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

Video and Photos


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.

Traveling deep into China’s Yunnan Province, we teach English in an Urban High School While Living in a Homestay.

Settling into village life in Cambodia, we are a part of the change as we get our hands dirty building and installing bio-sand water filters for rural villages.

Partnering with a Thai nature reserve we understand the true value of animal conservation as we care for and interact with 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 Working With Youth Affected by Agent Orange
  • Learn About and Care for Elephants in Thailand Alongside Local Conservationists

Questions & Answers

Yes there were a lot of photo and video opportunities. We had a group go pro that our leaders and members of the group used to capture moments through out the semester.


based on 24 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.3
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 24

How doing a gap semester trip impacted my life

When I first signed up and got accepted into the program, I didn't really want to go because I felt that I was going to miss out on going to college with my friends and having a social life. Taking a gap year and doing this program made me realize that there's so much more in this world than we imagine. To have this opportunity is a once in a life time experience that I will never forget and I'm so happy that I did this trip.
I also took a gap year because I needed a break from school. I was mentally and physically exhausted and school was draining. This helped me just take a breather from the stress and anxiety school was doing to me.
I love my group and they will forever be my family. They are so supportive and loving, we have a special bond and it's so amazing how quickly we connected and got along. They were my rock and support system for three months, I won't find anything like this again.

Yes, I recommend this program
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An Amazing Semester with ARCC

I had an amazing three months on ARCC Gap in Asia. The itinerary was incredible, ranging from camping on the Great Wall of China to a Thai farming homestay. The group leaders were supportive and knowledgeable, and added so much to the experience. My group was full of friendly, passionate, and interesting people, and together we were able to have run no matter where we were or what we were doing. Our in-country guides were amazing, teaching us some of the native languages and showing us the best spots to eat. The program had a perfect balance of service projects, sight seeing, cultural immersion, and adventuring, with enough down time that we could be energized and well rested. My advice to someone going on ARCC Gap in Asia would be to go in with an open mind and to be very excited for a great three months of adventure and learning.

Yes, I recommend this program
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There's a world outside your window

I learnt so much from service opportunities, but I grew from my reflective moments during bus rides. After a long day of work, I'd look out the window and observe how people interact with each other and their environment. Sometimes I'd laugh or frown, sometimes I'd think deeply about their actions. "How does this mother manage to balance her baby whilst riding her scooter?", I'd ask myself. "Ooh, I wonder what that fried dough tastes like!", I'd say. I thought I was only reacting to what I was seeing; little did I know I was slowly building character. Before, I did either of these three things whilst on a bus: read, listened to music or slept. But why would you want to waste the opportunity to observe? Don't let the world pass you by: pluck out your earphones, put your book away, open your eyes and look outside: now tell me, what do you see?

How can this program be improved?
I think it's important that ARCC markets themselves to the international community. So many other students from other parts of the world could benefit from this experience.
Yes, I recommend this program
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My four country trip.

Before I graduated in the spring 2017, I wasn’t really sure if I actually wanted to go to college. I did get accepted into several colleges but was super unsure if I wanted to go. My mom encouraged me to look into a Gap Year. At that time I didn’t know much about gap years, so I investigated a bunch of different programs and came across ARCC on Go Overseas. I submitted my application for the ARCC Asia trip and I am beyond happy that I did. In the 3 months of traveling to China, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, I learned that the world is much bigger then I ever imagined. I learned to immerse myself in many unique cultures. I experienced once-in-a-lifetime opportunities like camping on the Great Wall of China, watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, and scuba diving on Koh Nang Yuan island in Thailand. I also got the chance to experience home stays to see what life was like for local families. It’s experiences like these that not a lot of people get to have in life, let alone at a young age. Aside from all these amazing opportunities I also got the chance to do service work such as teaching English to Chinese students, working with kids affected by agent orange in Vietnam, building water filters for local villages in Cambodia, and working with elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. While I was volunteering at these different places, I realized how fortunate I am and it made me appreciate my life back in the US. It also made me realize that you don’t have to have much money life to be happy life. I learned to make long lasting relationships and memories with the 12 other people in my group. it’s hard to answer the question of “what was my favorite part of the trip?” I would say all of it because every experience and every memory was one of the most extraordinary things that I have ever experienced in my life.

