A gap year is typically defined as a break year between high school and college in order to gain life or work experience while getting a more mature view of life. It all started in the ‘60s but has been booming since late ‘80s and it’s been promoted by many famous teenagers like former President Barack Obama’s daughter Malia Obama.
Should You Take a Gap Year?
If you find yourself thinking about whether you should have a gap year, the answer is probably: yes, you should. If you set your mind to it there are no limits for you. Benefits are endless and negative quite avoidable. If you are low on budget you can spend your gap year working and gain as much as the others. If money is not an issue you can literally choose anything you want in the broad palette of gap year options. You can spend your year with a friend or two or even stay close to home. Whatever you would like to do, there is a gap-year option for you. Just plan it carefully. Before committing, think of some gap year ideas that will make it worthwhile and not a waste of a year.
The Positives of a Gap Year
Taking a year off after high school (or anytime for that matter) can be beneficial for a variety of reasons. American Gap Association states that more than 80% of people who had a gap year would recommend it to those considering it.
- It gives you a well-deserved break and time to think (or re-think) about what you want to do next
- You can gain significant work experience and skills that your future employees are likely to value, whether you decide to work or volunteer.
- You can use the time for personal growth by traveling and meeting new cultures, thus becoming a more independent person
- You could even try to make a change in the world.
- You can use your gap year to decide on your future or thoroughly prepare for your studies/work (think pre-college courses or internships).
- You can work and earn money to save up for college, help out your family or just pamper yourself for a while
- A research conducted by the American Gap Association even shows that those who took a year off had shorter times to graduation.
So think about what you want from your gap year carefully and choose wisely.
The Negatives of a Gap Year
Although a gap year is overall a positive experience, there are a couple of cons you need to be aware of.
- One of the biggest concerns of people considering gap year is that they will fall behind, get distracted and ‘lose a year’. This fear could be realistic but if you use your year well you just might have an advantage in the end.
- Unless you want to waste your gap year and make a mess of your life (or CV) you need to plan your gap year carefully. You can choose a program to help you out.
- You may need a substantial amount of money for your gap year. Even if you want to spend your gap year volunteering you may need to pay a certain amount for it.
Gap Year Job Ideas
One of the most popular choices for a gap year requires you to take TEFL exam and become an english teacher abroad. It gives you valuable experience and teaches you independence and leadership. It can usually take you to Europe, China or Korea and you can earn a pretty decent salary.
Can you imagine being a teacher to Buddhist monks in Kathmandu?
Counselor in Summer Camps
You can start by contacting CCUSA and find out if you have what it takes to spend your gap year in a summer camp and help you get in touch with one. Generally, you teach children activities and skills but also play games with them and help them with problems they might have. You learn new skills yourself (dealing with problems and various people) and have days off to wander around the area and explore.
Work as an Au Pair
As an au pair you need to stay in one country (home or abroad) for a while. You look after your host family’s child(ren) and maybe do some house chores in return for meals, accommodation and some pocket money. The big benefit is that you may learn a new language yourself as well as responsibility and independence.
Work on a Farm
Ready to get your hands dirty? You can lead a fulfilling life outdoors while learning about rural life. You can enjoy in harvesting crops, picking fruit and so much more. We recommend you give WWOOF a chance.
WWOOF is a worldwide movement linking volunteers with organic farmers and growers to promote cultural and educational experiences based on trust and non-monetary exchange, thereby helping to build a sustainable, global community.
Gap Year Volunteering Ideas
Conservation programs give you the opportunity to take a look at the global picture and realize the emergency of acting quickly to protect wildlife, save the rainforest or save marine life. You don’t have to go far to get involved as you can find so many programs in the States but it can take you as far as Latin America or Asia and Africa.
Volunteer to Help Children
Otherwise known as care volunteering it provides you with an unforgettable experience of helping children and youth. As hard as it gets, it offers so much in return and you also get involved in local communities, help orphanages or schools. UnitedWay has a portal to find local volunteering opportunities near you.
Build Schools in Developing Countries
Feeling useful is one of the most satisfying feelings in the world. If you decide to engage in helping to build schools (or houses and other buildings) for local communities in developing countries it will certainly give you a sense of pride and achievement and build your character and perhaps friends for life. BuildOn Global has been helping for over two decades and is a good place to start if you want to help build homes for the underprivileged.
Protect Wild Animals
If you like animals or you have set your mind to saving them, this is a great start for you and an unforgettable experience. You can choose to do the research or care and help endangered species. This option can take you as far as Thailand (elephant conservation), India (crocodiles) or Africa (rhinos). You can try with African Conservation experience but there are so many other options to choose
Gap Year Traveling Ideas
Travel Around the World
Imagine seeing and experiencing most of the world’s popular sites in one year. You could start from New Zealand and Australia, across Asia, all over the Mediterranean, wild Africa, ride a motorcycle across Latin America and quickly get home. You can even volunteer and travel the world for free!
