Whether you’re transitioning from high school to college, college to the real world, or changing careers, a gap year can be the perfect way to figure out what you want out of life. While more common in Europe, taking a gap year is a growing trend in the U.S., with some prestigious universities even encouraging them. Make the most of your time off with one of these rewarding gap year ideas.
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is one of the most accessible ways to get paid to work overseas. It’s also a great resume builder, demonstrating that you know how to lead a group and can adapt to different environments. Some countries even offer government TEFL jobs because English teachers are in such high demand.
Work on a Farm
With the WWOOF program, you can barter labor for room and board with organic farmers and growers as you travel. They list opportunities throughout Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, and the Americas. Choose your desired destination, sign up as a volunteer, and start contacting hosts to arrange your visit. WorkAway and HelpX offer similar opportunities.
Revisit Your Family Heritage
Your lineage has a longer story to tell and a gap year is a great time to explore it. Use the time to connect with your heritage, whether through a deep dive into your ancestry, a trip to your family’s country of origin, or both.
Love yoga? Eager for more scuba diving? Getting into photography? Getting certified will turn your hobby into an official skill. This can help you find work, uncover new interests, or just give you time to develop your passion. Plus, certification courses are offered throughout the world, meaning you can make your certification a gap year trip.
Take on an Impact Project
While a two- or three-year stint in the PeaceCorps may be an intimidating commitment, there are plenty of shorter term projects that need volunteers. Organizations like Global Vision International or Ecoteer and even the United Nations are good places to start your search. You could end up conducting marine conservation research in Thailand, healing rescue animals in Namibia, or teaching soccer to kids in Brazil.
Master a Language
Becoming bilingual or trilingual can open a world of opportunities for your career and your life. It also helps develop your memory, widens your global perspective, and almost always improves your travel experience. And since there’s no better way to learn a language than surrounding yourself with it, we suggest taking a trip to compliment your lessons.
Set Out on a Solo Trip
It may not sound as fun as traveling with friends and family, but it’s also hard to convince a mate or sibling to take a year off with you. Plus side, a solo trip can help you foster a sense of independence while heightening your cultural awareness. Reflect on your past and contemplate your future on a hike through nature or immerse yourself in a different culture in a new city.
Become an Au Pair
Free rent and the chance to live abroad? Similar to a nanny, au pairs live with their host family. It’s great experience for potential teachers or childcare professionals looking to spend some time overseas. There may be some additional household duties, but the children are almost always the top priority. Families from all over the world are looking for au pairs to join their family.
Intern in a New Field
You’ll get valuable professional experience while discovering if you’re stimulated by the work. There are internships and fellowships for almost every field; you’ll just have to do some digging. Idealist can connect you to internships in the non-profit sector and the Yale Office of Career Strategy lists all types of placements.
Honorable Mention: Write
No matter what you choose, do your best to document your gap year experience. Expressing yourself is an important skill no matter what you end up doing next. You can keep a personal diary or try your hand at blogging.
When it comes to a gap year, the most important thing is leaving some time for reflection. If your gap year takes you overseas, consider downloading these apps and planning how you’ll stay in touch with loved ones back home.