Student enjoys a view of the HimalayasYouth 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 also 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.  We outline here some of the most important aspects of the program:

Reaching Beyond Your Comfort Zone

A student posing with students in Nepal

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!

Style of Living and Traveling

Our goal is to immerse ourselves in the local culture.  To learn first hand about their real lives by living it in a real way ourselves.  In that spirit, team members travel, live, eat, sleep, work, and play just like the majority of people in the country which they are visiting.

We embrace a rugged style of travel.  Team members carry all their own belongings in a backpack and daypack. 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.

Students on a camel safariWe will also embark on a spiritual journey, learning about local beliefs, participating in tribal rituals, and visiting ancient temples and ruins, including a long list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Although we spend a lot of time in rural areas and engaging in outdoor adventure, we also spend time exploring many wonders in some of the world’s greatest cities.

Home Stays and other Accommodations

Participants live with host families for about 30 to 40 percent of each trip.  Typically you will live with two different families, including one in an urban middle class home and one with a rural family living in very simple conditions.  Rural families generally live in remote villages where there may not be electricity, running water, or other basic amenities.  In all situations, participants are expected to follow the daily rhythm of the household and to help the family with meal preparation, chores, work in the fields, and other aspects of typical daily life.

When not in home stays, teams live in simple backpacker hostels. On rare occasions there may also be other forms of accommodation such as camping, sleeping under the stars, in a temple, or on an overnight bus or train.
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.

Volunteer Community Service Work

Lend a hand, give back, and make a difference.  Youth International works with local leaders to develop sustainable, community-driven, volunteer projects.  Typically anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of a participant’s time in the program will be spent volunteering on projects such as: helping to build or renovate schools, homes, or community centers, teaching and running educational workshops for children, and doing environmental conservation work.

While you will be doing some wonderful, needed things for people in several communities, Youth International’s main goal is 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 to have our 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.

Outdoor Adventure

Experience rugged outdoor adventures in some of the world’s most dramatic landscapes and diverse ecosystems. Go trekking across ancient pathways connecting tribal villages in the Himalayan Mountains of Nepal, or through the Ecuadorian Andes.  Take off on camel back across India’s Thar desert and sleep in sand dunes under the stars.  Circumnavigate a volcanic crater in Kenya’s Rift Valley.  Raft the rapids through a Himalayan or Andean Mountain valley.  Trek through rainforests in the Amazon Basin.  Sail, hike, and swim through the Galapagos Islands.  Paddle down a river as you penetrate the jungles of the Amazon Basin. Search for wild animals on a safari in the African savannah.  A new adventure awaits around every corner!

Educational Program

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 vast majority of learning during a Youth International program will come directly from the hands-on experiences of day-to-day living and travel as outlined in the program itineraries. Team members will, however, also engage in some individual and group reflection, reading, culture and language workshops, and may attend some talks from guest lecturers. This more academic component, although a very small part of a YI trip, is important to enhancing 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. If choosing to take one of our for credit college courses, participants may pay for their course fee and their entire Youth International program fee with a 529 College Savings plan or an AmeriCorps Education award.

Group of students enjoy a view over Machu PicchuTeam Dynamics

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 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 last a lifetime!


When and Where Our Upcoming Trips Are Going & Program Fees:

FALL 2022 KENYA PROGRAM: View Itinerary

  • November 26 to December 23, 2022
  • US $5,550 + flights (est. $1100)

SPRING 2023 NEPAL PROGRAM: View Itinerary

  • April 26 to May 25, 2023
  • US $4,950 + flights (est. $1100)

FALL 2023 INDIA PROGRAM: View Itinerary

  • November 25 to December 23, 2022
  • US $4,950 + flights (est. $1100)

SPRING 2024 ECUADOR & GALAPAGOS ISLANDS PROGRAM: View Itinerary

  • April 30 to May 29, 2024
  • US $5,950 + flights (est. $1100)

COVID-19 UPDATE:

The situation with COVID in the United States and around the world is dynamic.  As it continues to develop and change, we at Youth International continue to stay flexible and adapt to the latest realities at home, and in each of the countries where we travel.

As always, every decision as to where we will and will not travel is made with the health and safety of our participants being our number one priority. We will never send a Youth International team anywhere, or into any situation, that is not considered safe for them or for our local partners and friends.  We continue to consult the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), the US State Department, the US Embassies in the countries where we travel, and our local contacts, and we will continue to follow their guidance and policies.

The next program that Youth International will send out will be the Fall 2022 program in Kenya, from November 26 to December 23, 2022.  To view the detailed itinerary for that program on our website click here. Currently, we still have space available on this team.  If you are interested in joining Youth International for the upcoming program in Kenya, please fill out the Online Application Form.

Because of the continually changing circumstances surrounding COVID-19, we continue to offer very flexible refund policies on program fee deposits.  Please consult Youth International directly for the current policies for the specific program in which you are interested.  Also, if a program should ever have to be cancelled before the start date, for any reason, full refunds would be given.  And we never charge application fees.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding our response to COVID-19, or anything else, please contact us directly at any time by email at: director@youthinternational.org or by phone at: 720-270-3323.