GoAbroad shares our favorite gap year ideas after college
So you’ve just graduated from college and you’re not sure what to do next. What if someone told you that the best thing you could do for your future is to take a year “off” and travel the world? It might sounds crazy, but them’s the facts!
Taking a gap year after college offers a breath of fresh air and a heavy dose of perspective at a critical time of life. Most students are under a lot of pressure from family, friends, and (most of all) themselves to start building a career immediately after graduation. But, don’t just dive into the workforce or plough into your next degree program without knowing what you’re really after. In the long run, taking a post college gap year to explore, discover what you’re passionate , and gain valuable skills will pay ($$$) off!
The benefits of the post college gap year...
- HUGE confidence boost. Long-term travel abroad develops recent graduates’ self-confidence and initiative. If you can thrive in a strange, faraway place for a year, you’ll be ready to take on anything back home.
- Intercultural skills. Hello world citizen! Spending a gap year abroad after college gives students invaluable life skills that come in handy in business and beyond. Whether it’s adaptability, travel planning, scuba diving, parler français, or plumbing, you’ll be glad you learned it during a gap year after college.
- Love of learning. Most students are pushed (or push themselves) to keep their nose down, stay in school, work hard, and get good grades from kindergarten through college. That’s 20+ years of long hours in the library, so even kids who started out with a passion for learning get burnt out. Taking a gap year after college is a great way to recharge and reignite that old motivation.
- Focus. Spending a year roaming the world helps many students discover what makes them excited to get up in the morning. When you know what you want, nothing can stop you!
... and how these benefits translate into your hireability
Cool, but like, do any of these things really matter in my job search? Uhm—DUH. Yes! Employers and hiring managers aren’t just looking at your degree and gpa. In fact, that’s just a check to make sure you’ve met the minimum requirements for the job. What employers are really looking for is someone resilient, adaptable, and quick and eager to learn.
Knowing that you have what it takes to cut it abroad on a post college gap year will make your future job search seem like a cakewalk. Don’t downplay the awesome confidence boost from long-term travel abroad. You might not explicitly have it listed on your resume, but you can reference it in cover letters and use lessons learned abroad as examples and great anecdotes in an interview. Trust us, you’re glowing when you talk life abroad and the struggles and triumphs of navigating a new transportation system or language.
And those intercultural skills? Consider that freaking GOLD DUST for employers. As globalization works its magic on the job market, the ability to work with people across cultures and language barriers is invaluable. You just moved to the top of the pile, my friend.
You thought you hated learning? Well, maybe cooping yourself up with your textbooks wasn’t your idea of a fun afternoon, but the truth is, even after you get that diploma, the learning never stops. It’s probably what drew you to a post college gap year—even if you didn’t quite know it at the time. Your curiosity the world and new cultures, that love of learning, is going to pay off big time in your job hunt. If you’re willing to take on the world, employers are more than willing to take on you. That focus and growth mindset is easily worth a million bucks.
Just for fun! Popular places for gap year programs after college
Here’s our go-to list of gap year ideas after college. Let this record of incredible places inspire you, and then go rogue and craft your own! You are a college grad, after all. 😉
Warmth, hospitality, and mosaics: there’s no better place to spend your gap year after college than Morocco. At the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Arab region, this is a country of diverse and dynamic cultural influences. When you’re not busy studying, ride a camel through the sun-kissed sands of the Sahara or bargain for textiles in the souq.
Pros: Traveling in Morocco is affordable and accessible, and budget airlines make it easy to reach nearly anywhere in Europe for weekend trips.
Cons: A basic command of French, Arabic, or Tamazight is necessary to get around. (Consider this a pro if you’re looking to improve your language skills!). Also, sexual harassment is prevalent, especially for young women.
- Discover Africa Gap Year Program Cross-Cultural Solutions | Read reviews |
- Language & Culture gap year with CIEE | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Morocco.
Travelers on a post college gap year in Italy can count on hearty helpings of the world’s best pasta, pizza, and gelato. Oh, yeah, and the heart of a thriving empire – making Italy an architecture or history student’s dream. You know what they say...When in Rome!
Pros: Italy gets sunshine most of the year—perfect for gelato sprees. ☀️ Further, gap year programs in Italy include plenty of field trips, tours, and excursions. With so much history, you'll never get bored here.
