The best thing about embarking on a summer gap year program is that you can do it as an in-between. In between high school and college, in between university and getting a graduate job, or even just in between junior and senior year. With so many options, why not take the opportunity to explore overseas?
Summer gap year programs give you the chance to learn new skills or refresh old ones, take time out to discover new places, or even gain some valuable working-world experience. Whether it's learning valuable business skills in frenetic New York City, getting back to nature and volunteering in Thailand, or studying among the cobbled streets of a European capital, there are plenty of adventures awaiting if you choose to do a summer program abroad.
The best thing is, you'll also give your resume and college application a boost, while still having a great time in an exciting new place. And you'll no doubt meet new people and get to see and do things you never would at home.
Of course, there are hundreds of possible destinations for a gap year program during the summer months. Most of Europe and the rest of the northern hemisphere experiences their peak weather during the months of June to September, so it's certainly an appealing time to go. Here are some options you may want to think about.
La Belle France is at its absolute peak in the summertime when holidaymakers flock to bask along its coasts and sample the fruits of its wineries. France is an excellent location for a summer program, whether you're learning the language or delving into art and history. .
There's also a diverse range of scenery, from pristine Alpine peaks perfect for hiking, to the beaches of the coastal region, or the lush valleys of Provence. Then again, you might just find yourself relentlessly drawn back to the shaded boulevards of the City of Love: Paris.
Tapas, siestas and sangria: that's the essence of a summer in Spain. There could hardly be anything more luxurious than immersing yourself in the laid-back Spanish lifestyle. Lengthy meal times, late dinners, and even later nights out define Spanish culture, and you could be absorbing all of this while still learning one of the most widely spoken languages in the world or gaining real-world experience through an internship.
Summer is certainly the best time of year to visit the UK -- as summertime is when you stand the best chance of not being rained on. Picnics in the park and pints in pub beer gardens characterize a quintessentially British summer, and it's just as lovely as it sounds.
The options here are broad-ranging: you might spend time developing your acting skills in Shakespeare's own country, or perhaps build your CV through one of many innovative internships on offer. And there's more to the UK than just London -- there's the liberal charm of Brighton and the historic atmosphere of Edinburgh to think about, among many others.
For those not native to the US, the land of the free, holds a global appeal whether to study in one of its quintessential university towns or to experience big city life in a large metropolitan hub -- or even to explore its vast expanses of spectacular scenery on a cross-country road trip.
Summer is a great time to discover America at its peak, and the best thing is the sheer range of different options available, like coding, engineering, business, or fashion.
Summer gap year programs do require some advanced planning -- after all, this is the high season for a lot of the most popular places in the world! Luckily, we've got you covered. Whether you plan to study, work, or travel (or a bit of all three), your summer is sorted if you follow these guidelines.
How to Plan a Gap Year in Summer
There are a few questions to ask yourself when planning your summer gap year:
- What type of program do you want to take part in? Internship, study abroad, or something else?
- Do you want to learn a new language?
- What kind of travel opportunities do you want from the trip, if any?
Once you have the answers to these questions, you can start to narrow down your options. Internships are likely to be easier and more fruitful if undertaken in a country where you speak the language. For language learning, which course you'll choose depends on which language you'd like to study and where's the best country to learn that language.
As for travel, you have a lot to choose from: temples or cathedrals? Cobbled streets or dusty roads? You can only decide on a destination after you've examined what you really desire from your trip.
Health & Safety
As always, you have to make sure you have the appropriate travel insurance for your summer gap year program. You may have to check with your insurance provider that they cover for working overseas as well as more general activities, even if your work isn't going to be physical in nature.
Another item on the to-do list is checking out which vaccinations you might need for your summer trip. Many destinations in Asia, Central and South America, and Africa will require a trip to the doctors before you go, so make sure to have an appointment at least 6-8 weeks before you plan to travel. It's best to allow plenty of time in case you need to have additional vaccinations.
Finally, it's always good practice to check the equivalent of your country's state department website before you venture to a new country. Even if you don't intend on changing your plans according to the advice, it's good to be aware of the political and social situation in a country before you arrive, so there'll be no surprises.
Other Need to Know
Perhaps it doesn't need to be said, but not all countries experience their peak season in the 'summer' months of July, August, and September. For a lot of places, this might be monsoon season, and some countries in the southern hemisphere have their seasons in reverse -- meaning frosty fingers and woolly hats in August when you might be expecting sunbathing.
It's definitely worth working out the climate of your destination country before you start packing!
Summer Gap Year Programs
Can I volunteer abroad for free?
A free volunteer program means there’s no participation fee. Usually, this means volunteering directly through an NGO or organization, but you may still need to pay for housing, food, airfare, and in-country transportation. Some organizations and projects offer housing and/or food as part of the volunteer arrangement, so it's possible to find a situation that’s essentially free except for transportation costs.
Others get funding from local governments that allows volunteers to participate without paying any program fees. In some cases, you even receive a small stipend in addition to health insurance, food, and accommodation. Keep in mind, though, that these tend to be longer-term projects, so you’re less likely to find a trade-for-work deal if you only have a week or two to spare.
On that note, if you go for a free or no-fee program, don’t expect your host organization to be able to sponsor your housing or food. Although some organizations definitely will be able to help you with this, not all have the extra funds to do so, particularly as their priority is dedicating money towards the project itself. By expecting volunteering programs to cover these costs, you may well be redirecting resources from the project you’re supposed to be helping -- and doing more harm than good as a result.
Why should you volunteer abroad?
People volunteer abroad for three primary reasons: to experience culture, to help others, and for adventure. While some of these reasons might seem selfish, we know that what makes meaningful travel like volunteering abroad so powerful is that it impacts the traveler and the community they visit.