Gap Semester Programs: Because a Year Away Sounds Too Hard

by Published

Not quite ready for the YEAR in gap year but still wanna sprinkle some meaningful travel into your life? No prob! You can go away for just a semester and still have a ball. See, gap year semester programs are so flexible, you can squeeze one into your life no matter how much time you’ve got for globetrotting. Trying to fit some travel into your school year? Not feelin’ a twelve month stint away from home? Even a few months abroad can make for an exhilarating travel experience. So, open up iCal and pick your top dates for hitting the road—it’s time to chat gap semester programs! 

Colorful rows of lockers

A year away may be a stretch, but a semester gap year program is the best way to meet in the middle. 

Why do gap year semester programs?

While exciting, people turn down yearlong gap travel opportunities all the time. Why? Well, because not everyone can afford to head overseas for that long. Scheduling issues, financial constraints, or sheer terror (does the thought of a year overseas give you hives?) are some of the reasons. Let’s look deeper into why gap semester programs may be your best bet. 

You’re not that year away from home life (yet!). 

So you’re leaning towards a gap year because you know it will give you a more meaningful travel experience than a few weeks of vacay. But you’re also a travel newbie and twelve months abroad sounds super intimidating. A few months away on a gap semester program is the perfect stretch to get your feet wet in life overseas and have a purposeful jaunt abroad. 

[12 Gap Year Benefits Your Future Self Will Thank You For]

Livin’ on limited bucks. 

With semester travel programs, longer excursions=higher costs. Plain and simple, the price tag of traveling for a few months is generally a lot less than heading out for a year. So, if you’ve got a fixed amount of dough to spend, consider traveling for just a semester. Need guidance on how to cover the costs of a gap year? Get a part time job to save up, apply for scholarships and grants, sell some stuff, or create a good fundraiser with this FundMyTravel tool to crowdfund your program costs. Tip: Some gap programs actually offer scholarships of their own so keep this in mind as you research programs and financial aid.

Educational obligations. 

Were you thinkin’ semester travel programs mean losing a year of college credits? Think again! Your months overseas can totally be infused with sightseeing and stimulating courses for college credit. With college gap semester programs, you don’t have to worry your graduation date being pushed too far back. You can go abroad in the spring and be back to campus by summer!

[Get matched with gap year semester programs]

Personal commitments. 

Is your big bro getting married at the end of the year? Need to help mom move out in the spring? The beauty of gap semester programs is that with proper planning, they’ll fit snugly into whatever your long term plans are.

Do any of these reasons to do gap year semester programs ring true for you? If so, no worries—you’re not alone. There are plenty of exciting gap semester ideas in programs tailored to meet your needs. 

train along the lake

Hop on that gap year train (it will take you beautiful places, trust us!). 

Gap semester ideas for you to consider

So what to do during a gap semester? Dude, you can jam so much into a college gap semester as well as gap semester volunteer programs! There are plenty of opportunities to build your skills while wandering through the world’s most fascinating locales. Here are some popular gap semester ideas.


Spring break volunteer projects are all the rave, but taking a whole semester to give back will make a more sustainable impact. Mentor Tanzanian orphans, work as a women’s empowerment volunteer in India, help with patient intake in a rural Peruvian health clinic—there are lots of ways to fit large scale volunteer work into a semester. Traveling with gap semester volunteer programs also demonstrates humility, which will always have your resume standing out from the bunch.

[Search volunteer gap year programs]


Need a breather from all that theory mumbo jumbo? Pack away your books and get ready to dive into some hands-on experience. Gap semester internships will get you learning your craft in real time. You’ll have the chance to sharpen your skills and get a better feel for what work in your industry excites you the most. Gap semester internships are guaranteed to give you the learning experience you crave. 

[Search gap year internship programs]

Master a language

Ready to put all those years of French I, II, III, IV...(well, you get the picture) to the test? Sign up for a semester language immersion gap year program! Between your in-country language classes and cultural outings, you’ll return home speaking the local language like a boss! Plus, being fluent in another language can open tons of professional doors down the line.

[Search language immersion gap year programs]

Just travel!

There are many gap semester programs out there designed to expose you to the many walks of life happening, step by step, each and every day on our planet. Why not travel with the comfort of logistics being taken care of, where your only task is to observe, learn, reflect, and have a damn good time (while still being culturally sensitive)?! That’s what gap year adventure travel programs are all .

[Save and compare gap year programs side by side with MyGoAbroad]

Tongariro Park, New Zealand, woman with camera walking

After blazing new trails on a gap year program, your own path will seem more clear.

