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Best Gap Year programs 2023 & 2024 with International Volunteer HQ

Best Gap Year Programs 2023 & 2024

Affordable & Flexible Gap Year Programs Trusted By 133,000+ Volunteers

International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ offer the world’s most trusted and affordable gap year programs in more than 40 countries across Europe, the USA, Africa, Asia, South America, Central America, the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Middle East.

Volunteering or interning abroad is a popular way to spend your gap year (or part of it!) because it provides the opportunity to explore the world in an ethical way, gain international experience and give back to communities in need. Our affordable gap year programs abroad start at just $20 per day with everything organized for you, including accommodation, meals, airport pickup and more.

While gap years are typically taken after high school, after college or after graduating, many people are also choosing to take gap years later in life as a career break or during retirement. Our internships and volunteer programs are available year-round and range from medical and teaching English to wildlife conservation and NGO support.

Whether you want to volunteer abroad, intern abroad or intern remotely, we have a diverse range of gap year opportunities that can be mixed and matched to create the ultimate gap year experience.

What are the best gap year organizations?

IVHQ and Intern Abroad HQ offer the best gap year opportunities by providing the most affordable and regenerative way to immerse yourself in new cultures and give back through gap year travel:

Looking for a gap year plan to suit your schedule and budget? Get in touch with our team of highly experienced Gap Year Planners, so that we can provide you with personalized program recommendations based on your travel goals, life ambitions and the causes you care about.

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Read Lara and Lisa’s story

For me, a gap year was the best option to give me a break from studying, let me explore and give me a bit more time to think about exactly what it was that I wanted to study. There is no doubt it’s a big decision to make, but it just could be the best decision you ever make.

Read Lara and Lisa’s story

Best gap year programs after high school & college

If you’re taking a gap year after high school or college, you’ll want to explore vibrant new cultures, make an impact in local communities, discover stunning landscapes and gain worthwhile career experience to add to your resume. Gap semester programs are the perfect way to achieve this.

Gap year students who want to give back and make a difference on an overseas adventure often choose to volunteer abroad, while those looking to gain international work experience and explore their career path in preparation for college or the workforce opt to intern abroad or remotely. Gap year seekers wanting to achieve all of the above often do a combination of all three!

For those interested in pursuing a career in healthcare, we have a wide range of medical gap year volunteer programs and medical internships available. We also offer gap year volunteer programs and internships for teens, high school students and under 18s.

Browse by project type or your area of study below and get inspired!

Explore volunteer project highlights

Discover internship program highlights

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Best Europe gap year programs

Taking a gap year in Europe is a meaningful way to explore some of the greatest art, culture and cuisines of the world, while living like a local and making a genuine impact. Gap year programs in Europe range from volunteering with refugees and the homeless to internships in sustainable tourism, cultural arts and more.

Gap year volunteering in Europe

Gap year internships in Europe

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Best Africa gap year programs

Taking a gap year in Africa is guaranteed to change your worldview, push you out of your comfort zone and give you a life changing experience. Gap year programs in Africa range from building schools and conserving native wildlife to women’s education and medical internships.

Gap year volunteering in Africa

Gap year internships in Africa

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Read Kelly’s gap year story

Taking a gap year to travel and volunteer can create a better, well-rounded you, who will only be more ready to take on a career. This trip reassured me that I am doing the right thing in my life right now and that I can better myself from an experience where I immerse myself in a new and interesting way of life.

Read Kelly’s gap year story

Best Pacific & Asia gap year programs

Taking a gap year in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and Asia is an excellent way to immerse yourself in diverse new cultures, learn invaluable life skills and discover the charming locals and delicious cuisines these regions have to offer. Gap year programs in Asia-Pacific range from teaching English and turtle conservation to marketing and fashion internships.

Gap year volunteering in Asia-Pacific

Gap year internships in Asia-Pacific

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Best Latin America gap year programs

Taking a gap year in South America, Central America and the Caribbean is a unique opportunity to explore stunning landscapes and travel in a regenerative and meaningful way, while giving back to local communities. Gap year programs in Latin America range from community development and volunteering with animals to youth development and psychology internships.

Gap year volunteering in Latin America

Gap year internships in Latin America

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Gap year alternative to going abroad

Not looking to go abroad? We offer plenty of gap year opportunities that don’t require travel by getting stuck into a remote internship from your laptop! Through interning remotely with an organization abroad, you’ll quickly discover that you can still be immersed in new cultures without going overseas.

Remote gap year internships

Remote gap year internships

Launch your global career from your laptop - wherever you are in the world! Intern Abroad HQ’s remote internships enable you to gain international experience from home or while traveling. Choose your own hours, start when you want and make an impact on real world projects within startups, NGOs and other innovative organizations around the globe.

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Does taking a gap year make you more employable?

Research shows that students who take a gap year get better grades with the positive effects lasting over the entire four years of college! And it's not just academic performance that improves: 98% of students said their gap year helped them develop as a person and 96% agreed their self-confidence increased.

Employers favor applicants who have spent some time living or working with people from other countries. Completing an overseas internship, volunteer experience or remote internship is an exciting way to do this as it demonstrates leadership, teamwork and the ability to work well in a cross-cultural setting. These transferable skills are seen as highly valuable. You can even gain college credit when you volunteer or intern abroad on one of our programs - make it a super afforable option for building credit.

How to prepare for your gap year

With the support of our experienced Gap Year Program Managers and specialized preparation tools, we ensure you are well equipped to get the most out of your gap year experience. We also offer exclusive discounts on online courses which are popular with gap year program participants looking to upskill before traveling abroad. These discounted online courses can also be taken independently - you don’t need to be traveling abroad to get the certifications!