It could be overwhelming just to start thinking of planning it but you could choose from many organizations that offer the programs. There are also many jobs that offer traveling the world that you could consider for your gap year.
Explore the USA
This could give you a great opportunity to see America’s iconic sights from east to west coast, the Grand Canyon, New York, L. A. with Hollywood. Don’t forget to try your luck in Las Vegas, drive on route 66, get enchanted by Yellowstone or swim in Florida’s crystal-blue sea. As with many gap-year destinations you can make it more complete by finding work as you go, or even better volunteer in local communities.
It has been one of the most popular gap-year options for years. You can see all those sights you’ve always wanted to. You can travel using inter rail or find a working or volunteering program in some of the most beautiful places in the world. There is no need to choose between developed west or exciting east, you can see it all and experience the European adventure
Gap Year Down Under
Travelling across this magnificent country is as exciting as staying put in just one place. You could backpack in the outback or find a job on a typical Aussie farm. Give diving course a chance, take a dip on Sydney’s famous Bondi beach or choose from many options within this program.
Expedition in Antarctica
One of those once in a lifetime achievements, traveling to Antarctica is definitely a cool thing to do! The coldest and the driest place on earth will leave you breathless and speechless, but possibly penniless, too as it is quite expensive (around $3-4000). However, it will be worth it as you will be hanging out mostly with penguins, seals and scientists and that is probably something you don’t often do.
There are a few ways to see African wildlife and visit game reserves- drives, horseback or walking. Get involved in anti-poaching projects or take care of injured animals. Safari in Africa is the ultimate adventure and a magnificent journey.
Trans Siberian Railway
The Trans Siberian (the longest railway in the world) goes from Moscow all the way to Mongolia (over 5,700 miles long). You can choose it just to enjoy it or you can use it to connect to many countries (China, North Korea…) and cities and, perhaps, stay there and see what they have to offer to your adventurous soul.
If you want to know more, read what National Geographic has to say about it.
Learn New Skills During Your Gap Year
Whatever your interests are, this is a great year to commit to them, whether it is baking, boxing, programming, yoga, etc. There is plenty of time to enjoy quite a few of them! Self-improvement and self-motivation are valuable at any age.
Learn Another Language (or two)
This exciting way to spend your gap year requires you to really immerse yourself in the community, learn about their culture, meet the locals, and eat their food. It can be combined with volunteering or working there. You can choose any place in the world but we recommend a tucked-in village in the South of France, a remote little town in South America or, why not, a Greek island, OPA!
Sport programs during a gap year are always fun, no matter if you volunteer or not as you get to play with children and teach them about fair-play and friendship while they learn the basic rules. You can choose from so many sports and coach them all over the world but also in summer camps back home. You will definitely enjoy it as well as the kids.
Start a Business
Any time is good for starting new things so why would your own business be an exception? If you’ve had an inspiring idea for a while, use your gap year to give it a go. Here is a little guide for you if you mean business.
If you want to boost your CV, make new contacts but also develop new skills regarding your future career, an internship is a great gap year idea. There are internships available in all areas of work (marketing, medicine, finance, law journalism…). You probably won’t get paid for it but you might be provided with accommodation and have all travel expenses covered. You can stay near home or think internationally and make it an adventure abroad- New York, Hong Kong, London!
Pre-college courses are a great way to get in touch with your future career in a more scholarly manner. If you want to prepare yourself thoroughly for the upcoming phase of your life (aka college) and you want it to be classy perhaps an Oxford pre college program could be good for you. You can also choose from variety of courses on other European or worldwide colleges.
Gap Year Ideas for Grown-Ups
Apart from it being commonly known as a year off before or during college studies, you can really have a gap year whatever your age. Whether you want to take a break from work, everyday chores or when you retire you can choose a program and go! It is never too late for a gap year!
For example, you can join Peace Corps (as they don’t have age limit) or you can teach English abroad. Other popular options are doing marine research or working with orphans but basically, whatever you want to do, go for it!
Exciting Bonus Gap Year Ideas
Besides the most common or the safest options for your gap year, here are some off-the-track options for the adventurer in you
- Dive in the Great barrier reef
- Walk the Great Wall of China for charity
- Save the turtles in Costa Rica
- Trek in the Himalayas
- Make your gap year a truly unique experience by following a Thinking Beyond Borders program
Consider your choices carefully according to your skills, interests and goals. Make sure your budget is sufficient for the start, check out online forums or talk with ex-gappers. You can always talk with your high school consultant about it but don’t avoid your parents’ advice too. Choose a project that will improve your skill and enrich your life and it is bound to be an epic adventure!