Have you had it up to HERE ^ with hearing about everyone and-their-mothers’ plans to take a gap year? Has the green monster of jealousy finally got you considering your own options for a year of travel and self-discovery? Way to take that grumpy energy and turn it gold, my friend.
Taking a gap year is totally en vogue, but this is one trend that won’t go the way of Vine. (RIP, Vine.) If you’re in the early stages of planning your gap year, unsure where to go, we’ve got a handy-dandy infographic to give you all the deets on the best gap year destinations, thanks to the American Gap Association 2015 National Alumni Survey.
Your roadmap to gap year programs abroad
Before you dive in to comparing the top places to go on a gap year, you should know a few things about the types of programs you can embark on. We like to call this your “roadmap” to gap year programs abroad.
Hiking and biking and kayaking, OH MY! Outdoor adventure programs are all about tapping into your inner Bear Grylls, braving the elements, and getting your heart thumping in your chest. Adrenaline junkies rejoice—you’ve just found your perfect gap year match.
If you’re looking to lend a hand (and a lot of elbow grease) to communities in need around the world, volunteer abroad programs are your ideal option for a gap year. With so many causes to lend your bleeding heart to, there’s no shortage of ways to be the change you wish to see in the world.
You just want to get right to werk, werk, werk, werk, werk. Gap year internships are for future moguls looking to be flushed with ca-aaaaaaash! Get hands-on, real-world, international work experience to add some sparkle sparkle to your resume and impress any and all future employers.
Take a look, it’s in a book, the perfect gap yeeear. For some reason, you just can’t get enough of that good ol’ book-learnin’, but you’re still not set on a major or university just yet. That’s what a gap year study abroad program is for! Explore different subjects, pick up a new language, and take the time to really figure out what you’re jazzed about learning.
You’re not hot for teacher (that’s gross), you wanna BE the teacher. Time to turn the tables and get in front of the class as an ESL teacher abroad. Yes, you can teach abroad without a degree on your gap year! With all those years of school under your belt, making the transition will be easier than it sounds—with just the right amount of challenging to keep things interesting and help you grow.
You want the best of ALL worlds. Organized gap year travel programs give you a little taste of everything. It’s a veritable buffet of meaningful travel experiences. Spend a little time interning or volunteering, get your blood pumping with plenty of outdoor adventures, and pick up a few new vocab words along the way. Toss in some much-needed time for self-reflection and you’ve got a guaranteed world-shakin, life-changin’, career-makin’ experience on your hands.
So, whether you’re Indiana Jones-ing for an adrenaline rush, or you’re looking for less danger and more Hermione Granger by hitting the books, there’s sure to be a gap year program in any of these gap year destinations to satisfy your wanderlust.
Best gap year destinations RIGHT NOW
With so many places to go on a gap year, it can be hard to choose! There’s a great wide world out there, and you’re eager to explore it all in order to find where you belong.
To keep your gap year from turning into a gaffe year, here’s where your fellow gappers are going, according to the AGA.
Brush up on your Spanish (because 42 minutes a day with Senora Diaz was not enough), explore Amazon cloud forests, discover the origin of species, live with a host family, try not to feel too guilty when you kind of like the taste of cuy (guinea pig), and participate in service-learning projects. It’s no wonder Ecuador is one of the best gap year destinations right now. With students saying adios to the traditional eurotrip and embracing more off-the-beaten path locales, Ecuador is a happy medium.
Cost. Ecuador is incredibly affordable, and actually used the U.S. dollar, so you won’t get stumped by tricky conversion rates. An inexpensive meal won’t run you more than $4.00, and if you can’t put away your caffeine habits, a cup of coffee won’t be more than a couple bucks.
Culture shock factor. For westerners, there’s going to be a bit of a shock once you slow to Ecuador’s pace. There’s always time tomorrow, “ya mismo.” But, with all that extra time you’ll really get to embrace Ecuadorian culture and daily life. Plumbing in Ecuador will not be what you’re used to, and so a trip to the bathroom becomes a cultural experience! (Just remember to toss your TP, don’t flush it.) The culture shock in Ecuador isn’t anything you can’t handle. We say, embrace it!
Remember to pack this. Any previous knowledge of Spanish will come in handy in Ecuador, but you’ll still find yourself a little confused. But, you’ll come away with a lot of cool regional vocab and slang. Oh, and don’t forget your hiking boots. Duh.
- Social work internship in Ecuador — Read Projects Abroad reviews | Visit their site
- Semester in Ecuador and Peru — Read Carpe Diem Education reviews | Visit their site
- Browse all gap year programs in Ecuador.
קריאה מימין לשמאל הוא סיפור שלם. אם זה תרגום טוב אפילו!
Yeah, that might take some getting used to. But, with so much history, and languages (Hebrew and Arabic), and religion to study (hello Holy Land!), Israel easily tops the list of best places to go on a gap year. You’ll live with a host family, maybe even spend some time on a kibbutz, and soak in Israeli history and culture like za’atar and olive oil with pitot.
Cost. You’ll likely find Israel’s day-to-day costs comparable to what you’re spending right now at home. Although, eating out can be a little pricier. An inexpensive meal can still cost you about $17.00, and that coffee habit with still run you a few bucks.
Culture shock factor. With new sights, smells, religions, and languages all around you, adjusting to life in Israel will take some time. Especially when it comes to reading Hebrew right to left. You’ll need to get used to a more conservative culture—know when it is and isn’t appropriate to wear shorts or your favorite tank top. If you’re not used to middle eastern cuisine, your tummy is in for a TREAT. Hummus, baba ganoush, fattoush, falafel—eating is the tastiest way to embrace Israeli culture, and while it may be a shock at first, soon you’ll be saying “pass the labneh!”
