From fruit picking and summer schools to ski instructor training, the list of gap year ideas is huge. Let Prospects guide you through your options…
Whether you're looking to stay at home or spread your wings further afield, opportunities for charity work, working holidays, adventure travel and paid work are endless. Choose a project that will enhance your skills, as gaps on your CV will need explaining to employers.
These projects are popular with those whose sights are set on a career working with wildlife. Opportunities involve working in shelters, surgeries and centres alongside vets and rehabilitation staff. Whether you're saving elephants in Asia or working on monkey conservation in Vietnam, you'll gain experience of local wildlife and learn skills from resident professionals. If working with animals abroad is something that takes your fancy, have a look at sites including African Conservation Experience.
Care and community
Care volunteering includes social and youth work, childcare, au-pairing and donating time to schools and orphanages. Community work covers everything from agriculture to building projects. You will get the chance to make a difference to someone else's life as well as gaining self-sufficiency with such work. Inspire is a great site to find care and community opportunities further afield.
Passionate about preserving the planet? Then conservation work may be for you. Projects give you the chance to work with endangered wildlife, protect rainforests and conserve marine life, all while learning about issues affecting local communities. To save endangered species and support natural habitats abroad, a good starting point is Pod Volunteer. If you're looking for something closer to home, head to The Conservation Volunteers (TCV).
If art, dance, drama or music is your thing then this could be the gap year route for you. There are numerous travel destinations you can pick from to teach arts and crafts to young women, or drama and music to children in underprivileged schools. To gain socialisation and communication skills as well as self-confidence in your creative abilities, start looking for opportunities at Travellers Worldwide.
Fruit-picking and farm work
If physical work doesn't faze you, agricultural projects ranging from harvesting crops to assisting farmers might give you a sense of satisfaction. You'll have the opportunity to work outdoors and learn about rural life while gaining fulfilment helping local communities. For further details, see organisations such as World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF).
In addition to developing skills relevant to your chosen career, an internship will also make your CV stand out. They are available in a range of areas including business, journalism and marketing and last from a couple of weeks to a year. You'll gain industry experience and contacts and an improved chance of employment.
Internships are a great way to add sparkle to CVs by developing skills relevant to your chosen career. They are available in a range of industries including business, journalism and marketing and last from a couple of weeks to a year. You'll gain industry experience and contacts and an improved chance of employment. For opportunities working abroad or in the UK, take a look at Real Gap Experience.
Learning a foreign language gives you a new skill, the chance to immerse yourself in a new culture, and improves your employability on your return home. There are lots of destinations to choose from so if you want to learn Spanish, German, Chinese or French then there are courses waiting. CESA Languages Abroad is a good place to begin your language hunt.
Europe, Africa and Thailand all offer opportunities to work in hospitals, clinics and immunisation centres. You will gain first-hand experience of the medical profession and an understanding of healthcare issues in developing countries. If you're planning to or are already studying medicine, midwifery, nursing or dentistry, then check out Gap Medics.
Sports and adventure travel
How does football coaching in Ghana or rugby in New Zealand sound? If you're after an adventure, you can always take on a trekking expedition, safari or adrenalin challenge. You'll gain teamwork and leadership skills and test your commitment capabilities. As a start point, check out Oasis Overland and Sport Lived.
Teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) is a common gap year choice. Programmes can take you to China, Korea and Europe. You don't need teaching experience but many employers require a TEFL qualification, for which short courses are available. Working in schools and learning institutions you'll gain organisation and communication skills as well as independence and teaching experience. Start looking for opportunities at BUNAC and i-to-i.
Tips for choosing a gap year
- Consider your options carefully. Narrow down the list by asking 'What do I want to achieve?'
- Play to your strengths. Pick an activity of interest and utilise the skills you have.
- Question what you want to take from your experience. This can have a bearing on the type of project you choose.
- Plan your finances. Budget to make sure you have enough cash to fund your plans.
- Think ahead. Gaining new skills and experience relevant to your career path can give your CV a boost.
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- Discover more about working abroad with our range of country profiles.