Gap semester planning must do’s

Planning a gap year is an exciting but potentially overwhelming experience. But with a smart approach, you’ll be good to go on an amazing semester abroad. So be sure to…

Compare your stash with gap year expenses. You’ll need to get crystal clear on the costs of gap year semester programs before you pick one. Wondering if meals will be covered in your program fee or if you’ll need to budget separately for groceries? Ask your potential program advisor. Planning on buying Ankara fabrics to have some fab skirts made back home? Hit up the web and start researching the going rates for cloths in Ghanaian markets. Basically, analyze your program’s info thoroughly and any other costs you might incur. The clearer you are on how much dough you’ll need to divvy out the better you can strategize. 

Get the 411 on course credits. Many semester long volunteer programs and gap semester internships that you can get college credit for doing. Some gap year orgs have actual partnerships with universities making the credit process amazingly seamless. So, young grasshopper, chat with both your gap year and college advisors how getting credit will work. You’ll also want to discuss how traveling will affect your status as a student. 

Research where you’re traveling to. Sure, it’s awesome to be abroad. Yet, here’s the secret to making it even more legendary: know a little history of the place you’re gapping in! So, before you fly out, dig into some of the location’s history and culture. The info you soak up will come in hand in convos with locals and give you deeper insight into the local culture, making for an even smoother gap year.

Understand the visa process. Your gap year program advisor will give you the deets on how to apply for your visa so that you’re gappin’ legally (because you don’t wanna be the newest episode of “Locked Up Abroad”?). You might enter the country on a student visa, work permit, or other type of immigration document. Another option? Get in touch with embassies directly through the . They’ll provide info on the visa application process for travelers with gap year semester programs. 

two girls taking selfie sitting on rocky shoreline

You’ll meet new friends, experience new things, and return irrevocably changed. 

Top gap semester programs


Experience life in China, the economic powerhouse of Asia, with a gap year semester internship at CIP. You can pick from several concentration areas—from medicine and law to international trade and Mandarin language classes. Gappers will learn their field in top-notch Chinese business and professional environments. There are even career coaching components to start your professional life on the right foot! What’s more? All of this is paired with plenty of fantastic sightseeing activities. When these gap semester travel programs wrap up, you’ll be fast approaching guru status in your field. 


Brush up on your Spanish or French in Central America, South America, or Europe and get geeked the chance to score college credit for it all! API offers semester gap year internships and coursework across several subjects. You can choose between business, humanities, language study, biodiversity (how cool does protecting Costa Rican turtle habitats sound?!), and other areas. During downtime, travelers with API gap semester travel programs head out to cultural attractions like active volcanoes, indigenous reserves, museums like Le Louvre, and so much more! 


How does going around the world and back in just over two months float your boat? That’s right, with CCS semester gap year programs, you can backpack in South America, explore the open markets of Ghana’s Volta Region, and sleep in the Mayan highlands all in one semester! You’ll spend a couple of weeks at each spot with purposeful volunteer work intertwined into every trip. These semester gap programs offer the chance to cross continents complete with cultural and language immersion.


Looking for an all in one packaged deal of cultural immersion, volunteering, adventure travel, and coursework? With programs all over the world (the Caribbean, Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia), Carpe Diem guarantees gappers an epic semester abroad, complete with small groups of gappers, mentors, and team building exercises—so you’ll be sure to wrap up your travels with some new bosom buddies. When the semester ends, they’ll be some bittersweet goodbyes… but don’t worry. Carpe Diem even offers an alumni gap year program in Nepal!

[See all gap year programs]

Camels in Negev, Israel

You’ll get to do things you never thought you could do! 

Quick tips for maximizing your semester 

Map out your gap year.

Heading out for a gap year in the bustling capital of Gaborone, Botswana and geeked hitting up all the best game drives? At first glance, a couple of months in another country sounds like a ton of time, but once your gap year is up and running, the time will zip by. So, take some time to schedule out your excursions. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself running out of time to complete your bucket list!

Approach potential mentors for advice.

While doing gap semester travel programs, you’ll probably be surrounded by super knowledgeable folks working in your field. So, don’t feel shy scheduling some time to pick their brains! They’ll be gold mines of useful tips on your own professional future or may even have a couple of job leads (#winning!).

Document everything. 

Okay, not eeeverything. But definitely pack a digital cam, some extra memory sticks, external hard drive, and a cute journal to capture the essence of your gap year. After a few months back home you might get pretty foggy all the awesome stuff you did while away. So, carry your camera around and journal a couple of nights a week—photos and notes will be handy reference points for job and school applications! Plus, you’ll have wonderful mementos to show the fam.

Take life to the next level with gap semester programs!

So, you’re ready to take the plunge and embark on gap semester programs. Decided to sign up for college gap semester programs? Or maybe you’re diggin’ gap semester volunteer programs and gap semester internships. Whatever you pick, you’ll be traveling with a purpose and bound to make an impact wherever you go. And know that even a few months away can turn everything you thought you knew yourself and your plans on its head (but in a good way!). Alright voyager, get ready to ace your most productive semester yet! 

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Topic:  Top Picks