Our Picks: 10 Ways People Spent a Free/Low Budget Gap Year
No Money? No Problem. There's plenty to do.
1. Farmed in Norway and saw the Northern Lights
Most hosts on WWOOF and Workaway cover all accommodation and food costs, and you can meet people from all walks of life.
Through WWOOF, Aeshna C. (Columbia ’21) worked on a farm in Norway to see the Northern Lights; read about it here. With Workaway, Isabella B. (Manchester Metropolitan U.) worked at a glamping site in Portugal. Find out more about her experience here.
2. Worked at a ski resort in the French Alps and skiied for free
The pay is decent, and you get to enjoy an expensive sport for nearly nothing.
Tom Kim (University College of London ’20) worked as a waiter at a ski resort in the French Alps, and and Anna Greene (Stanford ’21) worked for a ski resort in Colorado. Want to know how they found the jobs? Read about Tom's experience here, and Anna's here.
3. Became fluent in Chinese, 100% funded by the State Department
National Security Language Initiative for Youth is academically intense, but a sure way to improve your language skills.
Clara S. and Cami K. (Stanford ’21) spent a year in Beijing through the NSLI-Y program; read more here. Emily L. (Wellesley ’21) lived in Marrakech, Morocco for a year through the same program; read about it here.
4. Stayed at a temple
Many temples offer varying lengths of working stays, during which you work a few hours a day in exchange for meals, accommodation, and meditation lessons.
Jiyoung J. (Stanford ’21) worked at the Kadampa World Peace Temple and Meditation Center, where she met some incredibly kind and wise people, while learning more about a religion she was interested in. Learn more here.
5. Biked alone from Oregon to Arizona
Sterling reflects that it's a great way to build your character and to push yourself.
Sterling D. (Stanford '21) did a solo biking trip from Oregon to Arizona, and highly recommends it. Read more here. Rein (Scripps '20) biked alone from Belgium to Spain; read about her experience here.
6. Worked at a college counseling office in Seoul, Korea.
Explore a career field and save up for your trips.
Minji C. (Smith '20) got a job at an international school, and worked at its college counseling office; read more here. Don't be afraid to work at home; you can gain valuable lessons and save up a lot of money. Read about more cool jobs and internships that people did here.
7. Worked for an education reform nonprofit in China
Many nonprofits offer fellowships/volunteer positions with living stipends.
Jiyoung J. (Stanford ’21) worked for PEER China, living and teaching at a high school in Southern China. Accommodation, food, and living stipend all provided. Check out Jiyoung's experience here. Email nonprofits or apply for positions at organizations like Teach for America.
8. Founded a sandal company
Make something you wish existed. Just do it.
Sterling D. built a company that makes sandals out of recycled tires, and Jiyoung J. and Sasha L. built this website. Anonymous (Scripps ’20) spent a part of her year building a fashion blog. Check out entrepreneurial ways to spend your gap year here.
9. Trained working dogs (i.e. rescue dogs, search dogs)
Search for research opportunities in local universities.
Anonymous (Wesleyan U. ’18) worked at U. Penn’s Vet Working Dog Center, where he trained various working dogs (rescue dogs, search dogs, medical alert dogs, etc.). Read more here.
10. Arrived in Chile without a plan, met an artisan, made goat skin moccasins
Venture somewhere planless, and ask locals for jobs.
Sterling D. traveled to Chile without a plan, and met an artisan who gave her a job. Read about how she made this happen here. Going somewhere planless could feel very risky, but it can be extremely rewarding and worthwhile.
Need travel fees? Don't be afraid to work at home for a bit.
Ronen S. (Chicago ‘20) worked as a busboy in New York for several months before using WWOOF to stay for free in Italy. He even saved enough money to through hike the Appalachian Trail! Katerina P. (Vassar ‘20) funded her own year by babysitting and working in a bakery for several months, and was able to travel through Europe and Central America.