ARCC Gap: Asia - China, Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand
96% Rating
(18 Reviews)

ARCC Gap: Asia - China, Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand

Leave the traditional classroom far behind as we journey to China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Gap Asia is a unique blend of education, service and exploration of these intriguing and ancient cultures. Our exclusive access to people and places gives us a window on aspects of Asia rarely experienced by outsiders.

Standing knee-deep in the rice paddies of China’s Yunnan Province, we discover a way of life that has remained virtually unchanged throughout the centuries.

Settling into village life in Cambodia, we learn about efforts to combat human trafficking, starting with education and income generating opportunities.

Partnering with local mahouts at an Elephant Sanctuary deep in the northern jungle, we understand the true value of conservation as we care for and rehabilitate Thailand’s indigenous elephants.

Assisting in a Vietnamese community that provides education and health care to children affected by Agent Orange, we see how service transcends boundaries.

  • Watch the Sunset and Sunrise from your Tent on the Great Wall of China
  • Impact Lives While Installing Clean Water Filters in Homes in Cambodia
  • Become SCUBA Certified on the Thai Island of Koh Tao and Help Restore the Reef
  • Study Health Issues by Shadowing Nurses while Living in a Homestay in a Small Thai Village
  • Care for and Rehabilitate Elephants in Thailand Alongside Local Biologists
Asia » China
Asia » Vietnam
Asia » Cambodia
Asia » Thailand
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Post-High School
Volunteer Abroad
1-3 Months
Host Family
Primary Language
Age Max
Starting Price
Price Details
Program tuition includes accommodations, transportation, food and activities once participants are in-country. International airfare is additional.
Other Locations
Bangkok, Kanchanaburi, Pai Town, Koh Tao, Beijing, Chengdu, Guizho, Lhasa

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

  • Housing
  • Support
  • Fun
  • Value
  • Safety

Program Reviews (18)

20 years old
University of Vermont

The power of the individual


Throughout the entire semester I had grappled with where my purpose lies in the web of complexities that comprise the issues we encountered abroad as well as those we face at home. It was not until sitting in a tree house at Our Land, being led in discussion by inspirational founder, Vijo, that I realized the answer was quite simple. Vijo clarified and deepened the understanding that the earth doesn't need us, but we need the earth. To some degree, every issue we face as humans can be tied back to this concept. We just need to dedicate some compassionate attention to thinking about ourselves - outside of the box.

How can this program be improved?

I think the capstone project is a wonderful component of the ARCC curriculum. Yet for many in the group, it resulted in either a source of unnecessary stress or a distraction from our surroundings (sitting in an Internet cafe for hours rather than exploring a city, for example) I think it would be more effective if there was allotted time at the end of the trip to work on capstones, as many students changed their project up to 2 days before presenting. Though an important component, it shouldn't take away from soaking up each moment of an experience you wish to.

18 years old
Palo Alto

The Perfect Program for a Gap Year Taker


This experience was the perfect start to my gap year. I was hesitant about what to choose as my first program/activity, and decided to apply for the Fall Gap Semester in Asia. Asia was my first choice because I had been interested in meditation and Buddhism, wanted to get lost in the language barrier, and the east vs west cultural differences. I was not disappointed! ARCC does an amazing job of balancing cultural immersion, backpacking, and service learning. I realized on this trip that I am a city person. Our days in Beijing, Hanoi, Saigon, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok were my favorite. The guides that ARCC uses have their itineraries planned very well. We did have time to explore each city on our own, going on morning runs(unforgettable and a great way to see a city) and walking through countless night markets. We also spent a fair amount of time in more rural areas where we did service projects such as constructing water filters and teaching students. What I greatly appreciated is that we got to interact with these people in a way where we call each other friends. You can't escape the reality of it all. The most striking example for me was in Meile, a village in the poorest region of China. Our guide, Alex, gave us a talk right as the school children were exiting their classes for recess. He told us how one of out every twenty of these kids would make it to high school. We then played games with the kids and had a lot of fun, but the nagging thought of limited opportunity stuck in our minds long after.
In terms of safety, it needs to be said that Asia is incredibly safe from what we saw. We felt comfortable walking in groups in night markets, or even on night runs there was little concern of any danger. It is ARCC policy to have students remain with at least one other member at all times but this was not a big deal.
The personal development I experienced on this trip had surprised me in ways I was not expecting. A piece of advice I received before going on this trip was to buy into everything, team building exercises and cultural engagement specifically. I can trace fundamental changes in myself back to specific places.
One last thing: I journaled for at least half an hour every night simply because we had so many meaningful experiences each day. The only negative is that normal life will pale in comparison once you return home. :)

How can this program be improved?