Cons: Job opportunities are pretty limited; it's best to not bet on getting one during your gap year. Another major struggle? There’s so much stunning historical architecture, it’s hard to know where to look!
- SPI High School Italian Language Immersion | Read reviews |
- High School Exchange in Italy with Nacel International | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Italy.
A cornerstone of global arts, cuisine, and history, studying in France is an invaluable (and enjoyable!) experience. When you’re not studying, wander the Champs-Élysées or plop down in a park with a bottle of wine. Don’t worry, you won’t be the first to fall in love with that distinctly French joie de vivre.
Pros: France is home to some of the best universities in the world—perfect for extending your studies or mastering la belle langue. Here, you can enjoy world-renowned art and culture for free!
Cons: The French education system is quite different from the American and British systems, which can be challenging to adjust to. As well, outside of tourism hotspots, it is difficult to get around without speaking French. (There’s a très facile solution to this one…)
- Summer courses with the Paris College of Art | Read reviews |
- CIEE Gap Year: Service & Leadership | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in France.
Really shake things up when you venture to the bottom of the world for a gap year after college. With many thriving cities and agricultural areas, Australia is an especially accessible destination for gap year participants. From urban jungles to desert skies, Australia's got it all—and is even served up with a side of adorable animals.
Pros: Kangaroos, duh! Australia is truly a wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts. If you want to spend the majority of your post college gap year outside, the Land Down Under is the place for you.
Cons: Newsflash: Australia is huge. Travel between major cities can be long, broken up only by cornfields and one-horse towns. And kangaroo road kill, if we're honest. 😬 As well, time zones can make staying in touch with family back home a tad tricky.
- 3 Months in Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand with Carpe Diem | Read reviews |
- Gap year in Australia with Greenheart Travel | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Australia.
5. Costa Rica
Live la pura vida for a while when you spend your gap year after college in Costa Rica. Sunny year-round, Costa Rica has a strong education system, endless miles of lush jungle, and premium homegrown coffee. The sloths love it, and so will you!
Pros: The cost of living in Costa Rica is relatively inexpensive. Make it rain colóns! Further, the country boasts some of the best healthcare—and toucans—in the region. You don't need to speak fluent Spanish to get on comfortably here.
Cons: Wifi can be hard to find in rural areas (a big challenge for us Snapchat enthusiasts). As well, because of tourism and since Costa Rica is a linguistic melting pot, those hoping to spend their post college gap year learning intensive Spanish may have to seek those programs out.
- Explore Central America with Carpe Diem | Read reviews |
- Be an environmental volunteer in Costa Rica with Nacel International | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Costa Rica.
It’s no coincidence that one island produced the likes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and the Beatles. A long and sordid history, scattered with household names, makes England a fascinating destination for your post college gap year.
Pros: Employment opportunities are plentiful for students doing a gap year program after college in England. Awesome! And if that's not already making you feel chuffed, there is a special time of day—every day—dedicated to tea and bite-sized snacks. Tea time > happy hour.
Cons: Let's be honest. The accent can be bloody ridiculous... but you’ll get the hang of it in no time, mate! Also, keep in mind that Britain's education system is more test-based than the American system, so don’t expect much “participation credit” if you choose to do a post college gap year at a British university.
- Gap year in England with Westcoast Connection/360° Student Travel | Read reviews |
- Gap Year Study with Oxford Advanced Studies Program | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in England.
It’s not all bullfighting and flamenco, but studying in Spain is definitely exciting. Count on vivid colors, inspiring landscapes, and tasty tapas when you spend your gap year in Spain.
Pros: There are many scholarships for gap year programs in Spain. Check out GoAbroad’s full list of scholarships for more information. You'll need the extra cash, as Spain hosts many incredible festivals year-round, which provide unique cultural experiences and insight into local history. Plus, churros fund.
Cons: The Spanish take family seriously, which can mean less alone time than visiting students are used to—especially if you opt for a homestay during your post college gap year. For Spanish learners/speakers, don't forget that the use of the pronoun vosotros/-as in European Spanish is a notorious source of frustration. 👎
- Gap year programs with Seville Abroad | Read reviews |
- GAP Programs in Barcelona with Andeo International Homestays | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Spain.
