If you’re in need of a little adventure before, during, or after college, consider a gap year! A gap year well spent may be one of the most formative experiences in your life, provide direction and help you to define or refine your personal and career goals. Europe is great place to do all of the above, or to simply travel and figure out what you want to do with your life.
Spend Your Gap Year in Europe!
From the stunning shores of Algarve, Portugal, to the charming streets of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Europe delights at every turn, even when you’re waiting for the train in Krakow, Poland. With places like Rome and Athens, the continent offers you a voyage through history, until seeing the skyline in Frankfurt, Germany, sends you into the future.
With so much history, incredible art, tasty cuisines, modern cities, lush countryside, and a diverse mix of cultures, it’s no wonder Europe is a top gap year destination.
From backpacking through the continent to teaching English to children in Naples, Italy, there are a variety of ways to spend your gap year in Europe. You could even learn Spanish in Madrid, Spain, or take cooking classes in Paris, France. Options are limitless.
Know that, if you wish to volunteer, there is a definite need for help. From caring for disadvantaged children in Valencia, Spain to community development in Causeni, Moldova, there are so many ways you can help.
Best Gap Year Programs in Europe
We’ve listed some reputable programs here to help you navigate through all the gap year programs in Europe. Since it’s your gap year, you’ll probably want to stay longer. Know that prices get cheaper per day the longer you stay.
Love Volunteers offers various programs across Europe, including:
- Animal Rescue in Tirana, Albania: Provide care for mistreated and injured animals.
- Childcare and Development in Cherkasy, Ukraine: Help children at local daycares and orphanages.
- Community Development in Brcko, Bosnia: Assist with programs aimed at breaking down racial prejudices left in the aftermath of the Bosnian War of 1992-95. Improve relations between young people in Bosnia and Herzegovina of historically conflicting ethnic groups.
Take the road less traveled and spend your gap year (or part of it) as a volunteer or intern in Romania with Projects Abroad. They have a whole range of projects catering to different interests and skill levels.
- Volunteer with children: Plan and run fun and educational activities that support early childhood development and encourage children to learn through play. These can include activities that teach them valuable life skills like puzzles for problem solving, singing and reading for literacy, and sports for teamwork and balance.
- Shadow doctors and nurses: During this internship, you’ll experience the fast-paced environment of an emergency room or a general medical practice. This is the prime time to ask questions about the conditions and illnesses you see, and learn basic medical skills like blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar monitoring.
If you’re looking for something a little different, you might find the following volunteer projects and internships interesting:
- Archaeology project
- Teach English in Romania
- Journalism internship
- Work with animals in veterinary medicine or animal care
Global Vision International (GVI)
GVI hosts a program in Greece to help protect a loggerhead turtle nesting area in the Mediterranean. The program is held in the beautiful Bay of Lakonikos. It lasts two to 12 weeks, with prices starting at $1990 for two weeks.
If you want to do even more detailed work with sea turtles, or hope to pursue a career in the sciences, GVI also hosts the Greece Sea Turtle Conservation Short Term Internship. The internship starts from six weeks at $4,100.
International Volunteer Headquarters (IVHQ)
IVHQ offers four different projects in Naples, Italy, which are:
- Teaching English: Assist local teachers and arrange after school programs for disadvantaged students to learn English.
- After school care: Supervise and play with children in poor neighborhoods of Naples.
- Environmental: Help preserve many of the UNESCO sites in Naples.
- NGO support: Intern with NGOs that support the local community through immigration support, child welfare programs, community development, human rights campaigns and other ways.
These programs start from two weeks at $685. You can participate for as long as 12 weeks ($2,985).
Gap year programs in Europe abound. To streamline your research, visit Abroadly, a booking platform built by Volunteer Forever that allows you to search for programs based on your interests and budget.
Within minutes, you could find a high-quality gap year project in Europe – go ahead and apply right away. All programs listed on Abroadly have been vetted for safety and ethical commitment, and you get all of your application fee back if you’re not accepted.
Even better, applying on Abroadly gives you the chance to win a $500 scholarship. To make your gap year adventure even more affordable, you can use Volunteer Forever’s crowdfunding platform to raise money. How great is that?
Volunteer for Environmental Conservation in Valencia, Spain: Join Volunteering Solutions on a trip to Valencia, where you’ll work to protect the region’s biodiversity and ecosystem. Your typical duties will include improvement of water resources, forest fire prevention, conservation of natural habitats, and reforestation. During the program, you’ll learn about the local ecosystem and ways to minimize the environmental impact of agriculture and tourism.
You’ll stay in a furnished apartment and have plenty of free time to explore the rich cultural heritage and natural beauty of Valencia. Bustling Barcelona makes for a great weekend getaway while you’re here. Program fees start at $1,250 for two weeks, with stays up to 16 weeks available. Find out more and apply here!
Cross Cultural Solutions
For those interested in supporting the more than 11 million Syrian refugees that have had to flee their home, this program offered by Cross Cultural Solutions in Greece is a great choice. You can work with refugee children, support vulnerable women, advocate for refugees and build infrastructure. This program is truly a way for you to make an impact and help alleviate one the world’s most pressing issues today.
Journey into the Scottish wilderness when you participate in Fronteering’s Highland Conservation program. During the program, you’ll help preserve the ecosystem in the Highlands of Scotland, one of Western Europe’s last strongholds for wildlife. You’ll also get to learn a lot about how to conduct environmental research. The program starts from 12 weeks at $1095. You can stay as long as 24 weeks ($1495), which is a pretty good bargain, considering all that you’ll learn.
Frontier has a bunch of programs throughout Europe. With this organization, you’re certain to find a gap year program that piques your interest. Choose among the following countries and programs with Frontier:
- France: Take a ski instructor course in Tignes or learn French in Lyon.
- Greece: Head to the Mediterranean to protect dolphins or learn to windsurf.
- Italy: Monitor and track dolphin populations in Ischia or learn Italian in Bologna.
- Portugal: Attend a surf camp in Peniche or volunteer for a community development and restoration project in Lisbon.
- Spain: Head to the island of Tenerife for an internship in marine conservation or media and journalism.
- United Kingdom: Join in a London to Paris climbing adventure or take part in a sailing expedition.
Choosing the Right Gap Year Program in Europe
Regardless of whether you just want to explore another culture or volunteer to protect the environment or alleviate social issues, Europe has a program for you. The programs listed here are all great options. Just be sure to consider your true interests, preferences, budget and time frame. This way, you’ll make the best decision and your gap year in Europe will be the the experience of a lifetime!
Nick Callos · Writer
With a BA in English Literature & Writing from Boston College, Nick researches and writes about volunteer, intern, and teach abroad programs worldwide. He has studied abroad and taught English in Chengdu, China, and aims to help fellow travelers make a lasting impact on the communities they visit.