Gap Year Ideas: Inspiring things to do during a gap year

Written by Kerstin Lakits, Dec 28, 2023

Did you finish high school or your bachelor’s degree and need a break from studying and want to experience something before continuing your education? Then a gap year is the answer. During your gap year, you can gain new experiences and find new energy and motivation. There are many gap year ideas and activities. We are going to give you ideas for your gap year and tips on how to plan and finance your gap year activities!

Table of contents:

Definition: What is a Gap Year?

A gap year is a break between two educational cycles, for example between high school and college. It doesn’t have to last a whole year, but you can choose a time period that works for you. Oftentimes this break is the perfect opportunity to think about where you want to go in the future. You can decide yourself what you want to do during your gap year.

Gap Year after high school

Many students are fatigued after graduating from high school and require a break to regenerate before starting an apprenticeship, vocational training or your studies. Some students don’t even know exactly what they want to do after high school and need more time to find the right path. In these cases, a gap year is the ideal solution because you can gain new experiences that make you happy and give you inspiration for the future.

Gap Year after your bachelor’s degree

After successfully finishing your bachelor’s degree, you can take some time to refuel your energy tanks, acquire work experience or engage in further training in an industry-related or new sector. Afterwards you will be able to begin your master’s degree or start your first job with practical experiences or new knowledge.

Gap Year during your studies: Is that possible?

Taking a break from or interrupting your studies can be a little bit more complicated and have negative consequences. If you need to take a break from your studies because of a long illness, pregnancy, civil or public service, childcare obligations or other important reasons, you can apply for a leave of absence.

If none of these reasons apply, you can either deregister and later re-register for your studies or stay registered without attending class. However, these options can be problematic, when it comes to family benefit, student’s benefit or the curriculum. It is possible that you are no longer eligible for family or student’s benefits, that the curriculum changes in the meantime or that you will be deregistered from your studies because of insufficient study performance or taking too long with your studies. You can find more information at the Student’s Benefit Agency, Chamber of Labour or the Social Department of the ÖH (Austrian Student Representation).

Overview: The Pros and Cons of a Gap Year

A break to recover, to find your professional path or gain experience has advantages and disadvantages. In order to decide whether a gap year is the right choice for you, we have put together an overview for you.

self-reflectiondelayed start of your training or career
improve language skillsfinancial strain
intercultural competenciesdifficulties returning to student life
gain (work) experiencemissing recognition/holes in your CV
career opportunitiesplanning and time investment
professional orientation

Advantages of a gap year

The biggest advantage is the myriad of opportunities for trying new things, which allows you to reflect on what you want to study afterwards or in which sector you want to work later on. Gaining work experience during your gap year will improve career opportunities and help you build a network. If you spend your gap year abroad, you can improve your language skills and intercultural competencies. These soft skills will be a big advantage later on.

Disadvantages of a gap year

A gap year comes with a lot of organisational effort, since you have to take care where you spend your gap year and what you want to do. If you want to work, you need to find a position. You need to pay for your gap year yourself. Therefore, financing your gap year can be a challenge or disadvantage. Your gap year will delay the start of your education or job. Furthermore, there will be a hole in your CV, which you oftentimes have to justify during job interviews.

Gap Year Ideas I: Stay Domestic and Explore Your Homeland

During your gap year, you can stay in the country to travel, do volunteer work or do an internship. For these gap year ideas, you don’t need foreign language skills. The planning and financing of this type of gap year are easier than abroad.

Volunteer work in the country

Volunteer work is a charitable way to spend your gap year. You will do something good for others and gain valuable experiences at the same time. Furthermore, volunteer work is a beautiful addition to your CV. Oftentimes, there is financial support for volunteer work. Here are some organisations that offer volunteer work in Austria:

Here is further information on volunteer work in Austria!

Another possibility of volunteer work as a gap year activity is a Voluntary Social Year or an Voluntary Environmental Protection Year. These projects are remunerated with some pocket money and free climate ticket for public transport! Keep the application deadline in mind!

Internship in the country

An internship is an amazing opportunity to gain work experience and get connected to other professionals. This gap year activity will impress your future employers. Furthermore, you can find out whether this work or this sector is right for you or whether you want to change your path. These practical experiences can also be helpful in your future educational steps. The Chamber of Labour offers helpful tips for finding an internship!

Traveling in your country

How much have you seen of your home country? A gap year is the ideal moment to discover gorgeous places and get to know the local and regional traditions. During your trip and your vacation, you can relax and refill your energy tanks to start your next training opportunity with motivation. Think about the expenses (transport, accommodation, living costs) and come up with a plan for your budget. There are specific tips in the section on financing your gap year of this blog.

If you want to discover beautiful places in Austria, you can find tips for Graz, Krems, Lambach, Villach or more in our blog!

