The 10 Best Gap Year Activities
You probably won’t have too many opportunities in life to take a full year off of your education or career and undertake some life changing gap year activities.
A ‘gap year’ is almost unique in that it will probably be accepted by your parents and peers as a normal thing; it might even be expected.
You can choose to spend it any way you like, but rather than binge-watching television, or spending your days stocking shelves or growing roots behind a shop counter, why not step out of what you know, stretch your experience, and still make your gap year activities add skills, experience and cash to your university and career preparation.
Whether you decide to earn, learn, spend a little or spend a lot, your gap year can be one of many great memories you’ll carry with you throughout life.
What To Do In a Gap Year
If earning pounds is high on your priority list for you gap year, don’t worry – there are lots of activities you can do that will not only earn you some significant income, they are also excellent experiences in their own rights.
Some of these opportunities require some training, which you may not already have. When considering the cost of a course, don’t forget to factor in summers off of school.
- Work on a yacht
- Teach water sports
- Become a ski instructor
- Au Pair
- Camp work
- Become a yacht master
- Learn a language
- Take an internship
You can maintain a good relationship with a seasonal employer and return to a great summer job again and again while you study.
1. Working on a Yacht
Sound exotic? It is. Sound exciting? It certainly can be.
You can get a job as a deckhand or stewardess on board a yacht with only a modest amount of initial training.
Once on board, you’ll experience the freedom and exhilaration of travelling the sea on a vessel designed for luxury and comfort.
Yes, you’ll be an employee, not a lounging millionaire, but you’ll still enjoy the sights, smells, good food and posh atmosphere of the vessel itself and potentially some exotic ports of call too.
Those working on yachts often bond together as a team and as close friends.
Experiencing beautiful ports of call and marine scenery is only one of the benefits, you’ll also be able to demonstrate responsibility and professionalism when interviewing for jobs later on.
If you enjoy your time on the sea, you might even decide to turn your gap year activities into a career opportunity.
2. Watersports Instructor
Speaking of career opportunities, watersports instructing is another great seasonal job that also has career potential.
There are lots of different specialisations in this category, including Dinghy Instructor, Windsurfing Instructor, and PADI Divemaster. Specialise in a favourite, or train in more than one and become an all-rounder.
Some people take these courses to fund a season of fun work on, in or around the water, while others love it so much it becomes a new career path.
Some combine the two paths, continuing with their university education, but spending the summers on the beach, earning money and meeting other active people in the great outdoors.
Depending on the kind of career you train for – like teaching – you may find yourself returning to the beach year after year to augment your income.
A bonus perk of this choice is that you can take courses in exotic locations, like Greece, and get in a little international travel while you train.
Make some good contacts in the area and you might return to begin your first year of university tanned, toned, and with a big smile on your face. It’s a great way to spend a summer – or a lifetime.
3. Ski Instructor
When the grey skies begin to roll in, the tourist season on the beach begins to fade, and seaside shops are shuttered and locked, there is still no reason why you can’t make some money in an enjoyable, stunning outdoor setting. The reason? Skiing.
As the beach activity wanes, the sun sparkles on high slopes and people head for the alpine resorts. You can too.
These courses usually cost more than water sports instructor courses, as they require a lot more equipment and access to the lifts and pistes, but once you’re done you’ll have opened a gateway to earning money on the snow.
Beautiful scenery, interesting people, and the satisfaction of sharing a skill with people that they will enjoy for decades to come.
If deciding between these two options seems like an impossible task, don’t worry, you can even take a combined Ski and Water Sports Instructor Course. Do them both!
Some people spend hot summers on the beach, toes in the sand and salt on the breeze, then ride the snows all winter.
A full year of fresh, clean air and lively activity. If that gets your blood pumping, then a combo course could be for you.
In 16 weeks, you could be a qualified instructor on snow and sand, and have the experience of having learned your skills in some of the most beautiful settings nature has to offer.
The alps, the Mediterranean, high-altitude, on the surf and even underwater.
Some jobs include an option for room and/or board, and during your time off you’ll enjoy access to equipment and resources to have fun, hone your own skills, and enjoy the beautiful settings.
Few opportunities for gap year activities – or even for a career – offer perks that good.
4. Au Pair
If you’re not the outdoorsy type, ad love working with children, why not try your hand as an au pair?
An au pair is a live-in childminder. Often the employer will expect you to help the children learn or improve English, take them on outings, and sometimes do some household duties as well.
Your specific duties will vary depending on the ages of the children, but in general you’ll act as the parent when the parents aren’t around, or are busy doing other things but still want the children to have constant care.
