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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Taking a gap year (also known as year abroad, year out, year off, deferred year, bridging year, time off and time out) refers to taking a year out of studying to do something else. Many people take a gap year before starting college or university, but it can be taken at any time.[1]




1960s: Where it all began

The origination of the 'Gap Year' concept came in the decade following the Second World War when youth travel and cultural exchange was discussed amongst Governments as a useful tool to create more of a global understanding to prevent future global wars. However, the first 'Gap Years' actually started in the UK in the 1960s when the baby-boomer generation in the midst of the 'Swinging sixties' headed off to India on the infamous Hippie trails, inventing the 'independent travel market'. And in 1967 Nicholas Maclean-Bristol set up Project Trust, an Educational Trust, and sent his first three students to Addis Ababa, inventing the Gap Year Volunteer Placements market. These have been the two key elements to the gap year market ever since - 'independent travel' and 'volunteer placements' [also known more recently as 'Voluntourism']. Work Travel (or 'Work & Travel') appeared as a third key element with the introduction of student work visas (or 'Working holiday visas') in the 1980s.

1970s: the pioneers and the growth

The demand for what was essentially new 'Independent Travel' continued through into the 1970s and resulted in the pioneers of the independent travel market establishing businesses to satisfy this demand. Australian Graham 'Screw' Turner based in London in 1973 loaded a double decker bus with the first paying customers and drove them to Kathmandu. They arrived 3 weeks late. Top Deck Travel, the company he founded, still exists today. In the same year a young Brit by the name of Tony Wheeler, headed off on an overland trip across Asia. His need for basic travel information inspired the book 'Across Asia on the Cheap' and was the first title under his Lonely Planet brand, which became the world's largest travel guide publisher. With a tour company and self help travel advice, the independent travel market was born. In 1979, another Australian Dick Porter, founded STA Travel to bring in the final piece of the puzzle. A high street travel agent for students and 'youth' (those under 26), with which he was able to develop global youth travel as he opened student travel agents around the world. Initially 'Student Travel Australia' it rebranded to the 'Student Travel Association'. Nowadays it is simply 'STA Travel'.

Whilst the first uses of the actual term 'gap year' are hard to find, it was certainly helped along with the launch in 1973 of GAP Activity Projects, now known as Lattitude Global Volunteers, a UK organisation facilitating volunteer placements for the 'Gap Year' in between school and university. Continuing on from where Nicholas Maclean-Bristol had forged the way 10 years earlier with Project Trust, GAP Activity Projects brought the gap year to the schools. A year later in 1978, The Prince of Wales with Colonel John Blashford-Snell formed the basis of what we know today as Raleigh International, launching Operation Drake, the first ever Gap Year Expedition - a round the world voyage following Sir Francis Drake's epic route. In 1984 Operation Raleigh was formed, renamed Raleigh International in 1992, by which time gap years were becoming more popular as a pre-university option to the wealthy few in private schools around the UK.

1980s: steady growth

In the UK in the 1980s the baby boomers were settling into family life with their young children and so travelling less and the next generation were influenced by the obsession for money, careers and wealth generation. The housing market crash meant less funds available for parents to fund youth travel. Steady UK and global growth continued as STA Travel opened up branches around the world. Other businesses followed suit (Usit Campus / Usit World), round the world tickets were developed for this new breed of young gap year traveller and the scene was set for the explosion of the 1990s.

1990s: the boom

A combination of the baby boomer's children reaching 18 (whose parents encouraged world travel as they did in their youth), the UK coming out of recession and new, exciting, colouful media channels to bring gap year products to market resulted in an explosion of activity in the UK as Gap Year Travel and Gap Year Volunteering took off pre, during and post University. Demand grew, prices for air travel fell and the roots of it becoming a 'rite of passage' were set. In Australia the first serious waves of young Australians heading to live and work in the UK started to appear.

2000-present: online developments, global growth, natural aging

July 2005 Mintel Gap Year Reports show a market valued UK outbound at £2.2bn and globally at £5bn. The fastest growing travel sector of the Millennium, predictions are that the global gap year market will grow to around £11bn by 2010. The market demographic is split into those aged 18-24 (pre, during and post university), 25-35 ('career gap', also known as 'Career Break' and 'Career Sabbatical') and 55-65 (pre and post retirement gappers). Very much an option for all in transition between life stages, the effect on the entry into higher level Education, the changing travel markets and staff retention in businesses around the world is staggering.

