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How to make the most of a gap year abroad

Posted: June 29, 2022

Taking a gap year is an opportunity for you to gain independence, have adventures, and learn practical skills. And there are many things to do in a gap year that’ll also look great on your resume.

Planning your gap year carefully will allow you to get the most out of your time. Creating a structured gap year plan means you’ll have the time to tackle the big questions in life while you gain practical experience, and get to try out different career options in a real-world context. 

You might even discover a new passion, or confirm that the path you were considering is the right one for you.

Make the most of your gap year by choosing a volunteer or internship program that fits your interests and goals. And rest assured by choosing from the best gap year programs that offer a safe and meaningful travel abroad experience

Here are six awesome things to do in a gap year to help you make the most of your gap year experience.


1) Contribute to a meaningful cause



Are you excited by the thought of contributing to clearing the oceans of plastic waste? Maybe you’re pulled towards conservation efforts aimed at African wildlife or endangered sea turtle species? Perhaps you’re passionate about facilitating women’s empowerment workshops

Your gap year is a chance to leap into action and make a positive impact in the areas you’re most interested in.

Working together with local communities, you’ll get to see which factors affect development. You’ll also learn how best to address these issues to ensure sustainable solutions – solutions that benefit the community while preserving natural resources needed for the future. 

You could participate in projects focused on marine conservation, wildlife conservation, education, or even community development. 

You’ll take this knowledge and experience home with you, so you can continue to make a positive impact in your everyday life. With your new perspective, you might even decide to turn your passion into a full-time career. 

Either way, you’ll get the chance to make valuable connections in the field and gain mentors and friends with shared interests along the way.

There are limitless volunteer opportunities out there, so it’s easy to find a gap year program that fits your interests. You can choose to commit just a few weeks or several months, and you can opt for programs in any one of our locations abroad, such as South Africa, Canary Islands or Thailand. 


2) Jump into adventure travel



Aim to push your boundaries during your gap year abroad. Adventure travel helps you break out of your comfort zone and develop practical skills while stretching yourself in fun ways. And the more you push yourself, the more you’ll learn about your own limits, which is what a gap year is all about.

You could be learning to scuba dive as part of our coral reef research project in Fiji, or trying tracking cheetahs as part of our cheetah conservation project in the South African savannah. 



Challenging yourself doesn’t have to mean leaping wildly into the unknown. Volunteer and internship abroad programs are structured, and offer support, as well as all the adrenaline you’d expect from adventure travel. 

For example, you can combine a journey to Mount Everest’s base camp, with community volunteering in Nepal. You could also go white-water rafting in the rivers of a Costa Rica rainforest, while contributing to rainforest conservation. Or, you can clear a path for sea turtle hatchlings to make it to the ocean on a beach in Greece.

Adventure travel allows you to learn more about how global issues are taking shape in local communities and environments around the world. Becoming immersed in an environment where these topics are a daily reality helps translate global development from an abstract concept into a tangible one. 

An internship or volunteer program can add to this by deepening your understanding of global issues, and offering a meaningful way for you to get involved in community development or environmental conservation.


3) Gain career clarity on an internship abroad



If you don’t know what career path you’d like to take straight out of high school, test the waters with an internship abroad during your gap year. This lets you try out jobs in a real-world context, while also giving you the chance to travel abroad, and travel locally during your time off from your internship program.

You don’t have to match your internship up with your planned career choice. Internships with GVI are designed to build skills that you can apply to just about any other job you choose to take up in the future. This makes your gap year internship a great opportunity to explore previous interests, gain experiences you may not have considered before, and get a feel for what really suits you.

No matter what program you choose, your completed internship will look great on your CV. It can also tell future employees about your communication skills and ability to work successfully in an international environment.

And it’s a win-win situation, since you can choose an internship in exciting travel destinations like Seychelles, Mexico and Thailand. Interning abroad provides the perfect mix of career development and adventure.


4) Take your learning experience to a whole new level



But wait, isn’t the whole point of taking a year off school to explore the world outside the classroom? Well, on a gap year you can do just that, but it doesn’t mean you have to put learning on hold.

Taking a gap year gives you time to acquire skills and knowledge that weren’t necessarily accessible in the classroom. One of the main benefits of a gap year is that the whole world will become your classroom and you’ll grow through experiential learning – learning by experiencing and adapting to your environment.

During your gap year, you can grab the opportunity for hands-on learning to add some new skills to your repertoire. This type of learning goes beyond academic topics. When thinking about what to do during a gap year, consider what you’d like to learn through practical experience. 

It could be learning how to dive while working in marine conservation, developing leadership skills while on a community development internship, or learning about other cultures while volunteering with children. 

Once you know which practical skills you’d like to work on, it’s just a matter of choosing a volunteer program or internship that delivers the right learning opportunities.


5) Immerse yourself in language and culture



Learning a language during your gap year abroad will enable you to add a valuable skill to your resume. It can also improve your communication skills and open up more opportunities for deeper cultural exchange.

The best way to learn a language during your gap year abroad is to pick a volunteer or internship program that runs for one month or more and, ideally, one where you can add a language component – like any of our community development programs around the world. 

GVI’s teaching internship in Costa Rica is one example of a great opportunity to learn conversational Spanish while contributing towards an impactful program abroad.


6) Learn while teaching abroad



Teaching during your gap year abroad may have you learning just as much as your students. You can master valuable soft skills, such as organisational skills, time management, adapting to working with a range of personalities, and remaining calm under pressure.

The duties that come with teaching will quickly help you get comfortable taking on more responsibility. This can help give you the clarity and confidence you need to make important career choices.

In many parts of the world, there’s a high demand for native English speakers to support English language learning for both children and adults. The reason for this is that growing tourism in these regions makes English language skills desirable for local employers and entrepreneurs. So signing up for a gap year program focused on teaching will have you contributing towards employment opportunities for local community members.

You could easily find your world perspective altered by your teaching experience. You could also gain a more nuanced view of cultures other than your own and build a greater awareness of your own cultural context.

There are so many options when it comes to things to do in a gap year. So, there’s really no excuse why your gap year abroad shouldn’t be one for the books. 

Check out GVI’s range of award-winning gap year volunteer programs and internship opportunities to kickstart a year to remember.

Disclaimer: The images in this article were taken pre-COVID-19.

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