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Gap Years and Coronavirus – what are the options for school leavers?

Whether you had planned to start university later this year, you had planned to take a gap year, or you were hoping to enter the job market, all those plans as a school-leaver have been blown apart by the Coronavirus pandemic! 

So what are your options now?

With more and more Universities confirming online-only classes this Fall, students are reluctant to start their freshman year off-campus, and across North America and Europe there is an emerging trend of students looking to defer their placements and looking at alternatives, such as a gap year.

For those skipping higher education and hoping to get a job right away, there are also concerns that the economy may take a while to recover, and with all the workers who have been furloughed and laid-off, that getting a job might be more difficult than before.

With that, the American Gap Year Association is reporting an increase in traffic over previous years and UK universities are reporting an increase in requests for deferrals, with school-leavers looking to take a semester or a full year off before starting their studies.


But are gap years still an option?

With borders closed and travel restrictions in place for the foreseeable future, is taking a gap year still even an option?

No-one at this time can, with any degree of certainty, tell you when domestic and international travel will open up again. Estimates range wildly from as early as next month to as late as 2022. Most of us hope for some time before the end of this year, but recognize that may be optimistic.

So how can I plan?

Well, the first skills that school-leavers are going to develop are flexibility, embracing uncertainty and scenario planning. The best approach is going to be to develop plans for best and worst case scenarios, then be prepared to adapt to the situation.

Start with the high probability that summer travel plans are canceled. What are the alternatives? While doing nothing and sitting out the lockdown is a reasonable reaction, under the circumstances, this is not going to help your resume, it will definitely get boring and might even get you into some bad habits!

Instead, consider first what you might be able to do from home:

  • Look for online jobs or jobs in non-professional essential services, such as filling shelves at supermarkets or picking crops. If you can find something now to help save money for later, this can be a great option, and every job, however menial, can teach us important life skills!
  • Consider volunteering locally to assist those in need during this time – Food banks, delivering supplies to the elderly, or sewing masks for your local healthcare workers. Not only can you give back, but you also have a story to be proud of for your CV
  • Look at online classes or internships to develop skills such as language, computer competencies, or cross-cultural skills. These are generally less expensive than university classes (and there are some good free options too!) but equally as valuable on your resume!

At Kaya we have a great remote internship option that you can consider. Working with our community development and environmental projects in four of our locations – Morocco, Vietnam, South Africa and Ecuador – you can work online on a project that can make a difference. Our internship placements also include fun, weekly cultural workshops that include topics such as ” A taste of Ecuador, a gastronomic journey”, “The private life of Moroccans, relationships, family and friends”, “Traditions and legends of South Africa” and “Talking business in Vietnam”. This is an 8-week internship that you can do from home – and if you decide to visit that location once travel opens up, you can get a discount on the travel program later! This can even be a great option if you are looking to learn or improve on some language skills, with options for Spanish classes on the Ecuador option, and French or Arabic lessons for Morocco!

Summer will soon turn to Fall and, hopefully, things will start opening up by this time. But right now we can’t rely on that, so either we can extend those summer plans or;


  • Look at domestic options. It is likely that we might be able to travel within the country before international travel becomes an option, so look for programs closer to home. There are many great programs promoting skills such as outdoor survival and leadership.
  • Consider programs that start off domestically or remotely but plan for travel later in the year. Many organizations are doing this in the hope that after August-September travel opens up at the end of the year and over the winter break.
    At Kaya we are planning to offer our remote internships again in Fall, and including the option to add-on travel to the country if that once again becomes an option
  • Consider travel later in the year. Many countries, especially in the tropics and southern hemisphere, are hoping to open their borders in time for winter breaks.


Here at Kaya, many of our programs that shut over the summer are hoping to make up for lost time in their important mission by working through the Christmas and New Year periods. We are planning to have many more project options, and many more participants than usual during this time, if travel if possible, especially as people may be looking for time away from their families over the holidays, after having spent so much time with them before!

So what about 2021?

The further out the planning, the more likely it is to be available. Having spent much of 2020 in lockdown or some forms of social distancing, we hope to see people looking for travel options, and this is a great time to plan the international part of your gap year.

Options to consider include joining a volunteer project, such as our Women’s Empowerment on a Sustainable Agriculture placement in Nepal. Spend some time on a project with vulnerable women and help them sustain their future while supporting themselves and their children. Alternatively, there is our Literacy Development program in Ghana where you will help to increase the reading skills of children and adults through the provision of a mobile literacy unit.​

An alternative to volunteering is an internship. Generally internships are a little more structured and supervised and focused on one specific subject – which is a great option if you have an area of interest you want to learn more about. Some great examples include a Media and Marketing internship in Peru. Through this internship, you can acquire new skills while helping a non profit social enterprise alleviate poverty as well as conserve cultural traditions in Peru. Equally, our Human Rights and NGO Management Internship in Morocco offers a fantastic learning experience as you work alongside a host organization on international social justice issues. 

You might also choose a program where you can develop some skills.

On our Kruger wildlife photography program, participate in a wildlife photography course to develop skills for taking great shots whilst participating in essential conservation education and activities in the Greater Kruger Area.

On our Thailand marine conservations program, you can get certified as a SCUBA diver, while helping repair reefs on a tropical island.

To help our gap year travelers navigate this uncertainty, here at Kaya we are enabling you to plan and provisionally book any Kaya placement without any deposits or financial commitments so that when we have a better idea of when travel is possible, you can confirm and pay for your placements then. So if your plans have to change, you won’t lose any money.

So to start planning your gap year, reach out to us today to arrange a call with one of our Kaya placement advisors who can help you start making a flexible plan right away.

You can read more about planning your gap year at this link, or click here to make an appointment to speak with a Kaya advisor. 

Hope you found this blog interesting. To hear more about the projects that we offer please connect with one of our advisors using the chat now button, or feel free to request a brochure using the button opposite.


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