Gap Year growth is accelerating across all age groups in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. The US is expected to witness a boom in the coming years as the small percentage of those who have passports starts to rise.


Some students spend the time traveling, others spend the time working, and many combine these into an international working holiday. A popular option for gap year students, also known as "gappers", is international volunteering. In the wake of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, a great number of the volunteers who helped in South Asia were on a gap year.[2]

Many gap year students also earn money while overseas by working cash in hand, often in the hospitality industry. Another growing trend for gappers is to enroll in global education programs that combine language study, homestays, cultural immersion, community service, and independent study. Such experiential opportunities exist in countries from India to China and Morocco to Brazil.

Gap years by country


Australia currently has 19 reciprocal working holiday programs with countries, which include: Belgium, Canada, China, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Typically, restrictions for the working holiday visas include: being 18-30 yrs, proof of access to funds, and holding a valid passport. Work restrictions also apply to ensure that the purpose of the holiday is not to further an individual's career. The Australian Defence Force also runs a Gap Year program, where enlistees are only required to serve for up to a year.[3]

The UK and Canada remain two of the most popular destinations for Australians to visit every year, with 35,061 UK and 6,517 Canadian working holiday visas issued in 2003/4.


In the recent years the government have tried to limit the number of students who take a gap year. The need to get students sooner into the work space and a wish to preserve the unique Danish culture have meant the students are punished if they complete their education too slowly by traveling abroad or working full time for a period, limiting the possibility of taking a gap year.[4] In 2006, it was announced that fewer students than before had taken a gap year.[5] In April 2009, the government proposed a new law which gives a bonus to students who refrain from a gap year.[6]


In Israel, gap-years are mostly used for travel. A 3-year army service is compulsory - after which it is customary to travel. For the majority of Israelis, the first few months after dismissal are spent working and saving money for the trip. In order to spend as little time as possible working (rather than traveling) and as much time as possible on vacation, Israelis prefer traveling to the Far East, India or Indo-China due to the low cost of living there. Some who are drafted late use the time between high-school graduation and army service to travel.

Working holidays are also common practice, especially to Western countries such as the USA, Canada and Australia. Former combative infantrymen sometimes find jobs as weapons instructors or security personnel in various places around the globe, which can also be considered a sort of working holiday.

In Jewish summer camps in the diaspora (particularly in the USA and UK), there is a tendency to hire Israeli staff in hope that through the interaction with them the camper's connection with Israel would strengthen. This is considered Zionist, and is often arranged via the Jewish Agency.

Additionally, many Jewish teens in America take a gap year to Israel to study in Yeshiva or Midrasha (seminary) to learn more about their Jewish roots. Some popular choices for boys are Reishit Yerushalim, Sha'alvim, and Yeshivat Har Etziyon while some popular choices for the girls are Michlelet Mivaseret yirushalayim, Midreshet HaRova, and Midreshet Lindenbaum (Brovenders).


The most common form of gap year is work-holiday travel to another country, preferentially on another continent if the person taking it can afford the tickets. Australia and other English-speaking countries are among the most popular due to the high standard of Dutch high school courses in English, but culture/language immersion programmes in Spanish-speaking countries are increasingly popular, and are sometimes offered on all-in basis. Most will leave the Netherlands for only half the year, spending the other six months working to finance the trip. The Growth in popularity of the gap year concept in the Netherlands is evident by the formation of the first Dutch registered gap year company Xtreme Gap Year

The liberal arts college Academia Vitae offers a preacademic gap year in Deventer for young students to study liberal arts. This is not a common form of the gap year in the Netherlands. The Dutch gap year is also referred to as a tussenjaar.

United Kingdom

British citizens are able to take advantage of the European Union as well as the reciprocal arrangements that exist and live and work in an overseas country for an extended period of time. Australia, New Zealand and Canada remain popular destinations due to the cultural similarities and Commonwealth ties due to the British Empire.

Prince Harry popularised Africa as a Gap Year destination when he volunteered in South Africa in 2004. Other opportunities available include working in ski resorts in Canada, camp roles in America and working in the Australian Outback.

There are many gap year providers in the U.K. that provide opportunities for people of all ages. Many providers are listed on gap year directory sites.

Popular gap year projects include Project Trust based on the Isle of Coll, Shumba Experience based in Brighton, Think Pacific based in Leeds, Lattitude based in Reading, and Quest Overseas based in Hove.