Online TEFL course

Online TEFL course

Taking an online TEFL course enables you to build confidence as a teacher, learn new skills, enhance your employability, prep for future adventures or even start a side hustle from home! IVHQ offers instant access to a specialized online TEFL course at a discounted rate.

Virtual volunteering course

Virtual volunteering course

The Certificate in International Volunteering is a three hour virtual volunteering course from the Global Travel Academy. Join travel gurus as they journey through twelve counties to learn about volunteering best practice and how to handle real-life challenges on the road.

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Watch IVHQ and Intern Abroad HQ Gap Year Webinar 2023
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Webinar: Making the most of your gap year with IVHQ & Intern Abroad HQ

Need some help planning your gap year adventure? Watch this webinar replay where we give you tips and tricks to make the most of your year of self-discovery through a volunteer abroad program or an internship experience.


A gap year program is a structured break taken after high school or before college/university, offering opportunities for experiential learning, personal growth, and exploration. Gap year participants engage in a diverse range of activities such as travel, volunteering and internships to gain valuable life experiences, develop skills, and broaden their perspective before pursuing further education or work.

A gap year provides beneficial opportunities for personal growth, self-discovery, global perspective, cultural understanding, experiential learning, service to others, career exploration, improved well-being, academic readiness, resume building, increased self-confidence, and international networking.

Types of gap year programs include volunteer programs, internships/work experiences, language immersion, adventure/outdoor programs, academic/study abroad, and other experiential learning opportunities.

Gap year programs involve selecting a program, completing an application process, and preparing for the experience. The gap year program can vary in duration and structure, offering activities like volunteering, internships, language study, or cultural immersion. Participants receive support and guidance throughout the program and may engage in reflection and evaluation. Upon completion, they return home or continue their journey.

International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ provide participants with dedicated pre-departure support, as well as 24/7 in-country support through a team of local coordinators.

Gap year programs typically have a duration ranging from a few months to a full academic year. In terms of start dates, gap year programs usually align with the academic calendar. Many programs begin in the late summer or early fall, around August or September, following high school graduation. This allows participants to take a gap year before starting college or other educational pursuits.

International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ offer gap year programs with year-round start dates and flexible durations to accommodate participants’ preferences and schedules. Both organizations also offer a flexible booking policy which makes it easy to make free changes to your program if your plans change.

Gap year programs can offer a wide range of destinations and locations. The availability of specific destinations and locations will vary depending on the program provider. For example, International Volunteer HQ offers gap year programs in 42 countries and Intern Abroad HQ offers programs in 22 countries. Some popular destinations for gap year programs include:

  • Southeast Asia: Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Indonesia
  • Central America and South America: Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, and Brazil
  • Africa: South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, and Morocco
  • Europe: UK, Spain, France, Italy, Portugal and Greece
  • Oceania: Australia and New Zealand
  • North America: United States and Mexico

The costs associated with gap year programs can vary depending on factors such as program duration, destination, inclusions, and level of support. Typical cost considerations include program fees, travel expenses, visa costs (if relevant), personal expenses, insurance, and optional activities.

International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ strive to offer the best value gap year programs with low fees and everything organized for you. You can review the affordable volunteer program fees and internship program fees to see the costs and what’s included.

Scholarships and financial aid options are available for gap year participants. Program-specific scholarships, external scholarships, and financial aid from colleges/universities can help cover expenses. Crowdfunding, personal fundraising, and saving money are additional options. Research and plan ahead, considering eligibility requirements and application deadlines for scholarships or financial aid. Seek guidance from a high school or college advisor for assistance.

You can review this list of intern abroad scholarships to see some of the opportunities available for gap year students.

To choose the right gap year program:

  1. Reflect on your interests and goals
  2. Research programs that align with your interests
  3. Consider program structure, duration, safety, and review from previous participants
  4. Evaluate the cost and explore financial aid options
  5. Assess the level of support and mentorship provided
  6. Communicate with program representatives and attend online information sessions
  7. Seek advice from mentors or advisors
  8. Make an informed decision based on your evaluations and preferences

Eligibility requirements for gap year programs can vary. In general, participants should meet age requirements, typically 18 or older. However, International Volunteer HQ offers some volunteer programs for 16-year-olds. Educational background may be considered for gap year programs like internships, but formal education beyond high school is not always required. Review program details for specific eligibility criteria and contact program providers for clarification.

Both International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ prioritizes safety of participants by offering pre-departure support, in-country assistance, safety guidance, accommodation/project assessments, 24/7 emergency support, and risk management procedures. They provide comprehensive training and orientations and have local teams to address participants’ needs and ensure their well-being during a gap year.

The option to receive academic credit through a gap year program is available through some gap year organizations like International Volunteer HQ and Intern Abroad HQ. Participants can complete a service learning course through an IVHQ or Intern Abroad HQ program, earn up to 16 credits, and obtain a transcript through IVHQ’s School of Record partnerships. This makes volunteering or interning abroad for your gap year an affordable way to earn course credit while exploring the world. All participants will also receive a certificate of program completion and can request an international reference to accompany a job application.

You can typically apply for a Gap Year program through the website of your chosen gap year organization. To apply for a gap year program, follow these steps:

  1. Choose your gap year program
  2. Review program details, requirements, and fees
  3. Complete the application form
  4. Await confirmation of your acceptance
  5. Confirm your placement by paying a registration fee or deposit
  6. Follow pre-departure instructions
  7. Prepare for your gap year experience

How to get started

Pick a destination + project and apply for free
Meet your personal volunteer travel expert
Pay the Registration Fee to secure your place and upgrade your MyIVHQ account
Get ready to volunteer abroad, we’ll support you every step of the way!