Doing a spring gap year program in South America means taking part in some of the best Easter celebrations in the world. Holy Week, known as Semana Santa, is celebrated in a big way in cities like Cusco, where processions parade through the streets every day. A gap year in Peru might be most rewarding if you do a volunteer program that works with the local population. You can immerse yourself in the mystifying culture and history of the Incas while also giving back.
The wonderful thing about traveling before the summer in Europe is that there are fewer crowds. For a delicious and culturally-rich spring gap year, you might want to explore programs in France. Although your gap year is supposed to be a break from studying, you could probably make an exception if you're studying wine or taking French lessons at a local college. There's nothing quite like seeing spring in bloom underneath the Eiffel Tower.
Doing a spring gap year in Australia is fantastic because March to May is autumn in the southern hemisphere. That means the temperatures are milder, and the foliage is extra beautiful, making it a great time of year to be outside. If you like wildlife, Australia is an ideal place for a gap year. You can volunteer at an animal sanctuary or work on a ranch in the Australian outback.
If you want the opportunity to build strong relationships with locals overseas, you might want to consider working as an au pair during your spring gap year. As an au pair, you typically receive free housing and a salary in exchange for taking care of and sometimes tutoring the family children. Living and working in the UK is a wonderful way to get to know some of the most beautiful cities in the world like London and Edinburgh. And can you imagine being in Dublin for St. Patrick's Day?
Planning Your Trip
Doing a gap year is an exciting decision, and planning your trip overseas can be half the fun.
How to Plan a Gap Year in Spring
To make sure you get all your ducks in a row in time for your departure date, you should start looking at potential spring gap year programs in the fall. The more you know about the place where you're going to travel, the better. You'll have to secure housing, establish a schedule, buy your flight, and potentially obtain a visa before going overseas.
The first step is deciding where you want to go. A spring gap year is a chance to explore a place you've always wanted to see and to learn and grow there. There are many different types of programs in various places that might be best suited to you and what you want to get out of a gap year program. Once you know the city or country, you'll want to narrow down the focus of your program -- do you want to do an academic exchange, internship, or volunteer work?
Establishing a budget for all your expenses is a good way to plan your gap year responsibly. Some gap year programs offer housing and visa assistance included in their program fees. You'll have to weigh the cost of the program against your own needs and what you desire out of your spring gap year. The cost of living in your chosen destination should also be a key consideration.
Health & Safety
As with any trip overseas, doing a gap year in the spring requires taking into account health and safety considerations. This means ensuring that you have all recommended vaccinations for your chosen location. You should also secure health insurance for the period of your gap year so that you can be covered in the event of an emergency or if you need routine care or prescriptions.
Some countries are generally safer than others. You should consult travel warnings to determine what places would be safest to stay in on a longer-term basis and take any necessary safety precautions, including registering with the State Department or with a local embassy overseas.
Other Need to Know
Before taking off on your spring gap year adventure, you should also learn a little bit about the culture and language of the place where you will be living. You don't have to be fluent in the language, but knowing a few key phrases will help you settle in, especially if you're staying in a smaller city where the locals are less likely to speak English. Knowing a few cultural dos and don'ts can also help you avoid offending your hosts or other locals.
Finally, you have to make sure that you obtain the appropriate visa, if necessary. Requirements and costs vary by country, and they're always changing. You should check your gap year country's current requirements to ensure that you have the correct visa before arriving. For instance, if you plan to work, you will likely have to apply for a working visa or a working holiday visa.