About Our Gap Year Opportunities
Youth International’s mission is to open the doors for young adults to discover a broader perspective on the world while developing a deeper understanding of themselves and their place within the world.
Developing more personally and socially aware future leaders, Youth International also hopes to take small steps toward bridging the gap between people of different nations and making the world a better, more peaceful place.
Since 1997, Youth International has provided many people with the most exciting, fulfilling, and educational experience of their life. Our gap year opportunities provide a unique way for you to explore some of the world, open your mind, and challenge who you think you are or might be. The program sets you up to gain a first-hand understanding of a variety of different cultures and communities, and to give back to them.
The program is a tremendous amount of fun! It is, however, extremely intense and it is not for everyone. Team members continually face a variety of mental and physical challenges. They are asked to dig deep into themselves. In return they are greatly rewarded for their efforts.
Because of the intense nature of this program, it is important that we try to give prospective participants a clear understanding of what to expect from the Youth International experience. To help do this, we will outline here some of the most important aspects of the program:
Reaching Beyond Your Comfort Zone
Youth International members must be prepared to endure the hardships of traveling in the developing world, and also embrace the uncertainty of stepping outside of their physical, psychological, and emotional comfort zone.
They will be faced with different customs and new situations, forcing them to re-evaluate what is right, wrong, or normal, and who they are in relation to these norms.
Standards of physical comfort will be much lower than what most participants are accustomed to. Tremendous personal flexibility and an attitude of “rolling with the punches” is necessary for success!
Living and Traveling
Our goal is to immerse ourselves in the local cultures. In that spirit, team members travel, live, and eat in a manner similar to that of the majority of people in the countries which they are visiting.
We embrace a rugged style of travel. Team members carry all their own belongings in a backpack and day pack. Nearly every conceivable mode of public transport is used— from bus to train to boat to camelback. Travel is second or third class, not first. Throughout the trip, participants have the opportunity to acquire the skills necessary to become savvy, independent, budget travelers.
On average, participants live with host families for about one third of the trip, with one or more home stays in each country. Conditions in some home stays are very simple, especially those in remote villages where there may not be electricity, running water, or other basic amenities. There are also some more comfortable city home stays. Participants are expected to follow the daily rhythm of the household and to help the family with meal preparation, chores, and even work in the fields. When not in home stays, teams stay in simple hostels with shared bathroom facilities, camp during treks and safaris, sleep on overnight trains, and more!
Team members will mostly eat typical local fare. The local cuisine is very different than in the West, and is often very simple and lacking in variety. For some participants, food is one of the biggest challenges to stepping outside of their comfort zone.
Community Service Work
Youth International works with local leaders to develop sustainable, community-driven, volunteer projects. On average, 30 percent of a participant’s time in the program will be spent volunteering on projects such as: helping to build or renovate schools, homes, and community centers, teaching, and doing conservation work.
While you will be doing some wonderful, needed things for people in several communities, the goal of the program remains on cultural exchange and education. This is not a social service or foreign aid organization. By becoming personally involved in the issues and needs of the communities you visit, team members are able to give back and also deepen their understanding of the culture. Our goal is that participants make strides towards becoming thoughtful and informed global citizens in a time when cross-cultural skills are becoming ever more important.
All Youth International participants are expected to work hard, consistently, and seriously while on any project, and to follow the lead of the local project leaders.
The main focus of Youth International is on learning. This opportunity is best suited to those who are intensely curious about the world around them and who they are in relation to the world.
With our age range of 18 to 25, it is ideal for those taking a gap year between high school and college, a break in the middle of college, or time out after college graduation.
The majority of learning will come directly from the experiences of day-to-day living and travel as outlined in the tentative itineraries. Team members also engage in individual and group reflection, reading, culture and language workshops, and attend some talks from guest lecturers. This more academic component enhances the experiential education to raise the level of learning to its highest potential.
For participants who are interested in acquiring college credit during their gap semester, Youth International has developed a series of optional credit courses in affiliation with Western Colorado University. When enrolled in a college course, participants may pay for their course fee and their entire Youth International program fee from a 529 Education Savings plan or AmeriCorps Education award.
Participants in Youth International must be willing to fully invest themselves in being an active and cooperative member of a team of up to fourteen people between the ages of 18 and 25.
The team dynamic is a core element of the Youth International experience. While providing one of the most fun, fulfilling, supportive, and educational aspects of the program, it can also create the grounds for some of its major challenges. With the support and mentorship of experienced leaders, participants learn to live, travel, and grow together, to engage in thoughtful reflection and dialogue, and to build a group culture of inclusivity, tolerance, and respect. Many participants make friendships that will last a lifetime!
Where We Are Going in 2020/2021:
During the upcoming fall 2020 semester, Youth International is offering 3 semester programs: Asia, South America, and Africa & Near East. The Asia team will travel to Nepal, India, and Thailand for 13 weeks. The South America team will travel to Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands, for 12 weeks. The Africa & Near East team will travel to Kenya, Egypt, and Jordan for 12 weeks. In spring 2021, we are offering a shorter program to Nepal for 3 1/2 weeks.
Program dates for 2020/2021:
- Fall Asia semester: September 14 to December 13, 2020
- Fall South America semester: September 14 to December 6, 2020
- Fall Africa & Near East semester: September 14 to December 6, 2020
- Spring Nepal intensive: April 24 to May 18, 2021