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8 Gap Year Programs That Are Real Adventures

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Gap Year Adventures

Choosing to take a gap year after high school may sounds a little rebellious, like you’re breaking from the formula you’ve spent years hearing about. The truth, though, is that college is not always best next step. Maybe you want a little adventure and a peak into the ‘real world’ before continuing your formal education? More and more students are choosing to take a year between high school and college to take a break, do a little exploring, or work and save up for college expenses.

There are hundreds of great programs that can cater to your personal journey. From treks in the Andes to immersion in world-class journalism, we’ve found eight programs that will make sure your gap year is full of adventure:

1. SEA Semester Gap Year: Atlantic Odyssey

Atlantic Odyssey’s program takes students on a two-month voyage from the shores of Cape Cod to Caribbean islands on a sailing research vessel. Tailored to gap year students, the program fosters self-reliance and team-building while teaching students effective and professional research methods for studying marine life. The program offers grants and scholarships to help ease the cost of tuition.

2. Global Citizen Year

Teach low-income students in India, work an organic farm in Ecuador, or assist at a health clinic in Senegal: Global Citizen Year’s gap year programs truly span the globe. The program offers homestays, in which students live with a family they are matched with by GCY. Students also participate in the community through an apprenticeship by joining sports teams or volunteering. Global Citizen Year also provides language tutoring and online help. Sliding scale tuition makes Global Citizen one of the most affordable programs around. Some college credit can also be acquired through the program.

3. CIEE Gap Year Abroad

Take clasroom studies, add cultural activities and mix in a healthy dose of independent travel and you have CIEE's formula for gap year success. Internship offerings give students hands-on work experience in destinations including Berlin and Cape Town. Language immersion offerings help students improve their fluency in languages including Spanish, Arabic, and Mandarin. Interested in service? Mentor underprivileged children in Ghana or work in marine conservation in Costa Rica. All of the programs are bound together by a philosophy or immersive, experiential education.

4. Gap Year At SOAR

Designed specifically for young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 with ADHD or learning disabilities, SOAR aims to empower students who might not be quite ready to start college just yet. Within a structured environment, students are given the freedom to uncover their own strengths. Students visit Central Wyoming College for advice on college applications and can enroll in courses like Workforce Readiness and Personal Finance. Volunteer experiences at the college help participants build job skills. Communal living develops independent living skills in a real world environment. The program has a high focus on organizational skills, personal responsibility, budgeting, meal planning, and goal setting. Tuition covers accomodation, expedition costs, and community college courses for an academic year. Payment plans and loans are among financing options.

5. High Mountain Institute - Andes Leadership Semester: Patagonia to Peru

A one-of-a-kind collaboration between High Mountain Institute and Where There Be Dragons, this program offers a uniquely comprehensive exploration program across dramatic landscapes and wildly varying climates. They’ll develop outdoor skills like expedition planning, navigation, survival training, and rock-climbing. Students will have homestays in a Quechua community, honing their Spanish fluency while participating in multi-week expeditions and rock climbing courses. Students also undertake an independent project and the program ends with a student-led expedition, giving participants the chance to put their newfound skills to the test while building confidence and independence. Grants and scholarships are available for this program.

6. Cow House Studios - FieldWorks Gap Year in Ireland

A hybrid of an artists’ residency and an enrichment program, FieldWorks Gap Year from Cow House Studios is a highly immersive and selective arts initiative for young artists looking to delve deeply into their creativity. Over the course of 12 weeks, students will have access to studio space and attend regular trips around Ireland, meeting with artists, designers, and curators. A core tenet of Cow House Studios is process, the belief that dedicating yourself to time in the studio opens doors for new ideas. Instructors and peers are available for near-constant feedback, allowing an open dialogue for criticism and support.

7. Rustic Pathways Gap Year Programs

If you want to combine service and adventure in the far reaches of the globe, Rustic Pathways might be what you are looking for. With month-long and semester-long options, you can help build infrastructure in remote villages in Laos, study Spanish in Cuba, or participate in marine monitoring in Fiji. The programs promise to challenge students emotionally, physically, and mentally. Leaders are rigorously trained and safety is a priority, so participants can enjoy their explorations without worry.

8. Center for Study Abroad - Low Cost Gap Year Programs

Gap year programs can be expensive. If you’re looking for program to help guide you through your gap year, but find most options beyond your budget, the Center for Study Abroad has great low cost programs around the world, from Chile to Finland and a whole lot of places in between. CSA assists students with financial aid applications at host institutes and programs start at under $1,000. CSA offers over 30 destinations across five continents. Programs can last anywhere from two weeks to an academic year.

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Emily Loring Good-profile-picture

Emily Good is a Boston-based writer with an interest in gender, pop culture, and travel. She studied English literature and gender studies at Northeastern University. She currently works at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and as a freelancer.