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Gap Year Work Exchange Programs

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A gap year work exchange allows you to travel the world with all your living expenses taken care of -- and you may even make money while you're at it!

In exchange for your labor, you'll often get accommodation, free meals, Wi-Fi, laundry, and other similar benefits. The possibilities for escaping the 9-5 grind are endless: you can be an au pair, work in a hostel, and be a part of the agriculture process on a farm, just to name a few.

Photo credit: USDAgov.

There are a few opportunities for a gap year work exchange available. Three of the most popular options include:

  • Farm and agriculture
  • Hostel work
  • Au pair
Farm and Agriculture Work

If you have a passion for a homegrown, (literally) down-to-earth job, consider looking for farm and agriculture work abroad. You'll be working the land, eating fresh and local produce, taking care of animals, and making food right at home -- in a different country. There are many organizations, WWOOF being the largest, that connect volunteers with organic farmers around the world. In exchange for help with a variety of tasks around the farm, the volunteer will often receive food, accommodation, and a valuable educational experience.

Hostel Work

Hostels give travelers (and workers) the chance to meet people from all over the world. Typical duties may include handling the reception desk, changing sheets, laundry, and cleaning. In exchange, you'll get free accommodation -- but usually not a paycheck.

Au Pair

Being an au pair means working as a live-in nanny for a family overseas. Au pairs will often help out with cooking, cleaning, assisting kids with homework, taking kids to activities, and babysitting when the parents are not home. Plus, au pairs often get a living stipend and free language classes along with the job.

Now that you’ve given thought to what you’re going to do, don’t go running to catch that plane just yet! There are many countries and multiple continents to choose from for a gap year work exchange, and some have particular advantages over others.

Oceania

New Zealand and Australia are beautiful, friendly, and for Americans between the ages of 18 and 30, the legalities are easy with working holiday visas. With the vast landscapes and variety of outdoor activities available, you'll have lots to do and see outside of your work hours.

Europe

Many people dream about cities like London, Paris, and Rome, but aside from studying abroad, spending an extended period of time in Europe, legally, can be difficult if you're not from the EU. Ireland especially is great for Americans because, like New Zealand and Australia, you can go there on a working holiday visa, but you have to have been enrolled in postsecondary education within the last 12 months.

Latin America

Latin America is a bit more of an affordable alternative to the extremely expensive cities in Europe if you're craving a similar dose of vibrant culture. Practice your Spanish and explore the great cities and historical landscapes while enjoying your work exchange abroad.

Asia

On the other side of the hemisphere, Asia is steadily becoming the top destination for gappers around the world. With so many countries and cultures to choose from, the possibilities will suit everyone from the city slicker to penny pincher. If you're thinking of challenging yourself with a new language, Asia is one of the best choices available.

Costs

The cost of your gap year work exchange depends largely on where you go and the organization you sign up with (if you do at all). Some programs may charge a fee in exchange for organizing and planning your work exchange. Other costs to take into consideration are your visa applications, plane tickets, transportation fees, side trips and excursions, meals, and phone and internet bills.

Housing

Again, your housing depends on the program or work that you'll do while on your gap year work exchange. In some cases, you may be staying with a host family, and you may be living with roommates in others. Some work exchanges expect you to find your own housing, so plan accordingly!

Finding a Job

Programs and work opportunities abroad vary widely in all aspects, including the level of support offered. Certain programs will help participants every step of the way, while others demand a higher level of independence. If you are going abroad with a visa, passport, and the clothes on your back, you will have to be creative in planning your trip, finding work, and meeting people.

Expand your network by joining a meetup group, connecting with others who have successfully found work exchange abroad, and looking through job boards for legitimate offerings. Here are tips on how to write a resume for any city in the world, and how to use your gap year to boost your resume later.

Packing Tips

Look into your host country’s weather conditions before you go, and be prepared for all seasons. Only pack what you can carry (try to stick to one large backpack and a personal item -- like a purse/small backpack). Leave your valuables at home, and don't forget to pack a power adaptor for your electronics.

Most importantly, bring travel-sized toiletries that'll last you for the first month only. You can buy more at your destination, so save your packing space for your essentials -- and souvenirs!

Health

It’s important to remember that the healthcare offered in a foreign country may not have the same standards that you are used to, the doctors and nurses may not speak English, and the cost of healthcare can be free or it may cost an arm and a leg. Consider purchasing traveler's insurance for the length of your stay.

You may also need certain vaccinations to live safely in the destination of your choice. Consult your doctor before your departure for the right vaccinations and medications to take along with you.

Safety

Safety precautions differ for travelers depending on their destination, but as a rule of thumb, keep your belongings close to you and don't venture outdoors alone at night. It's best to make copies of your valuables (like your passport) just in case your belongings get lost during your trip. If your intended city has special religious or cultural customs, make sure to follow them accordingly.

Contributed by Rachel Westmore

Showing 24 Programs

London
BUNAC

Think England is all about historic towns, pubs and Shakespeare? We’re pretty proud of all of those but there’s so much more

0 reviews
Sydney
Work and Travel Company

Looking to make your gap year in Australia unforgettable? Look no further! Our most popular program, it's the perfect solutio

9 reviews
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Sydney
Intro Travel

Amazing Experiences + Go as part of a group + Work & Travel around Oz + Request your FREE brochure today!

OzIntro is the perf

16 reviews
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United Kingdom
BUNAC

Think England is all about historic towns, pubs and Shakespeare? We’re pretty proud of all of those but there’s so much more

0 reviews
Auckland
BUNAC

Adventure-seekers unite. Whether you prefer bungee jumping and snowboarding in Queenstown or exploring the city life in Welli

4 reviews
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Sydney
BUNAC

Oh Australia, the dream that is Australia. Ask anyone who's been and you'll be greeted with a smile. Why? Because Australia o

6 reviews
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Portugal
WWOOF

WWOOF is an exchange program. In return for volunteer help, WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn

1 reviews
Dublin
BUNAC

With rolling emerald green hills and cities with cobble stoned streets and rivers running through them, life in Ireland is ab

0 reviews
New Zealand
IEP

The Work New Zealand program is designed to help you settle into New Zealand quickly, leaving you more time to enjoy experien

30 reviews
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Ontario
BUNAC

Spend up to a year living and working in Canada with BUNAC and have the experience of living abroad without having to go over

0 reviews
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New Zealand
WWOOF

WWOOF enables people to live and volunteer on a variety of organic properties. Volunteers (WWOOFers) help on the land and hom

1 reviews
United Kingdom
WWOOF

WWOOF UK holds a list of organic farms, gardens and smallholdings, all offering food and accommodation in exchange for practi

1 reviews
Canada
Stepwest

Working at a restaurant with a panoramic view of Banff, guiding tourists on the best vineyards in the Okanagan Valley, operat

2 reviews
Dublin
USIT Travel

The Work in Ireland Program gives graduates and young professionals the chance to come to Ireland and experience all that the

6 reviews
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Paris
FREEPACKERS

We are the leading provider of childcare services in foreign languages in France. 500 native English speakers start our Work

0 reviews