A new horizon

Gap year

What to do and where to go in your gap year?

Go abroad, give your time and grow your potential

A gap year is the perfect opportunity to take a break from your regular routines, responsibilities and long to-do-lists.

Taking a gap year (or semester) is your chance to pull out of the rat race, travel to new destinations all over the world, gain some experience and get a fresh perspective on life. To do something completely out of your comfort zone – to stretch yourself, learn new skills and engage with interesting people from different cultures.

Perhaps you have to make a big decision and need time to think? Or do you need to add impactful experiences and valuable skills to your CV to improve your chances of getting into college or scoring that dream job?

Taking a gap year after high school and college to volunteer or intern with locally-led community development programs is a great way to enjoy an unforgettable travel experience, while also contributing to lasting social impact. 

Using your gap year to teach abroad is a particularly popular option for many English-speaking students, and serves as an important tool to empower locals in countries where tourism is a primary job creator.

Ideas and inspiration

There are many proven benefits of taking a gap year! Find out more about where in the world you can travel to, what GVI programs you can join and how you can make the most of your time off.



Build a better world by contributing to vital, locally-led project work that strives for a more just and equitable future.


In line with the UN’s SDGs, we are committed to ethical and sustainable engagement with our local partners and communities.


Learn from the world’s most unique and significant cultures, in breathtaking remote locations.

Taking a gap year with GVI


What is a gap year and why should I take one?

It’s quite daunting to decide what you want to do with the rest of your life. If you’re not entirely sure about what you want to study after school, specialise in during post-grad or in which industry you would like to work in, it’s wiser to take a gap year to think about it first.

Gap years offer a valuable once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help you find your path and get a new perspective on life. 

Although it’s called a gap year, it doesn’t have to be twelve months – it can only be a semester or two, or even just a few months.

If you’re already working and you‘re stuck in a job that you don’t enjoy, taking a gap year could also be a great way to help you find freedom and fulfilment again.


The case for taking a gap year

More and more traditional academic institutions are endorsing the many benefits of taking a gap year before studying. Even Harvard advises parents to rather let their children take a gap year if they’re not sure what their personal interests and strengths are. Students who take a break often have more confidence and direction and are less likely to suffer from academic burn-out.

If you’re excited about taking a gap year, but still have some doubts, the gap year statistics study conducted by The American Gap Association, might help you make your decision. 


The gap year survey results showed that:

  • 85% of students who take a gap year recommend it to others
  • 88% of learners who took a gap year after high school got accepted into the college of their choice
  • 89% of those who took a gap year during college returned to college
  • 86% of gap year students were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs.

Should I take a gap year? 

When you’re looking to plan your gap year, first make a list of all the things you’d like to try during your gap year, and then do some research about the available gap year options. 

After you have an idea about time and budget constraints, you can start being more selective about your gap year ideas (after all, there are only 365 days in a year) and whether you’d like to volunteer or intern.


Top reasons for taking a gap year:

  • Take time (that you would otherwise never get) to discover yourself, set personal goals, find your interests and ignite your passions.
  • Gain and develop new skills that will increase your employability and enable you to be a more efficient and effective student and employee.
  • Get out of your comfort zone, engage with people from different cultures and get a new perspective on life and the world.
  • Travel to different countries to witness our magnificent planet and engage with a beautiful diversity of people.
  • Include international volunteering and interning experiences to improve your CV.
  • Get a sense of direction and perform better academically – students’ grades are often better in college after returning from a gap year.
  • Get practical experience that will support your specific subject area or line of interest to motivate your applications to study further.
  • Feel refreshed, inspired and encouraged to contribute positively as a global citizen that is part of a passionate community.


What gap year program should I choose?

You’ve decided to take a gap year, but now you probably have a few tabs open with different programs offering unique opportunities all over the world.

How do you choose? Let’s see if GVI is a good fit for what you’re looking for.

You’re at the right place if you:

  • want to travel abroad and get immersed in authentic cultural experiences
  • want to go on more than just a holiday, but use your time to empower people
  • want to have a meaningful social impact aligned to the UN SDGs
  • want to partner with locally-led community development organisations
  • want to give back to communities by volunteering or interning.


If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, welcome to GVI! Take a look at the type of programs we offer or get in touch with one of our program experts who would be happy to talk you through the options and answer your questions.


Volunteering vs interning

Your first step will be to decide whether you want to volunteer or intern with GVI during your gap year.

The two program types have a lot of similarities with many of the activities and experiences overlapping, but the main difference between volunteering and interning depends on the depth of skills development and work experience that you would like to receive during your gap year.


Here’s a question that could guide you along: Is career development one of your main goals during your gap year?


It’s important to note that even if you choose to volunteer, you’ll still get fantastic on-site training, the opportunity to complete an additional online course, and exposure to projects and work experience to improve your employability.

Internships are more focused, allowing you the unique opportunity to master a wider range of soft and hard skills to advance your career path in a more dedicated way. When you’re an intern with GVI, you’ll also get more responsibilities to help around base, get more involved with the community projects and put your leadership skills to practice.

We also offer virtual internships, where you can learn and contribute to community development programs from wherever you are. It is a great way to build on your experience, connect with experts in the field and develop your skills if you can’t travel abroad.