I cannot think of much. The staff is on top of everything (paperwork and visas and packing list).
The staff also spends a lot of effort creating these 12 person groups, reviewing everyone's bios and interviews.

19 years old
Chicago, IL

Changed My Life


This gap semester was incredible. I was paired with 11 strangers and 2 amazing leaders that have changed me in ways I can't describe. Many people ask me what my favorite part of the trip is and I literally cannot choose one. Was it the time we hiked 7 hours to the most breathtaking view I've ever seen? Or the time we spent a few days building waterfilters and then implementing them into people's homes in the poorest region of Cambodia? Maybe the time we were night swimming in the Gulf of Thai and we came across bioluminescenct plankton. I have learned so much about the world and its struggles and also how we are overcoming them. I have learned about service and how to stop "othering" people and cultures. I have always felt perfectly safe and ARCC did such a great job pairing students with each other and choosing leaders. I don't recommend you do this course, I urge you to do it. Without a doubt this was the greatest experience of my life. Saying goodbye was the one bad aspect of the trip.

19 years old

The world is a big place


About a year ago I was in possibly a similar position to you, searching and reading through gap year programs and reviews. One of my friends had gone with ARCC to Southeast Asia for her gap semester and had told me about how great it was and how much she gained from it, so the positive reviews on sites like this and others just solidified my decision. I've always loved traveling and I knew it would be a great time learn about the world and myself. I knew at the start of my searches that I wanted to travel to Southeast Asia, it was on the other side of the world, for a large portion of my life I have been eating Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese food and I thought it would be really cool to eat those cuisines from the source. I wanted to immerse myself in a culture and lifestyle that I was very unfamiliar with and gain a greater world view than I had before. I think what stands out about ARCC compared to other teen travel companies is the attention to detail and all of the relationships that have been built by Sofia, Scott and the staff over the last few decades. They have travelled to each of the places that we go and have formed close relationships with the tour guides and local communities, which really makes a difference. All of our guides were fantastic, always teaching us things about the areas we were in, the people that inhabit it, its history, culture, language, food and much much more. Having these in country guides who really care and want us to gain as much as we can and really get to know the countries and places we go is something that I really appreciated and thought truly elevated the trip to another level. Southeast Asia is a very special part of the world, and I am really glad that I made the decision to come here with ARCC, give and learn what we did. I highly recommend taking a gap year and traveling, it gives you a greater perspective on the world, life, and yourself, and whether or not you choose ARCC is up to you, just know that if you choose to travel with ARCC I can guarantee that you will have an amazing experience and make memories that will stay with you for the rest of your life.

How can this program be improved?

I think that the home stays could be improved - our home stay in Thailand was really great, we lived with a family and spent most the week hanging out, cooking and trying our best to talk to them and I feel like it was a really great way to immerse yourself in the culture and language of the country. I think that it set a standard for what we thought the other home stays in China and Cambodia would be like, and I at least was disappointed when we really only slept and ate at the other two, spending most of our time away from them doing other things. This is something that I know will come through time and trial and error, and that is the service projects. We had some fantastic service projects dont get me wrong; building a watering hole for elephants in the forests of rural Thailand, spending time at migrant village schools in Kunming, China, hanging out with kids at the Friendship Village in Vietnam and assembling and installing water filters in a village in Cambodia, but still I feel like they can be elevated to the next level. We did some other service projects as well, and as a whole I feel like we didn't have the most personal, long lasting impact that I had hoped. The service projects were really great as I said, I did enjoy them and meeting local people and playing with the local kids, but I think that the service projects could be slightly better.

20 years old
New Orleans

e pluribus unum


Among the many exciting activities and service projects we took part in over the course of the trip, one of my favorites was the long and exhausting hike to Tiger Leaping Gorge. At the end of the hike, there awaiting us was a beautiful lodge and restaurant. There we spent two nights enjoying the scenery, great weather, and hiking trails around the hotel. One of my favorite memories during those few days overlooking the gorge was when many members of the group and I stayed up one night to watch a meteor shower. Shooting stars illuminated the sky while we bonded and stayed up all night talking. T'was a great, special night.

