6 experiences worth spending your gap year on

Taking a gap year in Singapore is not a common practice, but it’s less foreign in other parts of the world.

Just take a look at the USA, which even has a Gap Year Association recognized by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Taking gap years, the Gap Year Association argues, has immense value, with “the life-experience gained from travel at this opportune time in life setting students up for success in the real world”.

And who are we to argue? Whether students choose to take gap years (or gap semesters) to rest and recharge, to do internships for work experience, or because there’s so much you want to achieve but so little time, that time off can be tremendously fulfilling if maximized.

Just make sure that you have discussed everything with your parents (or guardians) and have the ability to do what you have in mind (i.e. financial capital).

That said, here are some interesting opportunities you could try for should you choose to take a gap year*. Do note that some of these could be highly competitive opportunities that many are vying for—but you’ll never know until you try!

*Disclaimer: This is merely a list and not an endorsement of the following programmes. As usual, do conduct sufficient research and see if these are a good fit for you! (:

1. Delegations for Dialogue: annual programmes to spark meaningful conversations about international affairs

Photo credit: Delegations for Dialogue’s facebook page

Delegations for Dialogue is a UK-based nonprofit organization with the goal of providing “future generations of global leaders with the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the causes of conflict”. They do so through a range of programmes, which include “travelling symposiums”, fact-finding programmes, sport and cultural diplomacy as well as conferences and events.

The relatively young organization has, since their establishment in 2015, organised 11 such programmes and awarded 27 financial scholarships, amongst other pursuits. These include a Runners Delegation to DPRK (North Korea) in 2016 and a Cultural Heritage Symposium to Iran in 2016, as well as a fact-finding programme to the unrecognised state of Transnistria (which lies between Ukraine and Moldova) in 2017.

One of our contributors took part in Delegations for Dialogue’s The Two Koreas’ travelling symposium programme. You can read about her experience here!

Fees: You will have to pay a programme fee, as the organisation does not receive any external funding. The fee does not cover transport from your country of residence. The organisation will consider discretionary financial assistance, provided sufficient documentation is produced.

Duration: 1-2 weeks long depending on programme

2. Ship For Southeast Asian and Japanese Youth Programme: a voyage of a lifetime to remember

Some opportunities are hidden right under our noses, and this one might just be one of them! Overseen by Singapore’s National Youth Council (NYC), the program is organised by the Cabinet Office of Japan and supported by the Governments of Southeast Asia.

The 50 day voyage sees 300 youths from Japan and 11 ASEAN countries serve as youth ambassadors as they sail on the seas and stop at various ports-of-call. Activities include community service, discussions on social and youth matters, courtesy calls to dignitaries as well as recreational activities. All Singaporean youth between 18-30 are welcome to apply. It’s a good chance to discover your sea legs, forge international friendships, and better understand our neighbouring countries!

Fees: All participants are required to contribute $900 to the initiative’s Contingent Fund.

Duration: 50 days

3. Gap Year Internship: open the doors to others and in turn, the world

(Photo credits: Skillseed’s Facebook page)

If you’re not taking your gap year or gap semester with the intention to pursue an internship, why not consider this one? Skillseed is a registered social enterprise based here in Singapore, which collaborates with social impact partners around the world in order to curate and put together meaningful experiential learning journeys for the youth of today. These comprise of both local as well as ethical travel programmes that desire to foster youth into the change-makers of tomorrow.

Skillseed takes in a gap year intern yearly (or two, sometimes), whose job scope revolves around managing Skillseed’s experiential learning journeys and projects, along with content creation and network building. Perks of the role include sponsored travel opportunities regionally as you do your intern duties, and the chance to network and learn project management. A monthly internship stipend will be provided. If you’re looking for work that provides you with a sense of purpose, try applying! Or take the chance to go on one of Skillseed’s journeys (like the CreativesxAlternatives program to London)?

Fees: Nil

Duration: 1 year

4. Young Social Entrepreneurs (YSE) Programme: Lead the change, be the change

Passionate about a cause and have awesome ideas for businesses that drive social impact? Spend some time applying for the YSE Programme (and other competitions/incubators) to make your ideas a reality! If not, you’d at least be one step closer. Sounds good?

Successfully shortlisted teams (or individuals) will go through a 4-day workshop and then pitch for a chance to get into the Programme, which will provide mentorship, overseas study visits, access to an international network of like-minded individuals (which also consist of practitioners and entrepreneurs), as well as grants to help kickstart your initiative! You just need to be between 18-30, which you most likely are.

Other similar accelerators you can consider (even outside a gap year) include: DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia, Platform E)

5. UN Volunteers x UNICEF: Youth Advocates Programme

Who hasn’t heard of UNICEF or the UN? Be a part of the change these organisations drive by joining their Youth Advocates Programme! The programme, geared towards 18-24 year olds, will have participants become UN Youth Volunteers placed in UNICEF’s various country offices working on youth participation and engagement projects.

Volunteers will have the opportunity to go through a customised learning plan that includes professional career coaching sessions and online learning opportunities. 2018-2019 saw 38 national and 12 international vacancies for this programme, across 33 countries, so give applying a shot if your heart is set!

Duration: One year long

6. Gap year travel programs: Around the world in 80 days

(Photo credit: Youth International’s Facebook page, from a YI traveler @olivianashh)

Explore the world, open your mind, and possibly redefine who you are: this is what Youth International, which has been running gap year travel programmes since 1997, wants to do. The US-based company’s journeys are 13 weeks long and comprise of home stays, volunteer community service work, as well as cultural and heritage experiences. Those going on the expedition to South America in 2019, for example, can expect to do day hikes and take intensive Spanish classes as part of the programme.

Do note that this particular programme is a bit costlier as it requires you to attend orientation in Colorado, the USA. See Fees for other information.

Fees: USD 10,000 to 11,000, depending on chosen trip/continent (Asia/South America for 2019). This does not cover the costs of transportation (aka flights) and personal expenses (visas, etc).

Duration: 3 months long depending on chosen continent and semester. Feb-May and Sept-Dec are available.

We hope that your gap semesters and gap years, if you choose to take them (whether during school or even in between jobs) will be fulfilling. We’d love to hear from you on your experiences, if you’d like to share them! Leave us a comment or an article, we’re waiting to hear from you!



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