Ten awesome gap year ideas for students

    Article by Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo

    Posted: July 30, 2019

    The best gap year ideas combine travel, adventure, personal growth, and the chance to do something meaningful. GVI’s gap year programs tick all the right boxes. 

    Taking a gap year is a fulfilling way of exploring the world. 

    Gap year benefits include having the chance to shorten your bucket list, learning outside of the classroom, and gaining practical work experience to add to your resume. 

    The hardest part is deciding what to do in a gap year. When it comes to student gap year ideas, though, we’ve got you covered. Here are ten of GVI’s gap year programs abroad. 

    1) Trek to Everest South Base Camp


    The best gap year programs will challenge you. What bigger challenge could there be than trekking to Everest South Base Camp, in the foothills of the highest mountain in the world? 

    GVI’s South Base Camp trek takes two weeks and will elevate you to 5,634 metres above sea level. Along the way, you’ll spend nights at teahouses and locally-owned guesthouses, and days climbing through Himalayan valleys. You’ll be immersed in both wild natural beauty and Nepali cultural traditions. 

    Once you’ve reached the base camp and ticked this mighty achievement off your bucket list, you will head to GVI’s base in Pokhara. 

    Here you’ll learn about the development challenges Nepal faces and the sustainable programs that seek to address them. As a GVI participant, you’ll be able to contribute directly to these development initiatives.  

    2) Learn how to scuba dive in Fiji


    The calm, warm waters of Fiji make this island nation the perfect place to learn to scuba dive. 

    With GVI, you can advance your diving skills while assisting with marine conservation efforts

    This is a chance to go beyond simply getting a look at coral reefs. Help to understand and protect these unique ecosystems. 



    On this gap year travel program, you’ll give your gap year meaning, notch up some great practical skills, and have an incredible time being in the water almost every day.  

    Motivated by the purpose of researching and protecting Fiji’s delicate coral reefs and marine ecosystems, you’ll achieve your PADI Advanced Open Water qualification in no time. 

    3) Train to be a safari field guide in South Africa


    With 23 weeks of training and an optional six-month placement, training to be a qualified field guide in South Africa truly is a dream gap year program. 

    At the end of GVI’s FGASA field guiding and conservation careers internship, you’ll have a qualification and work experience, as well as the incredible memories you’ll get from living in the African bush. 

    The skills you gain from training to be a field guide will equip you for a job in the safari industry: working in tourism, anti-poaching efforts, or research. 


    4) Learn Spanish in Costa Rica

    Costa Rica’s abundant adventure opportunities mean it’s an exceptionally fun place to learn Spanish. 

    Plus, when you study español in Costa Rica with GVI, you’ll also have the opportunity to add an extra dimension to your studies by taking part in gender equality, education, and economic development projects. 



    As well as the personal satisfaction you’ll get from contributing to meaningful community development, you’ll learn more about Costa Rican culture than you would in a classroom. 

    Being directly involved with community members by teaching, or conducting preventative healthcare or environmental education workshops, will also give you the chance to put your Spanish to use, helping to vastly improve your conversational skills.

    5) Go on a communications internship in Cambodia


    Gap year volunteer programs such as GVI’s communications internship in Cambodia help you to develop skills for your career, while still enjoying gap year adventure travel. 

    On this program, you can teach English, conduct a research project, and help to build important media content for GVI.

    The skills you gain from this internship can be applied to a range of career paths, including teaching, communication, or marketing roles. 

    While based in Cambodia, you’ll be able to visit the renown Angkor Wat temples, explore a tropical coastline dotted with fishing villages, and possibly catch a glimpse of freshwater dolphins in the mighty Mekong river. 


    6) Get your TEFL certificate in Costa Rica

    The best gap year opportunities will boost your employability by giving you the chance to learn new skills.

    Getting a TEFL certification is an excellent addition to your CV and a great way to help you develop skills such as communication, leadership, planning and organisation.

    It’s also an ideal way to give you the confidence to teach English in the classroom, opening up job opportunities around the world. 



    Get your TEFL certificate in Costa Rica on GVI’s six-month internship, which also delves into community development. 

    Between cloud forests, golden beaches, and the urban buzz of San Jose, Costa Rica is the perfect place to spend a gap semester program. As a small country that is easy to get around, it’s a great option if it’s your first time travelling overseas alone. 

    7) Mitigate climate change and coral bleaching in Seychelles


    During your gap year travel, you could become a part of an international team collecting data on coral reefs in Seychelles. 

    GVI’s climate change and coral bleaching program in Seychelles focuses on coral reef recovery research and rehabilitation. With corals around the world under threat from rising ocean temperatures, your efforts will be part of larger initiatives to protect life below water

    While living in this granitic archipelago and exploring the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, you can work toward your PADI Advanced Open Water or PADI Coral Reef Research Diver certification. 

    8) Teach English to novice Buddhist monks in Laos


    Teaching English is one of the most popular things to do during a gap year. If you’re a native English speaker, you already possess a skill that’s in demand in a lot of countries. 

    After you’ve completed a gap year internship or volunteer program teaching English, you’ll be equipped with soft skills that are in demand in your home country, too. These include teamwork, cross-cultural communication, and interpersonal skills. 

    Travel to Luang Prabang with GVI for the chance to teach English to novice Buddhist monks. With increased educational opportunities, novice monks can boost their further academic and employment possibilities. 

    This program is an excellent way to learn more about Buddhist practices and Laos culture, while visiting places like the jungle-shrouded Kuang Si waterfalls, and the Pak Ou caves. 

    9) Contribute to women’s empowerment in Ghana


    Use your gap semester to contribute to Ghanaian women’s improved access to education and employment.

    GVI gives volunteers the chance to work directly with local women, teaching practical vocational skills, English, and financial planning. 

    While living in the beach town of Kokrobite, and traversing Ghana’s coastline, you will play a part in assisting women as they increase both their and their communities’ quality of life, while learning about social development initiatives. 

    10) Research dolphin behaviour in Zanzibar


    For your gap year travel, escape to the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar. Located off the coast of Tanzania, Zanzibar is famous for the coral stone streets of Stone Town, long stretches of white sand, and bright blue water. 

    One popular tourist activity is to swim with dolphins. However, the dolphin watching industry is largely unregulated and unchecked. The longer-term impacts of this tourism activity on the dolphins’ behaviour is unknown. 

    You can promote eco-tourism by researching and monitoring dolphin behaviour, and by helping to educate local tour operators on ethical practices. 

    While working to safeguard the dolphins, you’ll be able to enjoy marine adventures of your own in the crystalline waters around Zanzibar. 

    Feeling inspired by these awesome gap year ideas? Browse GVI’s gap year internships and volunteer programs to discover even more adventure opportunities today.

    By Zaytoen Domingo

    Zaytoen Domingo is a content writer and editor based in Cape Town, South Africa. She is currently enrolled in the Masters program in English at the University of the Western Cape. After graduating with an Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing, Zaytoen completed a skills-development program for writers and became an alum of the GVI Writing Academy.