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What is a Gap Semester? Best Student Trips

Discover Gap Semester Volunteer Programmes

By Thom Brown | 27th July, 2022

You crave travel that’s meaningful and leaves a lasting impact on you and the places you visit. You want to experience new cultures, build new skills, and make lifelong memories. What you need is a Gap Semester abroad.

These student travel opportunities are specially designed to be more immersive than a typical holiday, enriching your experience. Gap Semesters last a little longer without the commitment of a full gap year.

Looking for Gap Semester ideas? Here’s more information on what they are along with some of the best Gap Semester programmes.

What is a Gap Semester?

Student volunteers in Peru

A Gap Semester is an international trip students can take as a break from their studies. Longer than a typical holiday, it’s a chance to get away for 6-10 weeks and immerse yourself in a new culture.

Gap Semesters are geared toward personal development and skill building, offering a chance to positively impact communities through volunteer work. They’re also group trips, meaning you’ll live and work with fellow volunteers for the entire duration, building social skills and forging new relationships.

Gap Semester vs. Gap Year

You’ve probably heard of gap years: a rite of passage for young people looking for a break from academia. Gap years have the power to be profound and life-changing experiences, giving students hands-on experience and broadening their horizons.

However, a full gap year abroad could be too costly or time-consuming for some people. You might want to spend your time off working, saving money, or simply relaxing. A Gap Semester - lasting roughly the length of an academic term - might be the ideal sweet spot. You’ll still get all the benefits of taking an extended, immersive trip.

Take a Break

Your Gap Semester is a chance to take time out from your studies and do something completely different. Many people will do this right before or right after university, but you may be able to do it during the academic year, as well.

Many universities allow students to defer a semester, giving them a chance to travel. Need a break from studying? Check with your institution whether this is an option.

If your course offers remote learning, then a Gap Semester abroad may be ideal. You could potentially travel the world while completing your studies online.

Why Take a Gap Semester?

Student volunteers in Peru

Gap Semester programmes offer all the benefits of travel and then some. Students travel to experience new cultures, forge their own identities, and build career-boosting skills. A Gap Semester abroad gives a structure to your trip, helping you squeeze every ounce of value out of it.

If you haven’t travelled much, going away for many months can come with added worries. By keeping your trip under 10 weeks, you relieve some of this pressure. Even if you’re pushed for time, you have the chance to positively impact the world and build skills during a Gap Semester abroad.

Don’t want to travel alone? Our Gap Semesters are group trips, so you’ll live and work with other volunteers around your age. This will improve your social time during the trip. It also means you can meet new people, form lasting friendships, and improve your teamwork skills.

If you want to travel for longer, you can combine all of our Gap Semesters abroad into a 28-week-long Global Gap year or create your own combination trip! This is perfect if you’re keen to see more of the world, experience a range of cultures, and embrace new challenges.

Who Should Take a Gap Semester Abroad?

Gap Semesters are ideal for travellers aged between 17 and 24. You’ll likely have finished high school or college and looking towards further education. You can take a Gap Semester abroad before you head off to university, while you study, or after you graduate. The timing is flexible - it depends on which option makes sense for you.

The most important factor is your attitude. Are you ready to leave your comfort zone and immerse yourself in a different way of life? Are you willing to do the work to build your skills and leave a positive impact on local communities? If so, then you’re no doubt ready for a Gap Semester volunteer programme.

Best Gap Semester Ideas

A Gap Semester is a chance to explore more than one destination. That’s why we recommend scheduling time to visit two countries. Below, discover some of the best Gap Semester ideas and pick the trip that excites you most.

Latin America: Peru & the Galapagos

Gap Semester Peru volunteers

Taking a Gap Semester to Latin America will bring you to some of the world’s most spectacular settings. Your journey will start in Cusco and the Sacred Valley, Peru, for two weeks of community outreach work.

You’ll care for disadvantaged children and renovate classrooms. With our Gap Semester trips, you’ll also receive daily Spanish lessons and tours of the area to further enhance your experience.

Surrounded by the Andes, you’ll breathe clean mountain air as you wander the spiritual city streets. You’ll also hike the Inca Trail to the iconic Machu Picchu where you can explore these vast ancient ruins.

As if that wasn’t enough, you’ll then venture into the Amazon Rainforest for a new challenge. This will be your base as you complete animal conservation work. You’ll collect turtle eggs and care for rescued animals, supporting their release.

The second half of your Gap Semester in South America involves travelling to the beautiful Galapagos Islands. There, you’ll continue your wildlife conservation work, caring for giant tortoises and sea lions.

You’ll also help the local children of the Galapagos, teaching English, playing games, and hosting sports events. Throughout it all, we’ll make your Gap Semester one to remember with trips around the most picturesque parts of the islands.

Read more about South American Gap Semesters

East Africa: Kenya & Tanzania

Gap Semester Conservation in Kenya

Another Gap Semester idea is to visit the wild and rugged east side of Africa, where the world’s greatest animals roam free. You’ll first fly to Kenya, where you can begin your conservation work.

Your main focus will be lions and giraffes, which you’ll monitor closely. Working with conservation experts, you’ll help protect the crucial biodiversity that exists there. Living in a ranch house, enjoy a truly immersive experience that’s probably a long way from what you’re used to. We provide a truly wild African adventure.

After that, you’ll travel to Tanzania where you’ll be able to choose a mix of volunteer work. We offer Teaching, Women’s Empowerment, Public Health, and Microfinance. Pick an area where you want to build skills and make a difference.

Tanzania is home to a variety of cultural groups, such as the Maasai tribe, who you can learn from. It’s also a fantastic destination for lovers of the outdoors. Spend your Gap Semester trekking in the foothills of Kilimanjaro or spotting elephants on a safari.

In East Africa, you’ll discover just how beautiful this planet can really be. Get to know an entirely different culture and make real improvements to the lives of locals.

Read more about African Gap Semesters

Asia: Cambodia and Nepal

Gap Semester Nepal scenery

Gap Semester travellers may prefer to explore the beauty of Asia. Specifically, you’ll head to Cambodia and Nepal, two of the continent’s most scenic countries. Your time will begin in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh, where you can choose a selection of projects that suit you.

Project options include Childcare, Public Health, and Community Outreach. It’s not all work, though - we want to help you see more of this amazing country! We’ll arrange a trip to the world-famous Angkor Wat where you can wander the ancient ruins like a true explorer.

Once your Cambodian Gap Semester adventure draws to a close, you’ll fly onto a new, equally-enthralling destination: Nepal. In this land of breathtaking mountains, you’ll help provide education to local children. Between classes, explore the historical streets, visiting temples and sampling Nepalese cuisine.

Your Gap Semester journey will then take you into the Nepalese wilderness to complete conservation work. This region provides crucial habitats to many species that you’ll help preserve. In Chitwan National Park, you’ll experience a safari like no other, having the chance to spot elephants, tigers, and rhinos in a stunning setting.

Read more about Asian Gap Semesters

How does a Gap Semester sound to you? This could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go beyond your studies and get some real-world experience. No matter where you go or what you do, prepare for an immersive experience geared towards personal development. Start searching for the perfect Gap Semester programme for you.

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