How can this program be improved?

I think this program could be improved by incorporating more service learning projects and less tourism activities. During the service projects we were able to integrate with the local communities and learn more about their culture and way of life. I believe this is where the valuable lessons about culture are truly found.

18 years old

Such an amazing experience!


I came in with high expectations and every one of them was met! I met so many great people within the group and along the way. I loved being able to learn so much about cultures that I knew so little about beforehand. We fully deleted into all the communities that we became a part of, no matter how long we were there. the trip was a good mix of education, service, and tourism. I would highly recommend ARCC to anyone who is looking for a heavily group based trip.

21 years old
Los Altos, California

Clean Water Project


Loved all of the service projects, but working on the water filters in Cambodia not only helped the locals get clean water, but taught me to appreciate the importance of having clean water. The locals appreciated the filters so much and knowing that all the children would be able to drink cleaner water made me feel so good.

How can this program be improved?

Waivers beforehand to ride motorcycles because that was a big part of the culture that we didn't get to experience. Also drinking should be allowed because it is legal and culturally insensitive.

19 years old
Cooperstown, New York
Binghamton University

A Birthday to Remember


One of my favorite experiences of my entire Gap Semester came in Chambok, Cambodia. Chambok is a small, rural village that sustains itself by offering homestays with local families. At first we were nervous about our three day stay, as there was no electricity or plumbing. But shortly after arriving, we realized what an amazing cultural and once in a lifetime experience it truly was. We hiked to an amazing nearby waterfall, swam in rivers, made rice noodles and bamboo sticky rice, learned traditional Khmer dances, spotted shooting stars, and even spent time with 6 adorable newborn puppies! My 18th birthday happened to fall over our three day stay, and I was able to start the day meditating with monks at the nearby monastery. That night, our wonderful hosts made me a traditional Khmer cake baked inside of a pumpkin. It was the most amazing birthday I could have ever hoped for.

How can this program be improved?

I wish we spent more time exploring Vietnam. Most of our time was in Hanoi.

20 years old
Rochester, New York

ARCC is life changing!


Travel is more than just seeing new parts of the world; travel is exploring yourself. Upon my arrival back into my contained, traditional American life, I had the realization that all I had done these past three months had altered the way I see everything around me. I eagerly share stories and experiences whenever appropriate only to be disappointed by the neutral response of "wow - that's pretty neat." Inside jokes are followed by confused stares, my 20 minute long synopsis about my most emotional experience in the Cambodian killing fields only warrants a quick 5 second response, no one understands that when I snap my fingers as others talk, I'm only politely agreeing. Others see and fear not to point out the change in my voice, the new step in my walk, the tan on my skin - what they fail to recongnize is what this all means. These physical changes represent more than just that, they're evidence of the new culture I've adapted to, the confidence I've gained and the hard work I've put forth.

As I try to adapt to American culture that seems so foreign to me, I must keep close to heart the experience I have gained that only a traveler could understand. I have a mother and father in Thailand, I have meditated with a monk. I have a family of 13 dispersed across the country that is in the same boat I am. I've faced discomfort, I've seen things some may only get to see in a documentary. I'm mature, I'm culturally sensitive, I'm educated. I am a world traveler.

How can this program be improved?

I would love to see more service incorporated. The volunteer work I accomplished was arguably one of the most life changing aspects of the trip. It's debasing to walk away from a project after only being involved for only a week or so!

24 years old
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Great overall


This gap trip has been a really great trip overall. All of the service projects except for one have been really rewarding too. My only qualm with the trip is the no alcohol policy. Drinking with a local group is a great way to experience culture and bond. I've had to turn down so many really fun sounding opportunities because of it. That being said, there was plenty of fun to be had in the trip.

Response from ARCC Programs

Peter, thank you for your review and for your appreciation of the service projects and the program as a whole. I'm glad that your experience was so positive in spite of your disagreement with our no tolerance policy. While we can appreciate that at times sharing a drink can foster cross-cultural connections, as an organization we have to balance the benefits of this with the issues created by allowing our students to drink during the program. Again, we are delighted that your overall experience was positive. We appreciate the feedback and we thank you for adhering to our policies.