Gap Year Ideas II: Explore New Horizons Abroad

Many students want to spend their gap year abroad and discover new cultures there, which is one of the most popular gap year activities. Au Pair, Work & Travel, an internship abroad, language trip or volunteer work are great opportunities for a gap year abroad. Of course, These gap year activities obviously come with more organisational work and financial investments.

Au Pair

If you like working with children, this gap year idea is perfect for you. As an au pair, you will live for some time with a family abroad. Your tasks include taking care of the children and doing some household chores. The accommodation and food are free and oftentimes you will get some pocket money. During your work as an au pair, you can improve your language skills, find international friends and gain experience in working with children.

There are many providers who can help you organise your stay as an au pair. For example: EF, AIFS or Au

Work & Travel

Work & Travel gives you the opportunity to gain work experience, meet new people and discover a new country. Usually, Work & Travel is about temporary jobs, such as harvest workers, servers, customer support, handing out flyers. As a reward for your work, you are provided with accommodation and food. Sometimes you even receive some pocket money for this type of gap year activities. The requirements for Work & Travel are:

  • Between 18 and 30 years old
  • Valid passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Visa with a work permit (if necessary)
  • Proof of financial means (depends on the welcoming country)

WorkAway, AIFS and Global Work and Travel offer Work & Travel opportunities in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Language trip

If you want to work on your language skills and dive into a new culture, you should pick a language trip for your gap year. Your language skills will quickly improve since you are immersed in the language on a daily basis and “forced” to speak the language in order to talk to the locals.

Which languages do you speak? In which countries is this language spoken? How long do you want to stay? These questions are a good starting point for planning your language trip. There are several providers who offer language trips all around the world. Check out EF, ESL, AIFS or STS!

Volunteer work abroad

Do you want to combine volunteer work and traveling abroad? Then you should spend your gap year abroad doing something good for others. International organisations, such as the International Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, WWF or Amnesty International, have branch offices all around the world and are looking for support from volunteers. Volunteer work abroad is sometimes also subsidised and financially supported.

Internship abroad

Thanks to an internship abroad, you can gain work experience on an international level, connect with other professionals and improve your language skills. This could be an advantage for future employers. This type of gap year requires a lot of autonomy, effort and planning if this is not an obligatory internship. Find a country with a language you speak. Then you can look for internships in that country. For your research you can use local job platforms or EURES, the platform for work opportunities in Europe.

Here is a complete article on internships abroad!

Travel abroad

There is another opportunity for spending your gap year abroad: traveling and vacations. Discover new parts of the world, go on an adventure and relax before continuing your training or starting to work. How about discovering Europe by train (interrail)? Or maybe you want to travel to exotic places, such as America, Africa or Asia? There is nothing holding you back from your adventure! You should also draw up a budget for your travel to avoid unpleasant surprises.

Planning and Preparation for a Gap Year

No matter which of these gap year activities you choose, planning is key. You should start planning early on since there are some deadlines (e.g. applying for a visa, registering for volunteer work, applying for an internship). The preparation for the above-mentioned gap year ideas can roughly be divided into the following steps:

  1. Decide how you want to spend your gap year: volunteer work, au pair, work & travel, traveling, internship or language trip? In your home country or abroad? How long should the gap year last?
  2. Look for offers or counselling with providers or agencies (EF, AIFS, Global Work and Travel, ESL, STS, WorkAway, etc.) or look for jobs or internships yourself
  3. Plan your arrival and find an accommodation
  4. Take care of your visa, work permit, health insurance, etc. (if necessary)

Furthermore, you should make sure whether your gap year affects your eligibility for family benefit, health insurance, etc. The Federal Ministry of Finances or your health care provider can give your more detailed information.

Financing your gap year

Depending on the gap year idea you pick, you will incur more or less costs. Generally, the gap year activities abroad are more expensive since you have to pay for the transportation and sometimes the accommodation. Here is an overview of possible expenses:

  • Arrival and departure
  • Public transportation
  • Free time, activities, etc.
  • Possibly accommodation and food
  • Possibly additional insurance
  • Possibly public service fees (visa, work permit, etc.)
  • Possibly fees for the organising agency

In order to keep your expenses at bay, you can find some tips for low-budget traveling!

In most cases, you only earn a little pocket money or remuneration for an internship. If your accommodation or food is not covered by your work, for example as with Work & Travel and au pair, you need a lot of financial means to finance your gap year. For some gap year activities, especially volunteer work, you can receive financial support and benefits from the State or associations.

Here is an article on the financing of your stay abroad!


All these gap year ideas will definitely enrich your life as a student and as a professional. You will gain valuable experiences, which will help you during your training or work later in life. This break gives you the opportunity to relax, gain practical experiences, meet new people and work on your soft skills. Of course, you need to invest some time into planning as well as money into your gap year. However, there are many great offers and things to do for your gap year.

If you would like to spend some time abroad during your studies, you can check out our articles on a semester abroad and studying abroad!


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