If you are searching for a fulfilling gap year activity that gives you the chance to develop new skills, why not learn a new language while abroad? By doing so, you will be able to get a deeper insight into the places you're visiting and interact better with the locals.
Whether you're going on a career break to escape the rat race or taking some time out after university, heading overseas for language lessons is a great way to immerse yourself in another country's culture.
Although you can be taught Spanish and other languages in the UK, by incorporating such lessons into your gap year plans you will be taught by native speakers and can apply the theory you have learnt in the classroom to real life.
As a general rule, the best way to get to grips with a new language is to constantly practice speaking and reading it. Choosing to learn a language abroad will certainly encourage you to do this and as you gradually pick up new words and phrases, you will be able to experience life as one of the locals, seeing a side to the country that most tourists do not in the process.
Benefiting from expert tuition, you will find you are able to learn a language at a pace that suits you and can get one-on-one support if there is anything in particular you would like to know or an area you are struggling with.
While you will receive intensive training during the week, do not fall into the trap of thinking that when that day's lesson is over you will stop learning.
Many schools run special excursions and activities designed to encourage you to use your newly-acquired language skills. These include anything from sightseeing excursions and trips to local markets to salsa classes and watching Spanish films, so you should find the learning process to be fun and full of variety.
You'll also be living with a host family during your studies, so there will be plenty of opportunity to hone your conversational skills long after your daily lesson has ended. Of course, as you will be staying with local people you can avoid the tourist crowds and get a better appreciation of what life in a country is really like for its residents.
So, which countries are best for those looking to take foreign language classes? Of course, it depends on what tongue you are keen to learn and for gap year travellers eager to pick up Spanish, there are perhaps few better places than Ecuador.
Travelling to the South American country on your gap year offers the ideal chance for you to pick up the language. While your lessons will primarily be based in Quito, there is the opportunity to go on several excursions during your free time, where you can put into practice the things you have learnt.
Come to the bustling Saturday market at Otavalo and you'll be able to use your newly-acquired language skills to haggle for bargains on everything from wall art to ponchos.
In Papallacta, meanwhile, you can relax in thermal pools while looking at splendid views of the Andes mountains.
Guatemala is another great place to learn Spanish and find out more about Latin American culture. Take lessons in the historic city of Antigua and you'll be able to see wonderful sights, such as Saint Joseph Cathedral and the 18th-century La Merced Church, as well as try salsa dancing.
For an educational - yet exciting - gap year for grown-ups, learning a new language is something that you should be sure to consider.