United States of America

In the United States, the practice of taking a "gap year" or "year off" before entering college remains relatively rare. This can be partially traced to the considerably higher cost of post-secondary education in the U.S.. Many American students cannot afford to take a year off. In 2008, more than 65.6% of all undergraduate students relied on loans to finance their education, with an average debt of roughly US$23,186 (excluding PLUS Loans but including Stafford, Perkins, state, college and private loans). Among graduate students in 2008, 56.4% relied on loans, with an average debt totaling roughly US$40,297.[7]

Some organizations have offered young Americans structured gap year programs. These include Dynamy, with sites in Worcester, Massachusetts and Santa Rosa, California. Another American gap year option is City Year, with locations in urban centers around the U.S.. Other companies also offer cultural immersion and community service travel programs around the world, including semester programs, residential community living and education in specific areas. Some companies offer structured service learning gap year programs which combine community service and cross-cultural learning experiences.

See also


  1. ^ "Planning a gap year". nidirect Government Services. 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  2. ^ Walker, Tim (29 September 2005). "A year to save the world". The Independent. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  3. ^ "ADF Gap Year". ADF Education. 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  4. ^ Andersen, Lars Otto (29 November 2004). "Sabbatår - sundt eller skadeligt?" (in Danish). Berlingske Tidende. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  5. ^ Stadigt yngre studerende med færre sabbatår starter på universiteterne, Pressrelease, Universitet og Bygningsstyrelsen, Ministeriet for Videnskab, teknologi og Udvikling
  6. ^ "Committee proposes cash incentives for speedy students". Jyllands-Posten. The Copenhagen Post. 5 May 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Student Loans". The SmartStudent Guide to Financial Aid. FinAid Page. 2009. Retrieved 19 November 2009. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Gap year travel article)

From Wikitravel

This article is a travel topic.

A gap year is an extended break that some people take at a life transition, such as between studies, between study and work, or between careers.

There's no need for such a trip to be precisely a year, of course, but a year is a typical length of time for people who have just finished secondary school: they typically have to delay university entrance for a year to take the time off. Some of the same principles can be applied to just a summer between school and college, or any extended break "between jobs".

This article discusses options for low budget long-term travel of the type that a gap year traveler might be interested in.


Pre-departure planning is important. No matter how much you plan for the trip there may be instances where you have to throw all the planning out the window. However, there are certain things you should watch for and plan for:


Check with the appropriate consulate or embassy in your country to find out if you will need a visa to visit the country of your destination, especially for an extended period of time. Some countries have extremely detailed and complicated entry/departure laws, and treat visits of a week or two very differently from longer stays. IATA Visa Database [1], provided by Delta, is an excellent place to check whether you need a visa or not.


Itineraries are important for two people: the traveler and the traveler's family. Some parents will be more supportive of allowing their son or daughter to go abroad if they know where they'll be. An itinerary may be helpful in the event that an emergency happens and somebody needs to contact you while you're away, and helps to satisfy a parent's instinctive need to know where their children are. An itinerary describes the route of the journey or tour or the proposed outline of one.


If you're traveling to one area, check the cost of living there. If it's high you'll probably want to budget more carefully and save some money before leaving. The lower the cost of living the less you'll have to save, but be sure to have a back up reserve in emergency cases.

Consider opening a second account in your home country and allow your parents or a close relative to have access to the account. In the event that you have to come home early they can withdraw money from the account, which can be used to purchase a return ticket for you.

Get in and around

If your gap year is going to involve several stops in several different countries and continents, you should look into the many budget tickets designed for long term travel. Gap year travellers are often referred to as backpackers and will often receive discounted travel. Examples include:

By plane

Open ended return tickets allow you to come home at any time within a year. They're more expensive than regular round-trip tickets, but are cheaper than two one-way tickets. Open-jaw tickets allow you to return from a different city than the one you flew into. Also more expensive than a standard return ticket, but cheaper than two one-way tickets, and may be worth saving you the cost and time of returning to the city you started in. If your travel plans are more ambitious than that, round the world flights might fit your needs.

By train

Long term train tickets aimed at backpackers and travelers. Sometimes these will let you travel more cheaply than any local fares. Examples include the Eurail pass in Europe, the Backpacker rail pass [2] in Australia, and for travelers in North America, see Rail travel in North America.


