Should I Take a Gap Year Abroad?

Gap Year Pros and Cons

As with anything in life, gap programs have their advantages and disadvantages. If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a different culture or want to volunteer abroad, picking the right program for you takes time and research.

To help you spend less time researching and more time traveling, here is a list of gap year pros and cons to help you decide if a gap year abroad is right for you:

AMIGOS Gap student Mateo leads an activity with students in Nicaragua
AMIGOS Gap student Mateo leads an activity with students in Nicaragua

GAP YEAR PROS

Job Experience and Resume Building

Many students worry that taking a gap year will be hard to explain on college or job applications. But in reality, showcasing that you’ve taken time to explore your interests and leave your comfort zone can work wonders in a job search!

Not only is it an incredible resume booster, but it can provide you with vital skills like leadership, adaptability, and communication. In fact, gap years provide the type of competence and experience that the college experience doesn’t always offer.

Many gap year programs include career and internship opportunities. This means that you’ll have the chance to gain both valuable life and work skills. Our Gap Programs at AMIGOS are internship-based, so you’ll get the chance to volunteer at a local business or nonprofit and develop skills to last a lifetime!

College Prep

Taking a gap year can help better prepare you for college by providing a prime opportunity to learn in an unfamiliar environment. A gap year can help you learn to trust yourself. It can also teach you how to manage your time and work independently.

In addition, many colleges see gap years as a positive for admission. It demonstrates a candidate’s ability to venture forward and face new challenges. Some colleges like Tufts or Harvard even offer incentives for gap year applicants or partner with organizations like AMIGOS and offer gap years of their own.

Through the Gap Year Association, the AMIGOS Gap Program also has the option for college credit!

Finding Your Passions Through Travel

Don’t forget that taking a gap year means you’ll be doing some serious traveling! There’s nothing like being in an entirely new place to help you understand who you are and the world you live in. You’ll have shared experiences with people from all walks of life. There is so much to learn from new people as well as sharing your own experiences.

Traveling through the lens of service and learning means finding your passions and what matters to you in life. For lots of students, time abroad after years of sitting in a classroom can be eye opening.

Whether you’re in Cuenca, Ecuador or Montevideo, Uruguay with AMIGOS, you’ll have a lot of time to explore your passions with independence like no other gap year program. You’ll also go on awesome excursions around the country with other volunteers to local must-see spots!

Learning Responsibility Through Goal Setting

Life-changing experiences abroad provide the opportunity to learn responsibility in a highly unique and personalized way. For many students, a gap year or semester is the first opportunity they’ve had to flex their independence. This can help you better set goals and prepare you for what’s ahead in your life, whether it’s college, a career, or other adventures!

AMIGOS Gap student Audrey paints a mural as part of her internship.
AMIGOS Gap student Audrey paints a mural as part of her internship.

CONS OF A GAP YEAR

Cost

Gap years include lodging, travel, and a variety of other expenses. These can be rather costly. Luckily, many programs offer financial aid, and many agencies offer grants and scholarships for students who wish to volunteer abroad.

At AMIGOS, our program fees include on-site training, food, lodging, a 24-hour on-call safety team, insurance, excursions, and transportation costs. To make these experiences a reality for our volunteers, we provide student-led fundraising opportunities and platforms, as well as financial assistance packages thanks to our generous donors.

Learn more about our financial assistance here.

Falling Behind

Many students fear that a gap year will make them fall behind their peers. Academically, this is hardly the case. A gap year isn’t a year off: it’s a year of learning and experience.

Still, when it comes to a gap year between high school and college, students often have to return to school and complete a four-year program. This can set them back a year behind peers who went straight from high school to college. Though this may be the case, studies have shown that students who take a gap year substantially overperform in college upon returning and ultimately are more satisfied with their careers post-graduation.

Risk “Losing Momentum”

Many students risk “losing momentum” when it comes to taking a gap year. They fear that taking a gap between school years will leave them unable to succeed once they return. But it turns out that a gap year can actual help boost motivation!

After 12 years of going to school every day, spending afternoons and weekends doing extracurricular activities like sports teams or music lessons, then studying for every SAT, ACT, and more, students can get burnt out! Taking time off to reset and get ready for a new academic chapter can help recharge your excitement for learning again.

Homesickness

Traveling anywhere can bring feelings of loneliness and homesickness, especially if it’s for a longer period of time. Because gap programs typically last at least a few months, there are days where volunteers miss home. But once you join AMIGOS, we’re here to support you every step of the way.

Volunteers get the chance to connect with people around the world! You’ll bond with your host family over meals, make friends at your internship, and spend time with fellow Gap Program volunteers throughout your time abroad.

You’ll also have several staff members whose job is to support you during your time abroad. Volunteers have regular check ins to help each student navigate through successfully. Volunteers are able to reach out to any member of the staff team at any time as well as access our 24/7 On-Call Safety Team (including a network of medical and mental health professionals) based in the U.S.

When you join an AMIGOS Gap Program, you’re becoming a part of a 55+ year tradition and a family of over 29,000 alumni.

Want to get out of your element?