Not jumping for joy at the thought of school right now? It’s probably time to consider taking a gap year.
While not everyone has the means to backpack across Europe during their gap year, there are alternatives to take a semester off and enjoy a fulfilling gap year with no money.
In this post, you’ll discover some of the best gap year ideas that don’t require too much financial investment. You’ll also get a clearer picture about the pros and cons of taking a gap year so you can see if it’s the right choice for you.
What is a Gap Year?
First of all, what is a gap year really? What does it mean to take a year off and how does it work? The simplest explanation is – a semester or a year dedicated to experiential learning.
Students take a year or a semester off from formal learning, typically after high school and before starting a career or continuing with post-secondary education. They then spend this time to enjoy new experiences and build on their practical and professional awareness as well as enhance personal development.
How you spend your gap year can be different for each individual. While some may want to take a trip around the world and immerse themselves in different cultures, others may want to volunteer for a worthy cause. The goal is to get out of your comfort zone, discover your purpose, and gain some clarity on what you want to do in life.
Pros and Cons of Taking a Gap Year
As appealing as it may seem, taking a gap year isn’t for everyone. So here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of taking a gap year to help you figure out if it’s the right choice for you:
- You get the time to pursue other passions.
- You can use the opportunity to work and save some money.
- It can give you a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- You can use the opportunity to develop new skills and enhance your knowledge.
- It could look very impressive on your CV.
- You risk wasting valuable time and you’ll be a year behind.
- You could lose your academic momentum.
- It can cost quite a bit of money.
10 Cheap Gap Year Ideas
One of the top cons of taking a gap year is that it can get a bit expensive. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be!
There are several activities and program that will help you spend your gap year with no money. You can find plenty of free gap year programs and activities and sometimes, even gap year scholarships so there’s minimal financial risk.
Here are some of the best gap year ideas to help you take a year off even with little to no money:
1: Volunteer for a Good Cause
Whether it’s teaching special needs children or conserving the rainforests, your gap year is the perfect time to volunteer for a cause you believe in. Taking an altruistic approach during your year off could be extremely fulfilling for your personal growth.
There are plenty of gap year programs that’ll let you volunteer abroad in countries like Peru, Thailand, Portugal, and more. The International Volunteer HQ has a rich resource of gap year volunteer programs that you might want to consider.
Keep in mind that some of these programs aren’t completely free, but any fee you have to pay will go towards food, lodging, and administrative support.
For those wondering what to do in a gap year at home, you can also find organizations and programs to volunteer at locally.
2: Become an Au Pair
If you like working with children and you want to get gap year money, becoming a nanny abroad is an excellent way to spend your gap year. This allows you to immerse yourself in a different culture while building memorable experiences.
The best part is that it’s a great way to spend your gap year with no money as your host family will take care of food and accommodation and even compensate you for your time.
Gap year websites like GoAbroad.com have an excellent resource for gap year au pair programs you might want to consider.
3: Teach Abroad
You could also make the most of this time to take on gap year work and teach English abroad. Not only do you get to experience new cultures, you also make a bit of money along the way. So it’s an excellent option if you’re looking for something to do during a gap year with no money.
The Go Overseas website has plenty of resources where you can find gap year programs to teach English in countries like China, Denmark, Brazil, Costa Rica, and more. Keep in mind that many of these programs will require a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification.
4: Work Abroad
If teaching’s not your thing or if you don’t have a TEFL certificate, you could also look for other opportunities to get gap year work abroad. There are plenty of countries and professions that offer temporary jobs to students taking a gap year.
For instance, you could become a ski instructor or you could work in hospitality during tourist season in your host country.
Gap year websites like GapYear.com have a rich resource of information on the types of gap year work you can get.
5: Sign Up for an Apprenticeship/Internship
For those who already know what they want to do in life, enrolling in an apprenticeship or internship program could be the best way to make use of your gap year. This helps you gain valuable knowledge and work experience that will help you build your career and impress prospective employers.
GapYear.com has an excellent resource of information on industries where you can find gap year internship programs.
6: Learn a New Language
If you want to know what to do in a gap year at home, you could even use the opportunity to learn a new language. There are plenty of options to study language from the comfort of your own home. For instance, you could use a language learning app or you could even work with an online language tutor for one-on-one lessons.
A gap year language course could be perfect for those who need to take an unexpected gap year and don’t have enough time to plan for anything else.
7: Learn a New Instrument
Another option is to learn a new instrument during your gap year. If you’ve always wanted to play the piano or if your guitar skills are a little rusty, this could be the perfect opportunity to enhance your skills. This is a great choice if you’re wondering what to do in a gap year at home. It’s also perfect for anyone that’s taking an unexpected gap year and doesn’t have the time to plan for a year abroad.
You can even find music tutors who’ll give you one-on-one music lessons online. That means you can learn a new instrument from the comfort of your home.
8: Join a WWOOF Opportunity
You could also join the WorldWide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) network to get first-hand experience in gardening and organic farming. These types of opportunities are perfect for those who want to experience the countryside and enjoy a cultural exchange while joining the organic movement.
Check out the WWOOF website for more information on how the program works and which destinations you can visit through these opportunities.
9: Conduct Research
For those who want to gain some field experience in the subjects of their choice, gap years can also be the perfect time to pursue research. Perhaps you’d like to learn more about African wildlife or you want to conduct social experiments. Regardless of where your interests lie, you can look for research programs to join during your gap year.
The University of Iowa Pomerantz Career Center has a robust resource of fellowship programs that you can join during your year off.
10: Apply for Gap Year Grants
Alternatively, you can also get gap year money by applying for gap year grants and scholarships to fund your time off from school. Several organizations have recognized the value of gap years and provided financial backup to students who want to take a year off but don’t have the means to do so. You can find plenty of gap year scholarships that fund gap year education and experiences.
GoOverseas offers a valuable resource of popular gap year scholarships you can apply to. Check out the requirements and program specifics before you apply.
Ready for a Fulfilling Gap Year?
Taking a year off from your studies doesn’t have to be expensive or a waste of time. There are plenty of opportunities to spend your gap year with no money.
Some options even give you the opportunity to earn a little extra money. You can even get gap year money by applying for grants and scholarships with the right organizations. Consider all of the options above and see which one suits you best.