So you’ve decided to take a gap year. Now it’s time to consider your options: Are you looking for a service project in a rural village? A few months of studying at a foreign university? A wilderness trek?
If you find yourself drawn to the idea of immersing yourself in the culture, bustle, and personality of a new city, there are plenty of options to consider. From domestic destinations like New York City and Chicago, to adventures abroad in places like Berlin or Cape Town, your choices span the globe.
Planning A Big City Gap Year
Here are six programs to kickstart your thinking about an urban exploration:
This professionally oriented program offers participants a three-day-a-week internship to help build their resumes, while leaving the rest of the week open to discover the rich culture, thriving music scene, and deep history of Berlin. CIEE staff based in Germany work with a network of local businesses — from media to bioscience — to find internship placements tailored to the needs of each student. Pre-departure orientation prepares students for the transition and included cultural excursions and activities help participants experience the real Berlin.
If you are an aspiring chef or even an enthusiastic culinary amateur, Mente Argentina’s cooking program might be right for you. Learn the basics of international cooking along with in-depth lessons in Argentinian cuisine, from empanadas to dulce de leche. With program lengths from two to 12 weeks and a variety of accommodations on offer, students can customize their experience. And when they take a break from the kitchen, participants can learn the rhythms of one of South America’s most vibrant cities.
The gap year program at the School of The New York Times promises nothing less than a “transformative intellectual adventure.” Each week of the semester-long program, students delve into a different topic with experts in the field. Field experiences, guest lectures, classroom discussions and debate, and assignments integrating the lessons of the week are part of each new subject. And New York City itself will be part of your classroom: The curriculum is carefully planned to include experiences that let students see the phenomena they are learning about at play in the real world.
Improve your Spanish and discover the largest city on the Mediterranean by spending a semester in Barcelona. In the El Casal program students study Spanish language and culture in the mornings and spend their afternoons in volunteer activities in the community. Participants live with local families, giving them an unparalleled experience of true Spanish life. Guided visits to the city’s museums, unique architecture, and lesser-known corners ensure students get to explore all the diversity Barcelona has to offer.
Students who are seriously about learning Chinese language and culture should take a careful look at this deeply immersive program. Participants take 20 hours of language class each week, live with local roommates, and sign a pledge to speak only Chinese. Activities and excursions included in the cost of tuition could include a trip to opera or authentic cooking classes. Beijing is a city that blends the ancient with the staggeringly modern, so a gap term in the city would be a unique sojourn.
For students with interests in government, politics, or law, there is perhaps no better destination than the capital city of Washington, D.C. At American University’s semester-long gap program, students spend three days a week in an internship in places like government agencies, environmental nonprofits, and tech start-ups. This work experience is complemented by a seminar class in American politics, international affairs, or global business. Participants live in residence halls with first-year university students, allowing them to experience to best of both the city and college life.