Experiential Learning Gap Year Programs

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A Guide to Gap Year Hands-On Learning Programs

How many students can say they’ve already practiced everything they want to do in their lives in school? Probably none. A gap year can be your chance to actually try something that interests you, whether it’s a potential career or just something you want to learn more about. It can be a time to discover something brand new or learn more about something you already love while working, interning, volunteering, or studying in a new way. If that sounds good to you, just think, “Year off! Hands on!” and go find hands on learning gap year programs for you!

Everything Else You Need to Know About Gap Year Hands-On Learning Programs

Costs. Experiential learning programs vary greatly in cost, depending on their country of location, length, and whether they focus more on volunteer-style experience or are course-driven (which often require experts such as professors or professionals to teach you along the way). Be sure to check what is included and get a picture of what additional expenses will be required of you. 

Deciding if the position is a good investment or your time and money means analyzing your goals. Are you looking for this program to help you get a job? To help you decide if a certain career is right for you? To make a difference in the world? Think about your goal and then you can evaluate whether the program is a good investment. You can fundraise to help support your efforts.

Accommodations. Accommodations on hands on learning gap year programs can vary significantly, so you should talk with the programs that interest you to hear about accommodations and set your expectations. Ask to see photographs, or talk to past participants about the housing. For most people, the accommodations aren’t the most important factor, as long as they are safe, but knowing what to expect can make all the difference! Generally, your housing will vary based on program type: more academic programs may use dorms, volunteer programs may use on-site shared housing for volunteers, and community programs may use shared, simple apartments.

Visas. A big benefit of using an organized program for your gap year is that they can assist you in understanding what—if any—visa is needed and securing that visa. Generally, visa fees are not included in program fees. Getting ready for your gap year experience means making sure you have the proper permissions to be in your program country. Need to find an embassy to secure your visa? Start here.

Safety. The advice for safety abroad is a lot like the advice at home: keep your wits about you, don’t go out alone in the evenings, don’t go home with strangers, and make sure someone always knows where you are. Once you find a program you like, talk to them about what they advise for keeping safe. Purchasing an international phone plan for your cell phone and getting travel insurance are additional good ways to make sure you have a good safety net in-country.

GoAbroad's Inside Scoop

Choosing a hands on learning gap year program means thinking about what you want to learn and why you want to learn it. When it comes to a gap year experience, making it worthwhile is about setting your goals and finding a program (or creating your own schedule) to meet those goals. 

What is a great fit for someone else might not work for you at all. There is no one right way to get hands on with your year off! Once you’ve found an experiential learning gap year program that you know is perfect for you, try to set your own goals within the program. Maybe you’ll try to get recommendation letters from three staff members, or you’ll keep a detailed blog of your experience. Whatever it is, hold yourself accountable to making the most of the experience in some personal way. 

One great tip is to raise your expectations of yourself and lower your expectations of the program pieces that aren’t your priority. Let go of the fact that the apartment has a leaky faucet or you don’t love the food, and focus on what you can do to learn more, do more, and see more!

Your experiential learning gap year is what you make it. Experiential learning can look almost like a regular classroom or it can take you far from civilization (and anything in between), so think about what you’d love to do, and go find it! Whether you find the perfect program for you, combine programs to make a customized gap year, or build your own plan by talking directly with organizations, a hands on learning gap year can push you to grow and change in amazing ways.

Keep Reading! Explore Experiential travel advice for not-so-average teens.

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A Guide To
Gap Year Hands-On Learning Programs

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Gap Year Adventures with Love Volunteers

Whether you want to support vulnerable communities in developing countries, help conserve the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or protect animals in the Amazon, Love Volunteers has a program for you. With over 200 projects in 40 countries there's something for everyone! For over 7 years Love Volunteers has provided safe, affordable and ethical volunteering and gap year projects. Join a progr...

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Gap Year Abroad with Projects Abroad

Take a break before college and find your passion by volunteering with Projects Abroad. Gap years allow you to invest some time to gain an international perspective and develop new skills, while making a tangible contribution to communities in need. Projects Abroad has been arranging gap year programs since 1992. You can join a worthwhile volunteer program or internship from a few weeks ...

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API Gap Year - Costa Rica: Sustainability and Environmental

Sign up for an API program that lets you take part in extensive coursework and field trips. These focus on Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity and the effects of human activities on local ecosystems. This program helps you develop essential Spanish language skills, especially conversational. Together with other students, you will travel to the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, as well as visit diff...