Some families hire an au pair to assist them when travelling with children too, so you may get to go on a free holiday in exchange for childminding services. It can be a great bonus.
Pay is usually modest, but includes room and board, so your expenses will be as low as you want them to be.
You’ll have free time too, and if you choose an international location for your job, you’ll get to thoroughly explore a new city and culture.
You can save some money, or spend it exploring a new place.
Either way, you’ll return to school with a great new experience and potentially a little money in the bank too.
5. Camp Work
Somewhere between sports instructor and childminder is the camp job.
It combines sports, outdoor and craft activities, music and nature with spending time mentoring and looking after young people.
Your campers will usually be older than those looked after by au pairs, but will look to you as a guide and model of what it means to be a grown-up.
It can be very satisfying to teach a younger person how to paddle a canoe, kick a football, build a den or start a campfire.
Sometimes all they need is a listening ear or someone they look up to, to spend some time playing or giving advice.
You’ll get to be the big brother or sister for the summer, and get paid for your fun and efforts alike.
Camp styles vary, from sports camps, to nature camps, craft camps, religion-focused camps – and even space camp!
Choose one that suits your interests, stuff your pack with the essentials, and hike into an adventure in leadership.
Earn A Qualification On A Gap Year
6. Become a Yachtmaster
If you decide to spend your gap year adding skills to your repertoire and certifications to your CV, then becoming a yachtmaster may be an attractive choice.
Even if you haven’t any experience in boating – perhaps especially if you don’t – this kind of training can take you from land-locked novice to confident professional in a remarkably short time.
There is a variety of course types to choose from:
You could take a Yachtmaster Offshore (sailing) or Ocean (sailing) Course in just 12-16 weeks, then head out on a great adventure, whether on your own boat or as an employee on someone else’s.
If you’re already experienced or even certified, there are opportunities to improve skills, gain further certifications, and gain valuable experience – and cash – while doing what you love.
Costs vary of course, but since gaining these courses can help lead to employment in the industry, each one may well pay for itself, not just in satisfaction and enjoyment, but in cash too.
7. Language Immersion
Having the ability to speak a second (or third, or fourth) language is not only personally-fulfilling, it can also be a great item to have on your CV.
Some companies will want an employee who can converse in a client’s native language, so if you have all of the other credentials on top of the desired language, you’ll put yourself well to the top of the short list.
There are often opportunities to earn room and board while learning a language as well. You could combine this with some work in a foreign country and learn while getting paid.
You may not put thousands away, but you’ll mitigate the costs of learning and walk away with a few extra pounds for your efforts.
Spend a Little
If your bank account isn’t spilling over with notes, but you have your finances all set up for commencement of study, then there are great options available for you too. Even if your coffers are full, these gap year activities can be fulfilling and useful too.
This looks great on a CV, and can give you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction like few other activities can. Build a house, teach a class, coach a team… the opportunities are as varied as the people who do them.
Volunteering can be a local gap year activity – at a hospital, church or community centre for example – or it can be something overseas or one country over. You can stay near home, where it might be cheapest, and gain some experience, or you can take an opportunity to go abroad and gain cultural experience while helping others.
For something a bit more formal or specialised, completing an internship is a way to combine volunteer work with work experience and networking.
Get your feet wet in an office environment, secure some contacts for when school is finished, or simply gain the assurance that your intended educational and career track suits you. If you manage to get an internship at a firm where you want to work later on, this could be that all-valuable foot in the door.
Spend a Lot
Some gap year activities are best suited to the person who doesn’t need to worry about paying for school once the gap is done, and who doesn’t need to earn anything to keep things running during the gap year itself. If you find yourself in this enviable situation, why not do a Grand Tour of your own devising?
10. Adventure and Cultural Travel
Choose a destination or route and set off on a journey of discovery. Whether it’s your thing to dive off bridges with a bungee cord attached to your ankles, or you’d rather sip an espresso in the Piazza, international travel can expand your understanding of the world and the people in it, shifting paradigms and helping you to become a more well-rounded, cosmopolitan person.
Yes, this can cost you. Even a low-budget trip will entail hostel bills and train or air tickets, and of course a luxury tour in five-star ease can set you back tens of thousands… but if you have it to spend, you’ll get great value from a year exploring other locales and cultures.
There are so many opportunities for an amazing gap year, don’t waste them watching television or cooped up in your room… and there’s no need to take a boring, regular job.
Whether you decide to earn, learn, spend a little or spend a lot, your gap year can be one of many great memories you’ll carry with you throughout life. Pack your gap year full of fun and growth – and head back to school with a smile.