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Spend Your Gap Year in Asia

Nick Callos
Written By
By Nick Callos
Spend your gap year in Asia - Volunteer Forever - stock

What’s a gap year exactly?

It specifically means taking a year off between high school and college. Many universities let you defer admission for a year. And you can use the time to learn, travel, and think about what you want to study and do with your life.

The gap year is becoming more popular. Major universities have seen a 33% increase in the number of students taking a gap year, according to a Business Insider report.

The advantages of a gap year are clear. Gap year students achieve higher GPAs once they return to the classroom. The break gives them the perspective and mindset they need to succeed on a college campus.

As you can see, a gap year makes sense if you’re not yet ready for college or work. It can put you in the right frame of mind for your next step in life.

The question is: Where will you go? While a gap year in Europe or the USA may seem like the standard option, you have the whole world at your fingertips.

Enter Asia—your destination for the gap year adventure of a lifetime.

How You Can Spend Your Gap Year in Asia

In one trip, you could do all this:

  • Walk the maze-like alleys of Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Relax on the beaches of Boracay, Philippines
  • Explore the vast countryside of Mongolia
  • Greet Komodo dragons in Indonesia
  • Taste fresh sushi in Tokyo, Japan
  • Trek the Great Wall in China

Clearly, Asia has what you need for the ultimate adventure. So, how do you make a gap year in Asia happen?

You could fly to a city in Asia and see what happens. But that wouldn’t be smart. You need a plan. And you need to decide what you want out of your gap year.

Below, we’ll lay out the different options you have for a gap year in Asia. Your options include everything from traveling around Thailand to teaching English in Japan. With proper planning, you can boost your resume, learn new skills, make friends, and have a life-changing experience.

Here are 8 ways to do a gap year in Asia:

1. Intern Abroad in Asia

In terms of continents, Asia is the largest economy in the world. Internships here can provide you with valuable experience in everything from education and medicine to finance and international trade.

For example, Intern Abroad HQ, a leader in internship abroad programs, has great internship programs in Japan. Roles range from marketing and sales to youth development and education.

For the Japan marketing and sales program with Intern Abroad HQ, you’ll intern at a fast-paced startup in Tokyo. Contribute to the growth of the company as you engage in cross-cultural exchange and learn about business development.

For the Japan education and youth development program, you’ll provide important academic support at an after-school center. Duties include teaching English, assisting teachers, and developing games and activities to stimulate curiosity.

For each program, you can develop skills in your field of study, learn Japanese, travel around Japan, and more. How great does that sound? Fees start from just $1,230 for 4 weeks.

Another great destination for an internship in Asia is Hong Kong, a leading world financial hub. Through Frontier, a provider of gap year adventures, global internships, and volunteer travel, you can intern in Hong Kong in marketing and advertising. Gain business experience as you enjoy life in a bustling, welcoming city. That experience—and the connections you make—will benefit you down the line! Fees are $6,795 for 8 weeks and $8,895 for 12 weeks.

Interested in environmental conservation? Then consider an internship with Global Vision International, a leader in ethical volunteer programs and internships. Through Global Vision International, you can join an internship that focuses on elephant conservation in Thailand. It lasts 24 weeks and costs $9,395.

2. Teach English in Asia

The English language learning market in Asia has been booming. Globally, the market will reach nearly $56 billion in value by 2025. In Asia, countries such as China, Korea, and Japan invest heavily in English education. This presents opportunities for native English speakers. You can live abroad in Asia and pay for your lifestyle by teaching English.

So how do you get a job teaching in Asia?

You can search for jobs online, but you most likely first need proper certification (though not always). Through the International TEFL Academy, for instance, you can get certified to teach English as a foreign language and then get help applying for jobs in Vietnam, China, Korea, and other Asian countries where English teachers are needed.

For English teaching jobs in Asia, sites to check include:

  • Dave’s ESL Cafe: The jobs list gives you the details on good openings.
  • TeachAway: The site has a lot of good legit teaching jobs.
  • ESL Job Feed: This is a good place to start your teaching abroad job search.

If you plan wisely, you could land a part-time teaching gig that pays $2,000+ USD per month. Such jobs exist in Japan, Korea, China, and some Southeast Asian nations. That sort of money will allow you to enjoy your gap year to the fullest.

3. Get a Working Holiday Visa to Asia

A working holiday visa allows you to combine a job with vacationing. While not every Asian nation has a working holiday visa scheme, several do.

Before you apply for a working holiday visa, note the requirements for each country’s temporary work visa program. There are job type restrictions as well as requirements for citizenship, age, savings, and length of stay.

For example, Singapore, an economic hub and exciting vacation destination, offers 2,000 working holiday passes each year. You must be from the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan, Hong Kong, Germany, France, or Australia. And your university must also rank in the top 200 globally for academic performance.