Here is a list of other amazing highlights of my trip:

* 4 day hike into Tiger Leaping Gorge
Dancing with the locals in Shangri La
High ropes course
Visiting a small rual village

Sleeping on a boat in Lan Ha Bay
Biking in the old towns
Exploring the city of Saigon

Riding in tuk tuks
Beach days
Visiting rual villages

Scuba diving
Thai boxing
Working at a wild life sanctuary


How can this program be improved?
Visiting additional rural places especially in Vietnam would be nice.
Yes, I recommend this program
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As cliche as it sounds..."the best 3 months of my life"!

I am sitting at 35,000 feet on my final flight from Hong Kong back to the States. With only 3 of the 12 hour flight remaining, I know my time with my friends will soon come to an end. But Dr. Seuss said don’t cry because it’s over smile because it happened. I want to use this review of ARCC in asia to talk about all the fond memories and realizations I will take away from this portion of my gap year.

This trip has far exceeded any and all expectations. First I will focus on the experiences themselves. Over the last 3 months I have done so much… below are just a taste of all I have done!


- Rode a Tuk Tuk
- Built Water filters in Cambodia
- Saw the sunrise on Angkor Wat


- Learned to Scuba Dive and loved Scuba Diving
- Worked at an elephant sanctuary
- Developed a strong relationship with my host mom during a homestay in a rural thai farm village.


-Climbed and slept on the great wall of china!
-Hiked Tiger Leaping Gorge (7 miles a day!)
-Went to a rural village in Fu Gong China and built a toilet for a village with only 1 toilet

-Volunteered at Friendship Village
-Swam and relaxed at Halong Bay
- Said goodbye to 13 amazing people…relationships that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

But frankly the experiences would be nothing if it weren’t for the kids I experienced them with. Every single one of the members in my cohort are so valued. A great way to explain this is the words I shared with my group at our final evening circle closing circle. “ I came into this trip feeling a little insecure socially. I leave today thankful that I have made 11 new friends and more importantly have garnered the confidence to simply trust and be myself. I look forward to staying in touch in the future. Thanks for making these 3 months some of the best 3 months of my life.”

Indeed these last 3 months in Asia have been so much more than simply exploring and learning about Asia. It was about the social connections I made. It is about learning to trust and believe in myself that I can make friends I am liked for who I am. And it was about learning about the reality my life is just one small fraction of this world: indeed there are so many like minded people out there and it is just about giving them a chance to share their story because chances are you have more in common than not.

In sum, my time in Asia is one of the most coveted parts of my life and I am forever grateful for the places I saw, the people I met, and the new relationships that will last with me for a lifetime!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Sarah Beth

Most enlightening, empowering and happiest 3 months...

I went on the Southeast Asia program and it was by far the most enlightening, empowering and happiest 3 months of my entire life. Words can’t describe how incredible ARCC and this program is. My leaders were incredibly knowledgeable, passionate and really had the best interest for all of their students. ARCC was really good at providing a safe yet challenging environment for us and also informing parents of any travel changes/updates we may have had. I’ve come back to the U.S. feeling much more confident and grateful. Overall, if you are thinking about taking a gap year - DO IT! It’s so beneficial and I can’t thank ARCC enough for all of the wonderful friends and experiences I’ve gained.

Yes, I recommend this program
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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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.

Yes, I recommend this program

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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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!
Yes, I recommend this program


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ARCC has been offering programs for young adults since 1983. ARCC Gap Semesters are an opportunity to live and learn in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Our semester programs take students on a journey of discovery of local peoples, places,...