19 years old
Richmond, Virginia

Best experience of my life


I decided to take a gap year during my junior year of high school, and then began the search for programs. As soon as I discovered ARCC, I knew there were no other programs like it. Sophia in the office answered my emails immediately about any questions I ever had. The trip itself has been an unbelievable learning experience. My two leaders, Anna and Phil, are knowledgable and passionate about many topics, including the environment, world/US politics, women's rights, and public health. Because of this, my group has many discussions about these points and I have learned more from them than I ever learned in school. I've also become more passionate about these aibjects as well, so it encourages me to learn more and share what I've learned when I go home.
I also enjoy seeing different parts of each country. We get to experience the urban and rural areas, and it's interesting comparing the cultures and customs of the people from each. I love visiting every place on the itinerary because every place is different.
The itinerary is nicely balanced between service projects and travel. Teaching at a Chinese high school, cementing a wall in a Chinese village, building and installing bio-sand water filters, volunteering with victims of Agent Orange, and constructing a pathway at a Cambodian school has taught me valuable skills that I can use the rest of my life, such as patience, communication, and the value of working hard. Visiting museums, walking around the city, and staying in homestays has taught me the rich history and cultures of the countries we visit.
During my three month trip in Asia through ARCC I've grown as a person. I've learned how to stand up for myself, fight for what I believe in, never give up, and so much more. It's the best decision I've ever made, and I wouldn't trade my experiences for anything.

How can this program be improved?

See more rural areas in Vietnam

19 years old
Los Angeles, California

Best Decision I Ever Made


The best decision I ever made was signing up for this trip. I wanted to find a gap program that would allow me to see the world, submerge myself in culture, participate in hands on service, and help me develop as a young adult. I did not want a three month vacation, but rather a trip that would use my time in a meaningful way. ARCC Asia has surpassed my expectations. On the trip, I traveled to remote locations and had once in a lifetime opportunities such as trying yak butter tea at a rural Tibetan home stay or climbing waterfalls and making bamboo coconut rice in a rustic Cambodian village. I participated in a wide range of service projects from teaching English at various schools to constructing and distributing Biosand water filters. I had just the right amount of academic work. I read and discussed articles each week on topics pertaining to the area, presented research at an exhibition on Agent Orange in Vietnam, and throughout the trip worked on my final project about Girls Education in South East Asia. Most importantly, on this trip, I made lifelong friends. The people and the leaders were amazing. They constantly pushed me to be a conscientious traveler, not a tourist, and they made me feel passionate about the various issues we encountered. And of course, we had a lot of fun.

How can this program be improved?

I would vary the type of living situations. We stayed in a lot of hotels. I would also make sure the service projects best met our abilities. For example, we were not well equipped or well trained for cementing.

24 years old
Hingham Mass



I never knew this trip would be so cementy! I do not only mean that we work with cement on this trip, but many of the moments shared and created will be forever cemented into my heart and my mind. Cheesy, but thats the only way i can find some cheese in Asia.

How can this program be improved?

I know there is a zero drug policy, but some times having a drink or smoking a cigaret is a cultural thing. One argument for the policy is that we are not here to do drugs, or that drugs take away from the trip. But really having a drink or a smoke with the home stay host is a great way to immerse yourself in their culture.

19 years old
San Francisco, California

Three Months, a Lifetime of Experiences with ARCC


Considering that one of the main focuses of a college education is to prepare students for the large world that awaits them, what better way to begin that education than to venture out into the world itself? In three months, I immersed myself in radically different cultures, interacted with people who have different world views, customs, and traditions, and felt the liberation from self-exploration and discovery. I do not believe that a gap year is an alternative to college, but more of a supplement and benefit that will significantly increase my independence and preparedness for the years to come.
Throughout Adventures Cross Country Gap Asia, I had the time of my life exploring new places and meeting new people. I got to tour the cities of Beijing, Hanoi, Phnom Penh, and Bangkok, take local cooking lessons and learn about the culinary cultures of each country, tandem bike along the countryside of China, and work with people affected by the herbicide Agent Orange in Vietnam. Adventures Cross Country aptly weaves the five core themes of the academic portion of the semester into each activity and project. The five core themes are: Microfinance and Economic Activity, Public Health, Education and Literacy, Environment and Conservation, and Urbanization and the Movement of Peoples. The end goal of the academic part of the year is a Capstone Project that aims to incorporate all that one has learned into a cohesive and educational presentation (in any form or medium).
Also, the two leader and thirteen others students were the best, most kind, caring, intellectually curious, outgoing, informed, and fun group of people that I could have traveled with. When one is with a group of people who they love and have the greatest admiration for and when one travels the world and sees sights that spur the mind and create a stronger passion for the world around him or her, they develop as a person and create a better environment for themselves and for the rest of the world. Although three months is a short time, so much happens in the most positive of ways. Adventures Cross Country is the prime choice for a gap semester because they indulge all of the senses, promote greater awareness of the self and of one's surroundings, and cater to every person as an individual learner while encouraging them to think of things greater than themselves.