Another common country for working holiday visas to Asia is South Korea. Through South Korea’s Working Holiday Program (WHP), the H-1 Visa, you can work in a variety of fields, such as marketing, tourism, and business. There are job type restrictions, though. For instance, you can’t work in entertainment fields like dancing, singing, and music, as well as industries that require licensing such as medicine and law.

Japan also has a working holiday program with 23 countries and regions. For positions through Japan’s temporary work scheme, you have lots of options, from ski resort jobs to English teaching to service industry work.

A working holiday visa is a great way to spend your gap year in Asia because it takes away the financial concerns of living abroad. You can earn money working part- or full-time. And when you’re not on the job, you can enjoy life in your new country and travel around Asia.

4. Study a Language in Asia

Demand for bilingual workers more than doubled from 2012 to 2017, according to a report from the New American Economy. Learning a second language can improve your future job prospects, as well as give you a deeper understanding of another culture. Learning a second language also benefits cognitive function, neuroscientists find.

Clearly, you have the incentive to study another language. And Asia, with its booming economies and growing importance on the world stage, is a great place to learn a new language.

You could even combine an internship with language learning. Intern Abroad HQ’s internships in Japan include Japanese language lessons. Learn the language of a vital international market as you gain work experience and acquire skills!

A word of advice: Whether you want to study Vietnamese in Ho Chi Minh City or Chinese in Taiwan, look at university courses and programs offered by reputable international organizations. They’ll offer you high-quality language instruction at a reasonable cost. And you may even be able to obtain academic credit!

A couple of great language programs to consider include

Mandarin Chinese Language Immersion in Yantai

Offered by A Broader View, a leading provider of volunteer travel experiences, this program takes place in Yantai, China, and gives you the chance to learn one of the world’s most important languages: Mandarin Chinese. You’ll spend the mornings learning Chinese reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Afternoons are for volunteer work, and you’ll get to practice your Mandarin in a natural setting.

Fees: $2,290 for 4 weeks; $4,290 for 8 weeks

Korean Language Course at Hanyang University

Travel to modern, dazzling Seoul! Learn Korean at one of the country’s top universities and earn university credit. You’ll find Korean courses for all levels, from beginner to advanced. Intensive courses are available if you want to progress more quickly.

Fees: Inquire directly with the university (click here)

5. Do Freelance Work and Travel Around Asia

Depending on your skills and experience, you could find paid freelance work as you spend your gap year in Asia. Some of the most popular digital nomad jobs include:

  • Online tutoring in your subject of expertise (try sites like TutorMe and Wyzant to get started)
  • Computer and information technology jobs, such as website development, app development, and software engineering
  • Remote customer support jobs
  • Creative work, like photography, graphic design, and fashion design (check platforms like 99Designs)
  • Freelance writing (get started on sites like Upwork)

With these jobs, all you need is an internet connection and flexibility with your time. What’s great is that Asia is full of great digital nomad cities. Many places offer affordability, entertainment, and safety, along with great amenities and infrastructure (fast internet and good healthcare and transportation).

According to Nomad List’s rankings of the best cities to live and work remotely, nine Asian cities make the top 20. These are:

  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Bali, Indonesia
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
  • Da Nang, Vietnam
  • Phuket, Thailand
  • Ko Tao, Thailand
  • Shanghai, China

These sound like some amazing places to spend your gap year in Asia, right? You could even hop around these various cities. Imagine working remotely as you relax on the beaches of Bali, explore the jungles of Chiang Mai, enjoy the nightlife in Ho Chi Minh City, and stroll the busy streets of Shanghai.

6. Go on a Gap Year Travel Program in Asia

Planning a gap year can get tricky, especially if you’ll be traversing a continent as large as Asia.

Here’s some advice: Begin with a gap year travel program. That will allow you to get to know the continent and see what places you like. While traveling, you can decide your next steps for your gap year in Asia.

Look at some gap year travel options for Asia below:

Global Gap Year with Projects Abroad

Feeling ambitious? Then join Projects Abroad on the global adventure of a lifetime (you’ll see the whole world!). Projects Abroad, an organization that’s served more than 122,000 volunteers and travelers since 1992, plans it all out for you. The trip begins in South Africa and then takes you to Ghana and Peru. After that, you’ll go to Asia, where travel highlights include volunteering on a Himalayan conservation project in Nepal and diving for marine conservation in Thailand.

Note: The program lasts from September-May, with a winter break. Fees are all-inclusive (all flights including the winter break flight, accommodation, meals, insurance, sightseeing, and more).