How many people can say they rode an elephant, pet a tiger, AND consumed dangerously hot chilies during their gap year after college? Equal parts exotic and accessible, Thailand is an idyllic place to study and explore. Join other young (or young-at-heart) people from around the world in this tropical paradise.
Pros: Known as “the Land of Smiles,” expect to be greeted with many toothy grins. Further, as an up-and-coming economy, Thailand has a lot to offer recent grads fresh on the job market. Your gap year programs in Thailand will be ultra-cultural and meaningful.
Cons: Nearly all Thai dishes include fish sauce, so being vegetarian can be limiting. Also, the language barrier struggle is real. Thai is a tonal language; every letter can be pronounced in five ways, which all sound exactly the same to the untrained ear.
- Southeast Asia Semester with Carpe Diem | Read reviews |
- Southeast Asia Gap Year Semester with Pacific Discovery | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Thailand.
9. South Africa
As bountiful as it is diverse, South Africa is home to 11 national languages and a host of wildlife the rest of the world only sees in zoos. Study the country’s apartheid history, and the many ways this continues to impact daily life. Don’t skip the braai, the South African take on BBQ – lekker lekker!
Pros: Favorable exchange rates mean your home currency will take you far here. Don't be shy at the braii! You'll love learning the local languages; even the Southern African dialect of English is filled with fun new words inspired by local languages and Dutch colonial history.
Cons: Keep an eye on your valuables—robbery and theft are prevalent (read more on how to protect yourself from common schemes). Be sure to dress conservatively; women traveling alone are likely to experience harassment.
- Community Service in Africa with 360° Student Travel | Read reviews |
- Gap year program with Travellers Worldwide | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in South Africa.
What better place to spend your gap year after college than the birthplace of civilization? From the dizzying skyscrapers of Cairo to the sand dunes of the Sahara and the tombs of ancient pharaohs along the Upper Nile, Egypt has so much to offer visiting students. Yalla, pyramids or bust!
Pros: Some of the entire continent's highest-ranking universities are found here, as well as developed, yet still cultural, cities. Lazy bones? You're in luck—basically everything can be delivered. Whether it’s a koshari lunch or groceries for the week, a zippy motorbike will bring it to your doorstep.
Cons: Sharing the roads with roughly 80 million other Egypt residents means a lot of time in traffic (especially within central Cairo). Barter your heart out; haggling is a way of life, so don’t expect a fair price the first time you ask.
- Broadreach International Summer Programs in Egypt | Read reviews |
- AFS Intercultural Programs in Egypt | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in Egypt.
Discover a new alphabet, animal-themed calendar, and dynamic empirical history in one of the world’s most important political and business hubs. Climb the Great Wall or challenge yourself to see the world in new ways with courses in Eastern philosophy and medicine.
Pros: Chinese regional cuisines are an absolute FEAST for the senses. You could spend your entire year trying new foods and cooking methods. Also—many Western companies are looking to hire students with long-term experience in China. Your job prospects will be poppin' after a gap year in China.
Cons: Students who don’t speak Chinese will face a steep language barrier, but less-so in major cities like Beijing and Shanghai. Grab your face mask because air pollution hangs like a cloud over Chinese cities.
- Global Interactions Gap Year Program in China | Read reviews |
- Mandarin Language Courses at Yantai University | Read reviews |
- See all gap year programs after college in China.
Next steps to finding your dream post college gap year
Now that you have an idea of where you want to go, it’s time to start planning! Whether you decide to set your own agenda or travel with gap year programs after college, it’s going to be a wild ride!
Dive into these resources for additional guidance on how to make the most of a gap year after college:
- MyGoAbroad – your personalized gap year planning platform
- OnlineAdvisor – matchmaking for students and study abroad programs
- GoAbroad’s database of gap year programs after college
- FundMyTravel – fundraising for your gap year after college
- Scholarship opportunities
- Read up on volunteering and internship opportunities for older gap year students
- Make sure to avoid these common gap year mistakes!
Anything but a “gap” gap year
It should be clear by this point that a gap year is anything but a gap. On the contrary, it's pretty much guaranteed to be filled to the brim with excitement and learning opportunities. Give yourself a boost now and for your future – start planning your gap year abroad!