How can this program be improved?

All I would say is that some of the service projects did not have very much structure. Our time and efforts would have more efficacy if the local organizations had a pre-set plan or more structure for the group.

19 years old

Great learning experience!


The housing it much nicer than I anticipated, we have had wifi at almost every place we have been to. We spend a lot of time in busier areas of Asia however the rural places are super cool to visit. I have learned so much from the leaders because they are very passionate about the topics for the trip. Time flies by because you are kept busy each day.

How can this program be improved?

More rustic areas because those villages have been my favorite

19 years old
Washington DC

ARCC Gap Asia is Awesome


Even though I am only halfway through the semester, I have already had some of the most meaningful experiences in my life, all in this short month and a half.

ARCC combines the perfect amount of adventure, service, academics, opportunities for independent and group leadership growth, and personal development.

We have gone on several incredible hikes through some of China's most breathtaking landscapes, kayaked through a stunning bay in Vietnam that is a world heritage site, and we swam in one of Cambodia's famous waterfalls.

We have done a variety of meaningful seevics projects, such as: teaching English at various primary and high schools, beautifying the gardens of a residential community for victims of agent orange who we interacted and played with as well, and constructing and installing bio-sand water filters in rural villages of Cambodia. There are also many more incredible service opportunities in store for the next half. The service has been incredibly humbling, eye opening, fun, and rewarding, and after completing each project I have come out with a much deeper understanding of the issue and a burning passion to raise awareness and continue to make a positive change even when I return home.

For each service project an activity in general, we read articles and have lengthy group discussions to further supplement our knowledge and to boost our learning experience to make it as powerful as possible. While there are academic based articles, discussions, and projects, the workload is very small and enhances the whole experience. We take turns being leader of the week, which gives us more responiibility and chanes to stand up and be a leader. I can tell than I am a much more confident leader now that many skills have been practiced.

Choosing to go on this gap semester was one of the best decisions I have made. While a college education is very important, learning about the world and about yourself is also incredibly important. This semester really turns you into a better person- more humble, culturally aware, open minded, sensitive, passionate, confident, and motivated- and all of these will also help prepare you to be the best student you can be. You won't regret this trip!

How can this program be improved?

The only thing I would hangs is the duration of staying in each country. For example, I would have liked to spend more time in Vietnam to explore the rural areas. I would also like to spend more time on service projects, such as the water filtration one. However, all experiences have been wonderful, and nothing needs changing.

19 years old
Boston, MA

Amazing Program!!!!!


I am currently on the trip and loving it! I was originally going to go to Africa with ARCC, but the trip had to be cancelled due to safety reasons. I am so glad that I stayed with ARCC and went to Asia.
The highlights of this trip (so far): Friendship Village, Liming, and all of Cambodia.
It's very interesting to learn and see the different cultures in Asia. You always are taught what happens in a different continent, but rarely see it. This program allows you to apply what you are taught and see it happening right in front of you. I looked at and heard stories of other programs that just don't even compare to ARCC.
Overall, I couldn't be happier that I am here and I can't wait to see what is in store for me in the next month.

19 years old
Milwaukee WI, United States

Highly Recommended!


Overall the program has been great. We all bonded very quickly and I couldn't have asked for a better group of people to spend 3 months with. Every place we stayed has been safe and clean and very comfortable. The food has not been a issue even for the vegetarians and the picky eaters.

How can this program be improved?

More free time to read, journal and hang out. It sometimes felt rushed.

About The Provider


ARCC Gap Semester Programs offer an educational and cultural bridge between high school and college. They are an opportunity to live, work, learn, and explore in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Designed with a rich educational fabric complementing each and every location, our