Remember to pack this. Any key words and phrases in Hebrew or Arabic that you can pick up beforehand will come in handy. Plus, it helps to keep an open mind, and a willingness to learn and understand new cultural norms. Israel will require some slightly more conservative dress, especially when visiting significant religious sites.
- YJ Gap Year Course in Israel — Read Young Judaea reviews | Visit their site
- Gap year in Haifa, Israel — Read more about Technion | Visit their site
- Browse all gap year programs in Israel.
Now this is big. We mean BIG. Not only are you taking on a gap year, but you’re taking on a gap year in the seventh-largest country (by area) in the world. Which also happens to be the second-most populous country in the world. With so much physical—and spiritual—ground to cover in India, it’s good to have a whole year of exploring ahead of you!
Cost. The price (and length) of your flight to India notwithstanding, you’ll save some major bucks on your gap year in India. It’s really affordable in-country, even dinner out for two people will only cost about $12.50. Even though you’ll need to switch from coffee to chai, that morning fix will only run you about a buck. With such a low cost, you can really focus on the things that matter on your gap year—learning and personal/cultural/spiritual exploration.
Culture shock factor. Life in India will be a huge adjustment, especially for westerners. So many languages, so many religions, and so. Much. Curry! Remember, it’s just different, and there’s nothing scary or wrong about different. The thought of your morning commute with hustle and bustle of city traffic might raise your blood pressure...just a little bit. If you’re not used to a lot of spices, eating Indian food will also be a huge adjustment. Just make sure one bout of Delhi belly doesn’t have you throwing in the towel. Drink some water. Take a tums. And taste everything at least once.
Remember to pack this. Bring an open mind and heart with you on your gap year in India. You’re about to go on an incredible journey of self-discovery, and India is a country known for spiritual self-discovery. Embrace it! Learn as much as you can, soak in as much of the 4,000+ year old history and culture, and try to see things from a new, enlightened perspective. Oh, and seriously, bring some tums.
- Semester in India — Read Carpe Diem Education reviews | Visit their site
- North India Explorer Program — Read Love Volunteers reviews | Visit their site
- Browse all gap year programs in India.
The land of Oz is a wild and magical place that draws us all in. With koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, and the literal most-adorable-creature-on-Earth quokka, you’ll be ‘gramming animal friend selfies for days! Camp in the outback, watch a little rugby with your host family—or take it out on the field—spend mornings in the surf, afternoons in the sun, and soak it all in during your gap year in Australia. Soon you’ll be saying, “there’s no place like home!”
Cost. Of all the locales listed here, Australia is going to be the most expensive. Not only will flights there be on the pricier side of things, but exchange rates may or may not rule in your favor here. Most of the time it will be comparable to U.S. prices, but not always! Your Macca’s (McDonald’s) will still cost you $7.00 to $8.00, but your flat white might be a little more than that Starbucks latte back home.
Culture shock factor. If you’re looking for a total and complete departure from western culture, you won’t find it here. There will be plenty of culture shock in the way of… toilets flushing the opposite way, and overall adjustment to being more independent, meeting new people, and traveling long-term.
Remember to pack this. Sunscreen. Lots of sunscreen. Oh, and bug spray. Yep, definitely lots of bug spray. And, I guess an insatiable appetite for adventure will come in handy, too. You’ll need to learn to brave the elements and battle some pretty creepy crawlers during your gap year in Australia. Consider yourself warned!
- Gap year in Australia — Read Greenheart Travel reviews | Visit their site
- Teen travel in Australia — Read Broadreach reviews | Visit their site
- Browse all gap year programs in Australia.
Combine your French language learning goals with volunteer work during a gap year in Senegal. With such a warm, inviting culture—warmth from the people, warmth from the delicious food—it’s no wonder Senegal is a fan favorite for best gap year destinations. Really dive into life in this West African nation, learn the art of storytelling from the griots and pros, dance to the beat of a new drum, and pick up some Wolof along the way.
Cost. You’ll find Senegal very affordable compared to back home. An inexpensive meal out in the city (Dakar) will still be less than $10, but you’ll spend less living with a host family in surrounding villages/towns and eating delicious home-cooked meals.
Culture shock factor. There is definitely a big learning/adjustment curve when it comes to settling in any African nation after growing up in the West. You’ll want to dress a little more conservatively here because, although Senegal’s government is secular, the majority of the country practices Islam, so a little modesty goes a long way.
Remember to pack this. A little basic French (or a lot, if fluency is your endgame) will definitely come in handy in this West African nation, since the official language of Senegal is French. However, if you have a real knack for languages, try picking up a little Wolof, or a regional language like Pulaar or Serer.
- Service Learning in Senegal — Read Projects Abroad reviews | Visit their site
- Browse all gap year programs in Senegal.
Next steps to gap years abroad
You know you want to go on a gap year, where to go, and essentially what you want to do. Here are some more resources to make all your dreams of a transformative year abroad a reality.
- Get matched with stellar gap year programs after chatting with an Online Advisor
- Compare your top gap year programs side-by-side with MyGoAbroad
- Weigh all the Pros and Cons of a Gap Year
- Brush up on What to Avoid When Taking a Gap Year
- Remember, there’s nothing to be afraid of when taking a gap year!
- If you love infographics, you'll love Affordable Colleges' Gap Year Resource
Now you’re all ready for your year ON!
There’s no shortage of places to go on a gap year
You just have to stick a pin in the map, cross your heart, pack your bags, and go! Yeah, it’s a lot of steps, but once you’re out in the world it’ll be the easiest (and best) thing you ever did. You’re sure to have an incredible experience abroad whether you choose to go to any of these best gap year destinations, or strike out on to an even more off-the-beaten-track locale. There’s no limit to what you will learn and how much you will grow, as long as you just GO.