One rarely talked about alternative to going directly to university after high school is taking a gap year. When you take a gap year, you take a year off before going to university to work, travel, or chill. More and more students are interested in taking them but there’s not a lot of information out there about how to take a gap year in Dubai.
If you are considering or are in the middle of a gap year in Dubai, you’ll appreciate our answer to this question:
One of the purposes of a gap year is to take a break from studying to learn about the world or gain perspective on what you want to do before going to study at university. So, our recommendation, is that you do just that: learn about the world AND yourself. There are many pathways to do that, and fortunately, many of them will look good on university applications.
If you’re in Dubai for a year, here are some ideas what you can do to have a productive gap year. We listed them in order of what seems most impressive to universities (in our opinion).
1. Get a job
One of the best ways to spend your gap year is working a job. You don’t have to work the entire year and you don’t have to work full-time. It’s ideal if your job relates to the career you’re interested in. Check out internsme.com for internships and traineeships in the UAE.
If you can’t find paid work, you can always work in your family’s business or find a company that does what you want to do and ask them to give you an unpaid internship. Making copies and getting coffee in an office might not seem impressive, but the experience will provide you exposure to environment of the career you’re considering.
2. Freelance or start your own mini-business
Can’t find a job, no family business, and no one interested in your offer to work for free? Start freelancing or start your own mini-business. This option is especially viable for someone interested in tech-related fields like web design or graphic design. Even if you are interested in teaching or some other field, you can always list yourself as a freelancer on different global websites and get paid by clients for work. You’ll learn about client service, meeting deadlines, and delivering services--all of which are universal job skills. Our favorite freelancer sites are Nabeesh, Myprivatetutor.ae, Fiverr, Upwork, and 99Designs.
3. Join an interesting program for part of the year
A gap year can be the perfect time to do some of those extracurricular activities that you didn’t have time to do in high school. Depending on your intended major, you should be able to find classes to take in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Here are some of our favorite places to learn:
Ductac: arts and crafts, drawing and painting, interior design, music, dance, jewelry design, comics, language, sculpture, drama, creative writing, fashion design, photography, printmaking, pottery, public speaking
SAE Institute: animation, digital comic illustration, drawing fundamentals, digital dj, electronic music production, filmmaking, game design, robotics, mobile apps development, graphic design, web design, social media
Drama Scene: Acting, musical theatre
4. Complete a foundation program
Rather than enrolling at a local university and dropping out, you can complete a foundation program at a university. Some educational systems, like the British system, are 3 years--rather than the US and Canada 4 years--so students have the option of completing a foundation year. During this year, you have general coursework intended to prepare you for future university coursework.
Here’s a quick list of some universities in Dubai with foundation programs:
Keep in mind that if you are enrolled in the main part of the university program and receive a grade point average, you will count as a transfer student when you apply to another university, rather than a first year international student. There are different requirements for transfer students than first year students, so keep this fact in mind if you are taking university courses to improve your chances of getting into university. You many need to pay to take one or two classes in your major rather than taking an entire foundation year.
5. Start your own project
Passionate about something but not finding a job, group, or program to address your interests? Start your own! You can always start your own things like:
Universities like initiative so be sure to start it and keep doing it!
6. Volunteer in Dubai or Abroad
Volunteering is one of the most rewarding activities you can do during your gap year that you might not have time to pursue once you start studying again. There are some great options for volunteering locally and even more if you’re willing to leave the UAE for awhile.
Volunteer Opportunities Locally
Volunteer Opportunities Abroad
Go travel and have an adventure! You can travel to any number of amazing places from Dubai, so get going.
If you want a more structured but still fun program, study a language in its native country. Check out TeensAbroad.com, which has safe language study programs for teens who want to go to:
If you want to take a gap year, get your university admission BEFORE the gap year. Many universities will let you defer your admission, once you are accepted, by up to one year. You’ll have a lot more peace of mind if you know where you are going after your gap year. You’ll also be in the same rhythm with your friends, teachers, counselor, and family, which will make it easier to get transcripts and recommendations.
If you want to use the gap year to improve your profile before applying to university, be sure to keep good records of what you do and choose several activities for your gap year (a year is a long time after all). We recommend you do a combination of the above activities so that you will have a nice full schedule and lots to put on university applications. For example, you can work an unpaid internship 20 hours a week (4 hours a day), volunteer on Saturdays, and take a robotics class.
If you know of other activities you can do in Dubai during your gap year, leave them for other students in the comments!