A long trip may be impossible to save for in advance. Often gap year travelers want to support their journey by taking work, often of a low-skilled and/or intermittent nature. Unfortunately, working in other countries often requires a work visa. Typically these are onerous for gap year travelers: you need to find an employer to apply for the visa, the visa is expensive, and the employer must show that they cannot hire someone with your skills locally. The work visa will be tied to your term at that employer. However, there are some visa schemes and work schemes that cater specifically to those who are looking for a job to support their travel.

If you are a citizen of certain countries, you can work in some other countries without needing a visa at all:

  • citizens of a European Union country can work in other EU countries without a visa
  • citizens of Australia and New Zealand can each work in the other country without a visa

Gap year travelers who are under 30 should look into visa arrangements where you can go to a country for a certain period of time, often 12 months and sometimes up to 24, and work intermittently. The intention of the visa is that you work in order to fund your trip, and there will typically be restrictions on your working including: not working for more than a certain amount of time during the visa period, not working for any one employer for a long period, working only in specified industries and sometimes not working in jobs that further your career path.

These are typically reciprocal arrangements: your country will offer visas of this sort to citizens of certain other countries and those other countries will do the same for you. Hence it is best to check with your own country's foreign affairs officials to see if you have reciprocal visas, and if so, with which countries.

See Working abroad for suggested employers and industries, and Teaching English for one type of job.


An increasingly more popular option for those planning a gap-year is to travel and learn. This is especially popular with school leavers, allowing them to take a year out before university, without compromising their education. In many cases, enrolling on a gap-year course abroad can actually improve your chances of moving into higher education back in your home country. Typically there will be a tuition fee to enrol on these educational programs. There are two reasons for this: firstly, many of these courses are run by private institutions, and secondly, because international students rarely attract government funding.

There are a number of organisations offering gap year educational programmes. A few of these include:

  • Theatre Cyprus - A Gap-Year Theatre Training Programme [3], a Gap-Year drama programme that offers a 10 month course in Cyprus and also allows time to explore the surrounding continents (Europe, North Africa and the Middle East).


As an alternative, or to complement the working holiday, many people have chosen to embark on a volunteering experience. These meaningful experiences allow individuals the chance to give back to the international community, whether this be teaching in underprivileged schools, working with animals in Africa, or helping with community development project. Typically there will be a fee to participate in these programs, and participants are not paid. Prince Harry most famously embarked on a volunteering Gap Year in 2004 when he went to South Africa.

There are many organisations offering gap year placements. A few of these are:

  • Xtreme Gap [4] The adventure travel and extreme sports gap year company
  • Global Vision International [5], Specialists in gap year expeditions such as marine expeditions in the Indian Ocean and exploration in Patagonia. GVI also has over 150 volunteering projects around the world.
  • RealGap UK [6] RealGap DE [7], Specialists in gap years, career breaks & adventure travel holidays. RealGap are experts in providing unique & exciting volunteer projects, working holiday programmes & backpacking packages across the world.
  • The Leap [8], a family run British organisation that offers gap year placements in Africa, Asia, South America and Australia.
  • Gap Year Ghana [9], small organisation specializing in volunteer placements in Ghana, West Africa.
  • Raleigh [10] Youth and education charity offering challenging enviromental, community and adventure programmes for 17-75 year olds in Borneo, Costa Rica & Nicaragua and India
  • Projects Abroad [11], Global organiser of overseas voluntary work placements. Projects Abroad runs placements like Teaching, Care, Conservation & Environment, Medicine & Healthcare, Sports, Culture & Community projects and Journalism.
  • EDGE of AFRICA [12], Small organization that offers volunteer and internship placements in Southern Africa. Conservation, community and sports volunteer placements available as well as family and tailor made positions.
  • VAE Kenya [13], a small UK organisation that organises challenging teaching placements in rural Kenyan schools.
  • Skills Venture [14], a new company that runs short sabbaticals for US and UK business professionals, spent providing mentoring and consultancy support to entrepreneurs in Kenya.
  • Cross-Cultural Solutions(CCS)[15] is a non-profit organization that offers 1-12 week volunteer abroad programs in 12 countries, where you work side-by-side with local people, stay in a CCS Home-Base, and learn first-hand about local customs by participating in Cultural & Learning Activities.

Simple English

A gap year refers to time taken between completing secondary school and going to a university or college or also between college and graduate school or a profession. It is generally a practice of young people from the United Kingdom, Australia, and the United States. The time between the two events is often, but not always, a year.


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