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Gap Year In South Africa

Planning to head towards the Rainbow Nation during your gap year and go for some thrilling wildlife safari tours? Well, no doubt why South Africa is one of the best choices and there's immense scope to travel and work, making the gap year more meaningful. Go Discover Abroad has a wide range of exciting program and tours lined up in the country, that are perfect for solo travelers as well as for...

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A Meaningful Gap Year in Africa

Spend your gap year with Africa’s award-winning volunteering and internship experts. Explore some of the continent’s most exotic and breath-taking locations while working with other international travelers to give back to communities and wildlife conservation efforts.

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Elephant Conservation Volunteering in Thailand

Elephants in Thailand have historically been treated as beasts of burden to help families earn a living. Until 1989, when the practice was banned, elephants were used in the logging industry. Suddenly hundreds of families had large hungry elephants to feed, but with no income. In desperation, these families started renting out their elephants to the tourist industry, where they were used for tr...

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Carpe Diem Education Latitudes Volunteer Placement

Latitudes = Group Semester Overseas + Volunteer Placement. Choose one of our three-month group semesters during the Fall, followed by a three-day orientation in Portland, Oregon before embarking on a three-month focused volunteer placement in the Spring. Focused Volunteer Placement (FVP): commit to a local community through extensive service—independently or with a 2-3 student cohort. Global...

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9 months. 10 countries. 100 skills. The best gap year ever.

How much time do you have? What are your interests? Whether you spend a year or a week on a Winterline program, you will visit extraordinary places, experience new cultures, learn new skills and find out something important about yourself. And you’ll have an awesome time doing it. Winterline offers both 9 month gap year programs and 1-2 week programs focusing on life and business skills. ...

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Gap Semester in South America (Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru)

Learn firsthand about the cultures of South America on an immersive 12-week experiential learning semester with Youth International. You will spend time in several different communities in Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, living with families and contributing to ongoing volunteer projects, as well as taking part in a wide variety of cultural workshops and activities. You will also have time to e...

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Experience the Galapagos Islands - 3 Weeks Year Round

The Galapagos Islands were declared Natural Patrimony of the Humanity in 1979 by the UNESCO. This award allowed local Organizations to establish programs that contribute to the conservation of the Archipelago. It gives the opportunity to see the Galapagos Islands not just as tourists but to get involved in daily activities to preserve the local flora and fauna and meet local families who are li...

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Outward Bound CR: Service, Hike, & Homestay (Ages 14-18)

Find out what exploring "off-the-beaten path" truly means when you journey through a deep jungle trek together with other teens on this adventure-packed program. Discover majestic rainforest valleys, winding rivers, and cascading waterfalls. Feel in awe and wonder as you come up close with nature. Throughout your adventure with Outward Bound Costa Rica, you will build a bond with course mat...

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Country Jumper Spanish—Costa Rica | Guatemala | Peru

In three of the world's most beautiful countries—Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru—Maximo Nivel offers its unique Native Spanish Program. Join our "Country Jumper" program and begin your Spanish studies in one of our countries and then jump to another and another. Experience different aspects of each country's culture and Spanish dialect. Our Native Spanish Program, curriculum, and materials a...

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Global Leader in Gap Year - Thinking Beyond Borders

Your gap year should be the experience of a lifetime, shaping your future with passion and purpose. Thinking Beyond Borders has set the standard for gap year programs by empowering students to become lifelong global change makers. We are the cutting edge in experiential learning with the most impactful programs available. We have three unique program offerings: Global Gap Year - TBB's signat...

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Cultural Exploration Iceland - Putney Student Travel

"Explore the winding coastline of Iceland’s remote and culturally rich Westfjords region as you travel between towering plateaus and the sea. Stay in small fishing villages just south of the Artic Circle and kayak pristine fjords and scout for curious seals and Arctic terns. Interview fishmongers in Isafjordur to learn about the changes in fish stocks due to warming coastal currents, and soak i...

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Most Affordable Internships in Dublin, Ireland

Affordable internships in Dublin, Ireland are available from just two weeks. Friendly Irish homestay accommodation ensures affordability of the programs, while internship placements are based in the city center. Whether you’re spending weekends within the city to enjoy the urban attractions, or traveling further afield to explore more of Ireland, the program is great for students and young ...