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Gap Year Ideas for Every Type of Person

Written by

Nicole Rosania

Gap year ideas in Asia
  • Publish Date:January 18th, 2024

A gap year is intentional time for experiential learning to deepen your professional, personal, and cultural awareness. The decision to take a gap year is not an easy one. When deciding whether a gap is right for you, think about your "why". What are the main reasons you're interested in this experience? What do you hope to get from this experience? What do you hope to learn about the world? About yourself? About yourself in the world?

These questions should help guide your gap year ideation process. If you know what you hope to learn from your gap, you can work backwards and figure out what experiences you want to have during this time. This is how to start your gap year ideation.

What is a gap year?

When well-planned and intentional, a gap year can be the single most valuable experience a student can have after high school. The transition from high school to college is one of the most important phases of life for most, and can also be a challenging period for young adults to navigate.

Not only are there big life decisions to make, but it's a unique time to try new things, explore interests, and figure out who you are and where your place is in the world.

Rather than being an alternative to college, a gap year can prepare you to make the most of your time in college—and beyond. To get a well-rounded, culturally rich education, you need to experience life outside of the classroom, and taking an intentional break between high school and college can give you the space to do so.

Should I take a gap year?

There are so many incredible things to do in your gap year, semester, or summer. There are many reasons you might decide to take a gap year. You might want to pause your studies to travel or gain work experience. It's also common for students to find a volunteer cause or service-learning project to participate in over the course of their time away from university.

If you’re considering a gap year, here are some ideas to inspire you. A gap year may prove to be the most enriching educational opportunity you ever experience. 

The most innovative gap year ideas

Tackle your bucket list with adventure travel

One of the best ways to experience the world at a young age is through adventure travel. Whether this means snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef or white-water rafting in Costa Rica, a gap year can be the perfect time to cross some once-in-a-lifetime adventures off your bucket list!

Immerse yourself in a new culture

Traveling to another country and immersing yourself in its culture, traditions, and customs is a valuable form of education. Experiencing life in a far-flung city opens you up to new ideas, ways of working, and ways of living. Some gap year programs can take you to multiple destinations so you can experience several ways of living.

In every country, you'll learn about that nation's cuisine, its religious practices, its artistic traditions, and its values. While you could read about these things in a book or discuss them in a classroom, it's not the same as having these hands-on, on-the-ground experiences.

The best way to learn about a new place is by immersing yourself in the local culture. When looking for gap year ideas, be sure to consider travel that incorporates cultural immersion. You could consider living in a global city to pursue language learning or an international gap year internship to learn to navigate modern 9-5 life and thrive in a cross-cultural work environment.

Explore your hobbies and interests

You might be feeling the pressure to know your next steps. It's often said that a gap year isn't "time off", but rather, the most productive year of your life. It's a time to discover yourself, explore career paths, and find new interests. It's also the perfect time to experiment with new hobbies.

A gap year is the space to explore areas you have always been interested in. This could make all the difference for your future.

Maybe sign yourself up for that music class you've always wanted to try or challenge yourself to cooking one new recipe per week. The gap year ideas are endless.

Learn something outside of the traditional classroom

A gap year can be a great opportunity to try new hobbies and test new skills, such as taking a cooking class! Everyone needs to learn how to cook—mind as well learn this skill somewhere in the world, where you can gain insight into a local culture as well.

Additionally, there are dozens of courses you can pursue outside of university to level up your skillset and resume during a gap year. A cooking class is an example of a more hands-on experience, but there are also online certificates in a variety of subject areas that are free for you to learn from as well.

Practice creating content

Creating content is a productive and purposeful way to spend your time because.... it can lead to a full-time gig! Building a brand and social media following requires consistency, drive, and time. If you're looking for a gap year idea you can try from home or anywhere in the world, consider learning how to become a digital storyteller.

Hint: You'll want to batch your content when you shoot photos or write so that you have something to post 3-4x a week.

Learn about sustainability and renewable energy

Incorporating sustainable practices into your life will not only impact your day-to-day routines, but can help save the environment! A gap year can be a great time to implement new routines into your life and omit the ones that aren't serving you anymore.

Consider implementing some sustainable practices into your lifestyle, such as carrying a reusable water bottle with you while traveling. You can learn about sustainability online OR experience it first-hand in places like Iceland. Maybe you can even learn by practicing organic farming in places like Costa Rica or in the Andes of Peru. Lucky for you, we offer gap year programs that travel to both!

Study world history

While a gap year often means time away from the traditional classroom, it doesn't mean you have to stop learning for a year. When you travel the world, history comes to life through the places you see and the people you meet. Brush up on your European and WWII history by visiting places like Normandy, France, or learn about the culture of the Andes in Peru by spending a week exploring the Sacred Valley.

Volunteer your time to a special cause

Giving back to the community is a great gap year idea if you're looking to make an impact! This is something you can start tomorrow in your hometown by scoping out a local soup kitchen, animal shelter, or school that may need some extra hands. However, there are dozens of ways to leave a lasting impact during your time abroad too.

One of the most impactful ways to volunteer abroad is by working with animals. Whether it's learning about animal protection by working with elephants in Thailand or partaking in sea turtle conservation work in Costa Rica, there are animals in need all around the world.

Gain professional experience through an internship

College students sometimes take a gap year to obtain real-world experience. Today's job market is highly competitive, and there are many benefits of doing an internship. Students who gain international work experience as an intern will have an edge over college graduates who only have their newly obtained degree to present to potential employers.

Stand out in the future by gaining experience through a gap year internship in the subject you intend to major in or sector you want to build your career in.

Participate in a service-learning project

It’s easy to find an astonishing variety of service learning projects associated with virtually every field. Whether you're in health, education, or sustainable development, your understanding of a community’s way of addressing its own issues will richen your own experience of the world. Joining a community’s existing efforts not only benefits the community, it can also provide you with plenty of new and useful skills. 

While participating in a student learning project, you can work with community leaders and gain insights into their day-to-day work. You can work alongside non-profit groups and NGOs to learn they make progress. You’ll provide support and many of these groups will provide mentorship. Service learning experience is an example of a gap year idea that may even make you more marketable in the job search. 

Bringing it all together

In conclusion, the decision to embark on a gap year is a pivotal moment in a student's life, offering a unique opportunity for self-discovery, growth, and exploration. As we've explored a number of proactive ideas throughout this article, it becomes clear that the choices made during this period can shape not only the gap year itself but also the trajectory of one's future. Whether it's volunteering abroad, interning in a field of interest, or pursuing a passion project, the key lies in choosing activities that resonate personally.

Remember, a gap year is not just a pause; it's a deliberate step towards enrichment and self discovery. The right ideas for your gap year are not only about ticking off a checklist but about crafting an experience that aligns with your aspirations and values. By seizing this time wisely, you pave the way for a more informed and purposeful entrance into the next chapter of your academic journey.

Nicole Rosania

At EF Education First, Nicole brings vibrant stories from our unique and wonderful student travelers alive across our channels to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

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