All Your Gap Year Questions, Answered

If you’ve been thinking about taking a gap year in 2020, you’re not alone and you probably have a lot of questions about how to make it possible! We asked our travel community on Instagram for your questions about taking a gap year and we’ve answered all of them here!

How can I find gap year programs?

Well, one option is to simply plan your own gap year! You don’t have to pay for a program or a group unless you want to. However, if you do want to do a gap year with an established program or just don’t want to be on your own, there’s a number of great programs. Check out:

For more options, check out our list of best ways to spend a gap year.

gap year travel
How can we travel while also getting experience?

Well, for one: travel is it’s own experience! International experience and a global perspective are definitely valued by many employers. Also, travel can provide you with many soft skills which are so valuable for jobs and internships.

Beyond that, there’s a variety of ways to volunteer abroad, which is a great way to get work experience in a field that you’re interested in. If you have more time (several months or longer), you can also get an internship abroad or even get a short-term work visa and work.

What’s the ideal amount to save for a gap year?

That totally depends on what you’d like to do with your gap year and where you’ll be! As you may imagine, a gap year living in Paris and traveling around Europe will cost more than teaching English in Thailand. As you determine your budget and how much to save, consider:

  • The cost of your plane tickets
  • The cost of your housing/accommodation
  • Weekend trips
  • Food
  • Incidentals
  • International phone plans
  • Visas & immunizations
  • In-country transportation
  • Good travel insurance
  • Cost of tuition for a gap year program, if you’re joining one

Numbeo is a great resource for determining the average cost of living and traveling expenses around the world. This can help you decide how much to save. You’ll also want to factor any money you’ll be making from a job or internship abroad during your gap year, which will of course help offset expenses. However, if you’re not joining a program and are planning on traveling in a budget destination, 3-6 months of traveling can cost as little as $3,000-$10,000.

gap year budget
How do you stay on budget while on a gap year?

Our number 1 tip for staying on budget: plan ahead! It’s great to give yourself flexibility while you’re studying and traveling, but the more you can prepare in advance, the easier it will be to save what you need and stay on budget. If you can plan to stay in or travel to budget destinations, that’ll help you stay on a budget too.

While you’re traveling, be careful about eating out—which can quickly rack up the costs, depending on where you are. Eat out, of course, but also try the local street food, learn to make local dishes by shopping at grocery stores, pack yourself picnics to enjoy at scenic parks in your new city and so on. Also, going on weekend trips every single weekend adds up fast. Give yourself some time to slow down and enjoy the city you’re in and you’ll save a lot.

Can a college student get jobs abroad (especially if you’re staying for less than a year?)

Yes, depending on where you want to go! Obviously, different countries have different rules regarding work visas and who can/cannot work while staying there. Some great places to travel and get a job abroad are:

While there’s definitely other places where you can get short-term work visas, these are the countries with specific working holiday visas for students and recent grads and are an amazing opportunity to take 6-12 months and get international experience.

Do you have to have a work visa even if you don’t plan to work?

Nope! If you’re just traveling, you can simply get whatever regular tourist visa is needed. Just keep in mind how long you can stay as a tourist—for example, in the EU, it’s 90 days visa-free. After that point you’ll need some kind of student or work visa. The rules vary by country though!

Can you take a gap year after college?

Absolutely! Taking a gap year after college is the perfect opportunity to travel and see the world before tying yourself down with a full-time job. It’s also a great chance to volunteer, work on some side projects and get some experience before jumping into your career.

Can you take a gap year in the middle of doing a degree? Leave and come back to finish?

Generally, yes, although different schools have different steps you can take. In many cases (but not all), a leave of absence can be granted for anywhere from one to several semesters, and can be applied for by making a written request to the dean of your academic department or university. Once granted, your enrollment status will basically be paused for the predetermined amount of time. After this time, you can petition to resume your enrollment. (In most cases, you do not need to reapply.)

As long as you request a leave of absence before the deadline (typically before the first week of classes), you often will be eligible for a tuition waiver for the semester. Depending on the amount of time you’re taking off and types of financial aid you are receiving, the impact on a leave of absence on your financial aid may vary. Student loans may enter a grace period or need to be deferred if you’re taking off more than six months. Scholarships and grants from your university will likely not need to be disbursed and different universities have different policies about how to restart them in the future.

In short, check your university’s leave of absence policy and speak to an academic advisor and a financial aid advisor to ensure you understand (a) what to do before you leave and (b) what you’ll need to do in order to ensure a smooth transition back.

Can most scholarships be put on hold at your school if you take a gap year?

This definitely depends! While many should be able to be paused (especially if they were a part of your financial aid package you were offered when you first enrolled), it’s always best to talk with a financial aid counselor and make sure you understand what can and can’t be put on hold.

Do you know of any programs for married students?

Gap years might be trickier to plan if you’re married, but certainly not impossible! While there may not be specific programs for married students, you can certainly both apply for programs together and let the organizers know your situations. Most programs would be happy to work with you.

gap year in the us
I want to work and do projects and move to a different (more scenic) state. Any suggestions?

Great idea! While almost every state has some scenic areas, there’s a few that definitely stand out. Here’s a few suggestions:

  • Seattle. Seattle’s a medium-sized city with a lot of work opportunities and a young population that’s really close to some beautiful national parks and natural areas. Between the forests, beaches, parks and waterfalls, you won’t have any problem finding scenery!
  • San Diego or Miami. If you love the beach, moving to one of these beachside cities will provide you with all the sunshine and scenery you’re looking for.
  • Arizona and Utah. Both of these states are definitely overlooked. They have some really beautiful areas and are close to a number of some of the prettiest national parks in the US.
  • Colorado: a LOT of people end up moving to Colorado for the beautiful scenery! Between hiking, skiing and tons of other outdoor activities, you won’t have any shortage of ways to enjoy the views. Denver and Boulder are both popular cities.
  • Portland, Maine. Although it’s definitely cold in the winters, Portland puts you in a small city that’s close to some scenic areas—the Atlantic oceans, Acadia National Park and the White Mountains. If you’re an avid hiker or just love being outdoors, Maine is a great (and cheaper) place to live.
I want to teach English abroad! What are the safest/best places to teach?

Great question! There are so many great places to teach English abroad. International TEFL Academy and CIEE can be great resources for finding jobs and placements. In general, South Korea, Thailand, Spain, Prague, Japan, China and Taiwan all have lots of available English teaching positions and are fun and safe places to travel and teach. Of course, you can find English teaching jobs in just about any non-English speaking country.

How can we be responsible with traveling (during covid) while also taking a gap year? Is it okay to just live in a different place in the US?

Mostly, it comes down to respecting and following along with local regulations and safety rules. For some places, that may (sadly) mean not traveling there for now. However, for many other places that are starting to reopen, it means traveling with caution and making sure you can present a negative COVID-19 test result before traveling. If you want to move somewhere new during a gap year, that is still an option too for most places in the US and even abroad. The general guidelines right now are still that if you’re moving somewhere new, you should quarantine for 14-days upon arrival if you’re not being tested for the coronavirus.

With all that being said, yes, it’s okay to live in a different place in the US or travel to reopened countries while following the appropriate precautions to keep everyone safe and healthy. For more international ideas, check out this list of countries reopening to travelers this summer.

Have more questions about taking a gap year in 2020? Follow us on Instagram for more resources and information.

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