12 Gap Year Summer Programs Worth Checking Out

by Published

Summer is approaching fast, and while it’s easy (and fun) to spend a summer at home with friends or a beach, it’s always refreshing to have a change of scenery. Enter gap year summer programs. They are not a “gap year” in the traditional sense, but are equally as awesome and life changing. You don’t have to commit an entire year and it’s the perfect intermission before your life gets hectic again in the fall. 

Viewpoint of Phi Phi islands in Krabi, Thailand

Dive right into your program (literally) and check out marina life in Krabi with Projects Abroad 🇹🇭

OR maybe you’re in the midst of a “build your own” gap year and you’re not into the idea of doing a formal program for an entire year. You’d rather participate in summer gap year programs, then take some time to earn money and work in your hometown before jetting off again to perhaps intern abroad or find a meaningful volunteer project.

There are a lot of programs out there choose from and plenty of activities to do. By trying summer gap year programs—like these 12 awesome ones outlined below—you are bound to have the epic summer adventures you’ve always dreamed . 

What makes summer gap year programs so great?

Gap year summer programs are a perfect trial run if you are considering trying to do it for a whole year. You’ll get to try being independent, learning and living in a different country for a few months. For some of you, gap year summer programs will be a perfect gateway into being a lifelong traveler or getting a glimpse of a country you would want to live in permanently one day. 

Summer gap year programs are also a good opportunity to start learning, or brush up on your language skills. In a foreign environment, you can stay immersed in language and apply your skills more often than you can at home. Interacting with others with different language can increase your fluency and get your speaking more like the locals do. While learning a new language is fun, it’s also a skill you can boast on a college application or resume for years to come. 

Most importantly, summer gap year programs give you real experience in being a global citizen. Learn culture and participate in meaningful cultural exchanges that you will remember long after your trip is over. 

12 of our fave gap year summer programs

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1. Europe Tour with Gapforce

This program is the ultimate European package! Travel through 11 beautiful cities and see the sights with your fellow travelers. All travel arrangements, accommodations, and some meals are provided. While you’ll be with one of Gapforce’s awesome guides the majority of your European tour, this program has built in days for you to create your own itinerary. So ambitious adventurers pack light, Europe awaits!

  • Where: London, Paris, Barcelona, Cote d’Azur, Florence, Rome, Venice, Vienna, Prague, Berlin, Amsterdam.
  • Activities: Sightseeing landmarks and examining life in each city. Seeing the coastline of the French Riviera and visiting museums in Vienna!
  • Get more program info                                            
The sun sets over the bridges of the River Arno in the city of Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Check out some fire views in Firenze with Gapforce 🇮🇹

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2. The Ultimate Summer Tour of New Zealand - Summer Explorer

Take this opportunity for an incredible journey in one of the most beautiful countries in the world! Channel your inner outdoorsman (or woman) to explore New Zealand the way kiwi’s do. When you’re not captured by golden coastlines, picturesque mountaintops, or swimmable river valleys; learn the indigenous Maori Iwi people. Experimental learning at its best, for this summer program, the outdoors is your classroom.

  • Where: Central Otago, Dunedin, and Nelson, New Zealand
  • Activities: Adventure activities like glacier walking and canyon swinging! And taking part in a sustainability project
  • Get more program info
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3. India Summer Volunteering Program and Adventure Tour 2018

Spend your summer volunteering under the warm Indian sun. Volunteer at childcare centers and shelters to teach, play, and care for underprivileged children. Starting in New Delhi you will get the chance to explore 3 more Indian cities. Stay with host families, or live in a home with your volunteer group. See the sights, get in touch with nature, and give back!  

  • Where: New Delhi, Palampur, Dharamshala and Agra, India
  • Activities: Explore the UNESCO Heritage Sites, and get to know New Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur on meaningful tours
  • Get more program info
Building in sunset in Kolkata, India

Travel meaningfully and volunteer under the Indian sun with Volunteer Solutions🇮🇳

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4. Women’s Empowerment Volunteering In Cambodia

  • (Who runs the world?) Travel to Cambodia to work towards gender equality in the Phnom Penh region. While the focus of this program is women, all are allowed to apply! Volunteer to teach English classes, or run health or financial workshops. When you’re not empowering women during the week, you’ll get the chance to soak up the sun in Cambodia’s tropical beaches, or see national landmarks and museums with your fellow volunteers. Be a champion for gender equality and leave your mark on the lives of local women in this impactful summer option.
  • Where: Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • Activities: Volunteer based on the needs of the community and learn more Cambodian culture and language
  • Get more program info
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5. Diving and Marine Conservation in Thailand with Projects Abroad

Go “under the sea” and spend your summer conserving the environment and marine life of Thailand. Dive and explore the coral reefs and the warm water of the Andaman Sea. Learn to scuba dive and eventually go 30 meters underwater to get hands on experience in marine conservation.  Collect samples, data, and come up with real solutions to reverse the threats and dangers to the marine life in Thailand.