Choosing a gap year program type

With GVI People, you get to travel the world and contribute to critical causes.

Depending on your passions and interests, you can choose between a number of award-winning social impact programs in locations all over the world. By joining these programs, you’ll get access to community development projects that are led by our expert local partners on the ground in the communities where our hubs are based.

What makes GVI different is our unwavering commitment to ethics. All of our community programs are ethical and inclusive – with a dedicated Impact Manager creating and implementing sustainability plans in each location.

We never do projects in isolation. We believe in partnerships and collaboration to ensure long-term, multi-generational impact.

You might be wondering if you need any specific qualifications to join our programs before you can join, and you’ll be happy to hear that it’s not a requirement. All the training you’ll need will be presented to you before you depart, and when you arrive on base, by our team of qualified employees and partners.

Take a look at our list of different community development focus areas and see which one excites you the most.


GVI People – community development program focuses
  • Women’s empowerment – support women with their personal and professional development to create a more equal and inclusive society.
  • Teaching – offer educational assistance to teachers in underserved regions where schools are often crowded and resources limited. You can also get TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreigh Language) certified when you join our six month internship program in Thailand.
  • Public health – assist local health organisations to help communities get access to water and sanitation, and get information about health and nutrition to reduce illnesses.
  • Sports – present sport education to children in underserved communities to enhance their mental and physical health.
  • Construction – offer your practical assistance to help fix, renovate, revamp and build infrastructure and equipment to ensure that community projects are run effectively and efficiently.
  • Business and micro-enterprise – empower micro-enterprises in communities to develop sustainable businesses, and increase your own project management and business skills in the process.
  • Volunteer with children – help to establish healthy development foundations for our future leaders, by offering educational support and sport and recreational activities.


When you decide to join a program to work with children, you’ll be required to complete a police background check first. Our team will also provide you with adequate child protection training when you arrive on base.

GVI does not offer or support any orphanage volunteering programs, since research has shown that they don’t offer a viable solution to support vulnerable children. Find out more by reading our position on orphanage volunteering.

If you love working with people, but you’re also interested in protecting the environment, you are welcome to join our adventurous nature conservation programs over at GVI Planet. You can also add it to your plans to create a bespoke itinerary according to your needs and interests.

Where to travel during your gap year?

Planning your gap year is where the journey starts. Browsing through exciting locations, reading up about new cultures and watching videos where participants share their personal experiences are part of the fun process!

Sometimes we know immediately where we’d love to travel to. Perhaps the lush jungles of Thailand have been on your bucket list for years. Or do you daydream about hiking on Himalayan trails, taking selfies with the colourful Nepalise prayer flags draped along the way?

Maybe you’re not sure where in the world you should do your gap year? With so many different continents to see and with each offering something completely unique, it’s understandable if you need some time to figure out what you would love most.

Take a look at where our GVI hubs are based all over the world, and what you can expect in each location.

If you have some questions or would like someone to talk you through the options, no problem. Just get in touch with one of our enrolment managers who are experienced in knowing what it’s like on the ground. 


GVI community development gap year locations

  • Cambodia – be part of the energetic city life of Siem Reap as you join forces with local projects. Engage with Buddhist monks, explore historical sites, experience the natural beauty and visit the world-famous Angkor Wat.
  • Costa Rica – teach English to children or support the local women’s entrepreneur group while staying in the heart of Cartago – surrounded by volcanoes and farmland.
  • Fiji – work hand-in-hand with the passionate nurses in the tropical Dawasamu district to improve health, sanitation and nutrition in the villages.
  • Ghana – get a sense of life in a small fishing village in Accra, and get the opportunity to offer educational support or present workshops to help women become more self-reliant.
  • Nepal – live in awe in the popular Pokhara with its snow-capped mountains and icy blue lakes. Experience authentic cultural diversity by partnering with local organisations who work tirelessly to ensure sustainable social impact.
  • South Africa – join local organisations to work towards a more equitable future while staying in one of the most beautiful natural cities in the world, Cape Town
  • Thailand – support organisations who run social development projects in coastal villages who are still recovering after being hit by a devastating tsunami a few years ago, and get the option to become TEFL certified.
  • Madagascar – stay at our hub on the lush island of Nosy Be to teach English literacy to school children that will improve and expand the area’s eco-tourism, leading to economic growth.


Did you spot a location and program that entices you and that you would like to sign up for? That’s great – just complete our application to start your journey with GVI.

If you’re not sure yet, you can continue browsing through our gap year programs, or speak to one of our gap year program experts.


Funding your gap year

Hopefully, we’ve been able to show you that the pros of a gap year outweigh any cons you might have heard about. Now, we’d also like to attend to your question of how exactly it will be possible for you to take a gap year. 

Many students ask how they can fund their gap year. Check our scholarships page to find out if we can offer you a gap year scholarship. You can also raise funds for your gap year by using the GVI fundraising platform. The second question many students ask is ‘How can I apply for a gap year when I’ve already been accepted to a college?’ You can apply to your admissions office to postpone your enrollment for a year.

See what other parents & participants say

Read reviews and recommendations from all over the world.

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