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How Does a Gap Year Work

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Nicole Adams

Gap years are becoming increasingly popular for high school graduates and college students seeking alternative education opportunities. Whether you’re craving a new perspective of the world, a break from traditional class studies, or an in-depth immersion into a new culture, gap year programs offer numerous benefits. Want to go on a gap year but wondering how it works? We’ve got you covered. 

How to Take a Gap Year

First, you’ll want to decide on the right time to take your gap year. While some students choose to take a break between high school and college, others opt to take a break mid-college, there’s really no right or wrong way to do it. Then, you’ll want to find a program that suits your goals, which will help give your year or summer away structure and direction. Goals could be things like learning a new skill, traveling to certain destinations, gaining work experience in a specific industry, or contributing to a community through volunteering.

The decision to take a gap year involves careful consideration of your goals, interests, and circumstances. You might decide to explore new cultures, gain work experience, clarify your academic or career goals, or simply take a break. In order to take a gap year, you may need to work part-time or save up beforehand to fund your future adventure. Finances are a critical aspect of planning your gap year. You’ll need to budget for expenses such as travel, accommodation, food, activities, and any programs or courses you wish to undertake. 

Once you’ve figured out the timeframe and financials, then you can start looking at destinations and specific programs, the super exciting part! Where There Be Dragons offers a range of gap year programs in Asia, Latin America, Africa, and even in the United States. Each program offers a different type of experience including opportunities to learn about culture, art, environmental issues, social justice, indigenous rights, and more. Dragon’s courses are designed to be a full immersion experience, and there are lots of programs to choose from. You can read more about our nine program components here

family and friends outside on grass overseas

So How Exactly Does a Gap Year Work? 

Ultimately, a gap year is a unique opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone, explore new interests, gain experiences, and a broader perspective on life which can look completely different for everyone. Some may not be interested in traveling abroad, others may want to strike out on their own and not take advantage of a structured program, and some may not be able to take a full gap year. Here are some common gap year activities:

  • Traveling: Exploring new countries, cultures, and languages.
  • Volunteering: Contributing to social or environmental causes.
  • Internships or Work: Gaining professional experience in a field of interest.
  • Language Learning: Immersing in language studies.
  • Skill Development: Learning skills such as cooking, photography, or a musical instrument.
  • Personal Growth: Engaging in self-discovery, reflection, and personal development.

Many gap students do choose to study abroad, and this type of excursion is potentially the most intriguing but also intimidating, especially if you haven’t done much traveling on your own. Luckily, most programs have components that provide support while you learn and explore new terrains. Staying with a local family, often called a “homestay” is a fantastic way to transition into a new country and culture. Local homestays offer an in-depth insight into the cultural norms and ways of life, and are also a perfect environment to begin learning the language.

Students who participate in Dragon’s programs contribute to learning service projects where they gain first-hand experience engaging with local communities. With the intention of listening and learning first, students work on community-driven projects alongside locals toward a common goal. These projects serve both communities and students with the ultimate goal of encouraging students to live more authentically as global citizens.

Towards the end of your gap year, you’ll want to consider re-entry plans. Think about how the experiences you gained during the year or program can be integrated into future academic, career, or personal goals. We’d love to answer questions and get you on your way to an incredible summer or gap year adventure. Call 800.982.9203 or contact us today! 

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