  • Where: Krabi, Thailand
  • Activities: Ocean Conservancy Data Collection, reforestation work, community outreach and education, and beach clean-ups
  • Get more program info 
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6. Dog and Cat Rescue in South Africa with Pod Volunteer

One of the most purr-fect summer gap year programs, animal lovers can spend a summer rescuing the cats and dogs of Cape Town. Shower your new furry friends in love and affection, giving them much needed care before they head off to new homes. Help the local shelter with all its operations and summer volunteering at this paw-some opportunity!

  • Where: Cape Town, South Africa
  • Activities: Preparing food and feeding all animals, cleaning kennels, and exercising doggos!
  • Get more program info 
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7. Study Abroad in Greece for the Summer with CYA!

If you ever wanted to see Greece outside of a movie, this program with CYA is your chance! Combining academics with adventure this trip is the best of both worlds. Visiting four cities in this Mediterranean paradise, you can explore the country’s rich history and culture.  Study topic like History, Creative Writing and Anthropology in one of the oldest civilizations in the world.

  • Where: Athens, Crete, Paros, and Santorini, Greece
  • Activities: Visit famous travel sites in Greece, take unique courses, and participate in archaeological excavations to name a few.
  • Get more program info 
View of buildings in Santorini, Greece

Ready to check out those Mamma Mia views with CYA in Greece?! 🇬🇷

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8. Made in Yame! East meets West: Japan

Get crafty with this summer program in Japan. Study with master Japanese craftsmen as you are inspired by Japan’s ancient architecture, temples, and landscape. While your home base for the program will be in small city of Yame, you will also take trips to former Japanese capital Kyoto and Arita the birthplace of Japanese porcelain. Design amazing cross-cultural art with the bonus possibility of your work to be showcased and sold at the MoMA! (Say what!)

  • Where: Fukuoka, Japan
  • Activities: Study traditional Japanese craft techniques and take classes in product design with pro craftsmen
  • Get more program info 
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9. Cultural Exploration Iceland - Putney Student Travel

Travel to Iceland’s remote Westfjords region for an epic adventure. Stay in small fishing villages and learn all things Icelandic fishing culture. Keep active as you hike, ride horses, kayak and glacier trek through charming cities and enchanting landscapes. A mixture of a nature class and a cultural study, you will learn Iceland’s geology, culture, and nature economy while completing an independent passion project of your own. Flexible and unpredictable in the best way, there’s so much to discover in this program.

  • Where: Isafjordur, Reykjavik, and Rural Areas in Iceland
  • Activities: Soak in geothermal hot springs and see historical Viking ruins.
  • Get more program info
Clear blue water and sky with hot rock spring in Blue Lagoon spa, Reykjavik Iceland

Check the Blue Lagoon off your bucket list… Putney Student Travels gots you covered! 🇮🇸

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10. GoEco China - Giant Panda Center Summer Program

If this program didn’t have you at “Giant Panda” please let us tell you more. The China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP) has worked for the preservation of the panda population for 20 years and if you want to get in on the cause, this program is for you. Assist the staff in Bifengxia and help protect these precious creatures. Take excursions to Chinese cities like Chengdu and even have the opportunity to take Chinese lessons. Save the animals and learn a little Chinese to boot? Not a bad way to spend your break.

  • Where: Bifengxia, China
  • Activities: A two-day exploration of Chengdu! Plus preparing food for the pandas and assisting in conservation efforts.
  • Get more program info
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11. Madagascar Wildlife Conservation Adventure

Channel your inner Eliza Thornberry and spend your gap year summer in Madagascar. Work on a wildlife conservation project and interact with the island’s exotic wildlife. Trek through lush rainforests, and remote areas with fellow volunteers from around the world. During your trip you will be living on the island of Nosy Be, known as the “scented island” it is famous for vanilla, ylang-ylang and mangoes. An experience so unique it will be hard to forget.

  • Where: Nosy Be, Madagascar
  • Activities: Create action plans for conservation, observe bird and plant life, and contribute to sustainability research.
  • Get more program info 
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12. Wildlife Conservation with in Victoria Falls with IVHQ

Go to UNESCO World Heritage Site of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Volunteers learn conservation management and local ecosystems. Live in Victoria Falls for 2-12 weeks with 15 volunteers from around the world. Camp out under the Zimbabwe sun, or other outdoor activities during the weekends. Volunteering activities and tasks here will not only help the animals but the surrounding Victoria Falls community long-term. How’s that for being a #GlobalCitizen

  • Where: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
  • Activities: Camping out on the reserve, track animals, and attend lectures on related wildlife conservation topics
  • Get more program info

Pack your bags and take your “fun in the sun” worldwide!

Person wearing a backpack taking a picture overlooking city

Make your gap year summer program your best adventure yet! 🎉

 Your education is so much more than what you learn inside of the classroom. So take this responsibility in your hands and sign up for a summer abroad program. There are so many things to see and do outside of your hometown. So dive into the experimental learning experiences that travel has to offer and fill up your passport with memories.

Browse all gap year summer programs

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