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Written by The Leap on 14 / 07 / 2015

Gap Year Advice

If you’re one of the many readers of this blog that’s currently planning a gap year, it’s likely you’re dreaming of travelling to far-flung exotic places, like Cambodia or Madagascar. And if that’s the case, great - there’s little doubt that those kinds of places will provide you with unforgettable experiences and happy memories. But you don’t HAVE to travel quite such long distances to discover a completely different culture.

For UK-based travellers who want to stay a little closer to home, there are some fantastic European gap year options out there. The continent has plenty to offer students, backpackers and young people. Whether you want to cook, hike, ski or learn a new language, there’s an exciting opportunity for you right on your doorstep…

Ski Your Heart Out in France

As it’s just a stone’s throw from England, travelling to France is cheap and easy, yet the country itself is so different and offers a far richer cultural experience than somewhere like Australia or the United States would.

Travellers can really get involved in the French way of life, from exploring the sophisticated streets of Paris, to exploring the mountainsides of The Alps. A very popular gap year choice in France is working a ski season, which involves getting a job in a ski resort. This could be anything from bar and kitchen work to childcare or ski repair.

There are several benefits to this: it’s fun, the atmosphere is extremely social and you get to ski all winter. Plus it doesn’t matter if you’re an absolute novice, as you’ll have the opportunity to spend a great deal of time on the slopes.

Those looking to take it to the next level and pass on their love of the sport to others may be interested in The Leap’s 11-Week Ski Instructor Course in Tignes, where you’ll have the chance to do on and off-piste training, shadow a ski school, and complete your BASI Alpine Levels 1 and 2 - all whilst perfecting your race and freestyle training. At the end, we’ll even help you find a ski job to top off the season.

Get Paid Work in Ireland

Ireland is a truly diverse place, which packs in gap year opportunities for a wide array of interests – whether you feed off the buzz of urban life, or you crave the peace and tranquility that comes with being in the countryside, you’ll be able to find what you want here.

Ireland’s leading youth travel organization USIT provides support to visitors from around the world and their local experts will help you apply for a visa, find housing and get a job. On top of this, they organise ongoing social events to make you feel at home.

With USIT's Work in Ireland Program, gappies can get paid work in any industry all across the country, which give you the flexibility to soak up the atmosphere of its vibrant cities, emerald-green plains and mystical beaches.

Brush Up on Your Español in Spain

With its Mediterranean beaches, arid deserts, bustling cities and tiny towns, Spain is another great spot for anyone looking to experience a bit of everything in one place. If you want to use your gap year as a chance to take up a new language, or simply brush up on what you learnt at school, you should consider doing a Spanish course in somewhere like Seville or Granada, both of which are packed with young people and have a real student vibe.

Spanish school Escuela Rías Bajas offers intensive Spanish courses in these places, plus many others, at small language schools with a friendly atmosphere that are perfect for all levels. On top of this, you’ll get accommodation in fully equipped shared flats or with host families, and you’ll have the chance to carry out a variety of cultural and leisure activities at weekends.

Compared to many other countries in Western Europe, Spain is also generally more affordable, and the food, wine and nightlife is second to none. What more could you want?!

Learn to Cook and Appreciate Art in Italy

The opportunities to travel, learn and eat are plentiful in Italy, making it a great gap year destination. It is also arguably one of the most beautiful countries in Europe and has enough attractions to entertain visitors for months on end.

Why not get past the surface and really get to know this wonderful country by taking cooking classes or studying art, two things which Italy is most famous for? The University of Perugia offers a dynamic cookery course, where you’ll delve into the culture of Italian cuisine with workshops and guided tours, which allow you to explore historical traditions that have shaped Italy’s food culture.

High art can be found all across the country and, if you want to experience and understand it better, then the AHA Gap Year Course (Art History Abroad) might be for you. The aim of these courses is to give you the chance to enjoy Italy and discover a wealth of beautiful art, from the Ancient World to more contemporary pieces, whilst having fun with a range of tours and activities.

Of course, there are several other gap year opportunities in Italy, so if you’re not a foodie or art fanatic, don’t fret as there is plenty to see and do here.

Explore the Magic of Nature in Scotland

There are few places where the natives are as passionate about their country and culture as in Scotland. And with good reason; it’s truly sublime. You can spend your gap year venturing into the Highlands to explore the lochs and castles dotted around the mountains and enjoying its unspoilt countryside.

Here, tourism is responsible for sustaining approximately 20,000 jobs, which include work in summer camps and large manor homes that have been converted into hotels, golf resorts and spas, which require summer staff each year. In addition, some of the biggest parks are situated in Scotland, such as Seton Sands near Edinburgh and Sandylands over in Ayrshire, both which require summer staff employees.

Another idea for country bumpkins is to look for agricultural work around Fife, where you’ll find countless fruit and veg farms that take on extra workers during the summer works. The Scots are a crazy bunch (in a good way) and will be sure to show you a great time on your gap year.

What Do You Think?

Where would you most like to visit out of these European gap year destinations? Do you have any others to add to the list? Let me know by posting in the comment box below.

Photo: Powder Tree Skiing by Snow Snow licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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