Fees: $29,995

Gap Year Vacations with GoEco

As a popular voluntourism company, GoEco specializes in exciting, impactful adventures around the globe. GoEco’s volunteer vacations in Asia specifically get great reviews from participants. They have a variety of trips for your gap year in Asia, including:

  • Culture Week in Cambodia: Spend a day with Buddhist monks, learn about Khmer culture, take a Cambodian cooking class, enjoy the nightlife in Siem Reap, volunteer on a community initiative, and more. Fees are $700 for 1 week.
  • Adventure Tour in Sri Lanka: Explore famous cultural sites in Sri Lanka like the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic and Golden Temple of Dambulla. Trek up to Little Adam’s Peak. Swim in the Kelani River. And go on a jeep safari. Sounds incredible, right? Fees are $1,050 for 1 week.
  • Road Trip in China: Arrive in Chengdu and visit the Giant Panda Center and other sites in Sichuan! Then take a bullet train to Guilin, where you’ll learn how to make local tea, practice Tai Chi, and visit a village. Other highlights include rafting down the Li River, beach-bumming and barbecue-eating in Zhanjiang, picking papaya in Haikou, and taking Chinese classes along the way. Fees are $1,990 for 4 weeks.

7. Volunteer Abroad in Asia

Volunteering abroad not only offers you a way to do good and immerse yourself in local culture as you travel around Asia, but it can also make your trip more affordable. Lots of great volunteer abroad organizations have projects throughout Asia. Many have low fees and provide lodging, meals, in-country transportation, and other benefits (that reduces your expenses!).

For more details on volunteering in Asia, check out some of our other guidebooks:

Note: There are many ways to reduce your travel expenses when you volunteer abroad in Asia. Read over our guide on volunteering abroad for free. From scholarships and grants to fundraising,

8. Travel for Self-Improvement in Asia

A gap year in Asia should serve as a time for personal development. As an article in Bloomberg about transformative trips states, travel can function as therapy.

Use your gap year in Asia to learn, do good, refresh your mind, and figure out your next steps. Thankfully, lots of organizations have created travel programs that encourage self-improvement.

Want something spiritual? International Volunteer HQ (IVHQ), the world’s most trusted volunteer travel organization, oversees several volunteering and yoga retreats in Asia, including a popular program in Bali. IVHQ has placed more than 110,000 volunteers and travelers abroad since 2007. Major institutions, such as UCLA and Northwestern University, have all traveled with IVHQ.

Another great IVHQ destination for volunteering and yoga is Kerala, India. When you volunteer and do yoga in India, you can help in medical care, kindergarten support, women’s education, or special needs care. After volunteering, you can spend time doing yoga and meditation at a retreat center in Kerala. You can also go to an Ayurvedic resort and cleanse your mind, body, and soul. Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old holistic medicine system. Fees are $690 for 4 weeks and $1,130 for 8 weeks

Interested in learning a relaxing skill you can use for a lifetime? Then consider Love Volunteers’ volunteer travel program in Vietnam. Founded in 2009, Love Volunteers is a leader in rewarding volunteer travel opportunities around the globe. They’re known for their transparency, affordability, and commitment to delivering memorable experiences.

As a volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City with Love Volunteers, you’ll help the city’s most vulnerable. That may entail caring for impoverished children, assisting the elderly, and teaching English in disadvantaged schools. The program includes cultural immersion activities. Specifically, you can take a Vietnamese cooking class and learn how to cook delicious dishes. You’ll be able to make Vietnamese cuisine for the rest of your life! How awesome is that? Fees are $959 for two weeks.

The great thing about traveling for self-improvement is that the trip can go any way you see fit. The goal should be to improve your physical, emotional, and mental well-being—and reflect on where you’ve been and what’s ahead. Whether that’s scuba diving in Thailand with Global Vision International, doing yoga in India, or trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal is entirely up to you. It’s all about what will improve you!

Making Your Gap Year in Asia a Reality

As you can see, a gap year in Asia is whatever you make of it. Even better, these programs aren’t mutually exclusive. You can combine an organized trip, volunteering with children, international internship, language immersion, and more to make your gap year as memorable as possible.

If budgeting for your gap year in Asia concerns you, understand you have ways to save money. As you probably know, all those expenses add up, from accommodation and airfare to food and souvenirs. You must plan well.

To make your gap year in Asia more affordable, first adhere to general advice for saving money on travel:

  1. Fly during non-peak season
  2. Stay at guesthouses and cheap lodging
  3. Take bikes and public transportation within town
  4. Eat like a local instead of at Western restaurants
  5. Use trains and buses for travel around the continent

Furthermore, when choosing gap year programs in Asia, make use of Volunteer Forever’s resources, such as:

Now that you all about gap years in Asia, you know what’s next: It’s time to plan your adventure and hit the open road! Good luck and have the time of your life.