Gap Year Opportunities Around the Globe with Thinking Beyond Borders

Video and Photos

Working in India
Hiking at orientation

About

A gap year should be more than just travel or service. This unparalleled adventure is TBB's signature program. You'll live, explore, and learn in six countries over two semesters with friends who'll be with you for life. This is the ultimate gap year program for you want to make the most of their gap year and discover how you can create meaningful change in the world.

Explore the challenges and solutions to critical global issues in communities around the world.

Itinerary – 7 months:
Orientation: Guatemala – 2 weeks
Unit 1: Environmental Justice and Sustainability - Guatemala – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Panama: Guna Yala – 1 week
Unit 2: Education - Thailand – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Cambodia: Angkor Wat & Phnom Penh – 1 week
Unit 3: Public Health - Ghana – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Morocco: Camel Desert trek - 1 week
Culmination: Washington, DC - 3 weeks

Highlights
  • Living with Host Families
  • Fieldwork with Local Experts
  • Academic Study
  • Language Learning
  • Exciting Travel to Guatemala, Panama, Thailand, Cambodia, Ghana, and Morocco

Questions & Answers

During my Gap year experience, I lived with three different host families. Each one of them came with different experiences, and they are experiences I will not forget. Experiencing a new culture and new lifestyle is made easier when living with a host family as opposed to staying in a hotel with other tourists. It allows for an better opportunity to understand how different cultures work.

Reviews

97%
based on 43 reviews
  • Housing 8.7
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.9
  • Value 9
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 15 of 43
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Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible program!!

Thinking Beyond Borders is such a unique program, in that they create an inclusive learning space for all students. I recently took a gap year with TBB and was blown away by their attentiveness to our needs, which made me feel so much more comfortable and trusting. I had so many amazing experiences from being apart of my host sister's quinceanera to exploring a cave in Guatemala to watching the sun set in the Sahara Desert. Looking back, I made so many friends that I feel confident will last for years to come. I was given the opportunity to really push myself out of my comfort zone and for that, I am just to thankful for Thinking Beyond Borders!! If you're considering taking a gap year, look into Thinking Beyond Borders! You won't regret it!

What was your funniest moment?
The funniest moment that comes to mind was on Enrichment week in Guatemala. A few of us were interested in finding a beach and so we all chipped in and paid for a small wooden boat to take us. When we got there we found a high diving board so of course we all wanted to try it! One of the girls in the group had just gotten her eyebrow pierced and decided she wanted to try it out. She climbed up there so bravely but underestimated how high it was and ended up belly flopping into the water, making her eyebrow piercing super red and swollen.
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Molly
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best 7 Months of My Life

Hi! I was a member of the 2018-19 cohort on the TBB Global Gap Gear Program. It is hard to even start to put into words the overall experience of TBB. If you want to dig deep into the depths of yourself, your identity, and your place in this world, then this might just be the perfect program for you, as it was for me. There is something about traveling constantly, in places where you won't see any other tourists, learn from locals, create incredible family bonds with those who welcome you into their houses/families, and all without technology!! When I decided to go on a gap year, I knew I needed space from my life back home, from our culture and society. I needed space to be able to GROW! and expand. I was yearning for a break from sitting at a desk, and that being the extent of my learning in classes. I wanted to go out, to explore, and to be free/encouraged to do so. Thinking Beyond Borders sets you up for incredible opportunities that you yourself are responsible for making happen. Want to plan a trip to the beach with the whole group? Ok, sure, go find a hostel and let's get it organized. Coming super late to seminar because you started having a conversations about defining poverty with a local policeman and he wanted to get coffee and keep talking? Sure, no problem! Be sure to ask him about what got him there. It's these types of spontaneous moments of learning, growth, expansion, and perspective shifting that fosters such unique experiences. My journey couldn't have been possible without my AMAZING leaders and friends. This trip was exactly what I was looking for:
-traveling in foreign places
-living with local families
-learning their language
-independent/ plenty of alone time
-intellectual stimulation (seminars/language lessons/local speakers all throughout each week)
-so many good books!!!
-plenty of time exploring outdoors, hiking, swimming, etc
-a curriculum specifically made to learn more about yourself
-no phone/personal computers
-supports vegetarians!!

I could talk about this program forever. I had one of the most trans-formative times of my life, and I give most of that credit to TBB, for even getting me there, for stretching me in all different ways, and for being an incredible support system the whole way through.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Sitting on the plane from Morocco to the U.S...."no! noooo! What the HELL am I supposed to do now?? I never want to leave my TBB family!!!"
(it's ok, transitions is going somewhat smoothly, I'll have these friends and mentors for the rest of my life:)
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Georg
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

#1 GAP YEAR PROGRAM WORLDWIDE

Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB)- the pioneer and best gap year program on the market. TBB is able to combine cultural, social, academic and personal learning in an incredible, enjoyable, challenging and exciting way.
Every students gets the opportunity to learn and grow in the area he/she wants to grow and learn in.
TBB provides a structured and safe learning experience all around the globe, that is hard to find somewhere else. The extremely well trained staff creates a web of support for students who need it. TBBs' program is far away from volunteerism and focuses on sustainable worksites combined with student focused seminars, taveling the world and learning about new cultures. Critical thinking and the ability to ask questions is one of the key values of TBBs mission.
I did the global gap year 2016/17 and all I have written above isn't to advertise TBB, it is a honest reflection of my relationship and time I spend and worked with TBB over the cause of seven months.
TBB global gap year program is the best way to learn about yourself, the values you hold and the world that surrounds you. If you are looking for something to do before college you should get into contact with TBB. Many TBB alumni students are happy to get into contact with further students and help them to get to know TBBs mission better. Next to a big number of American alumni students TBB also has many European almuni students, who will offer support in the process of getting to know TBB.

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Dmitri
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Take A Gap Year

I wanted to do something that was off of the beaten path, the beaten path of course being going to college right after high school. This gap year program certainly fulfilled that "idea". I've learned and experienced things that no college freshman that went straight from high school to college would ever even dream of. I've experienced poverty, disease, death, hunger, and corruption in the countries I have visited. Amidst these pains, I have also experienced beauty and elegance in their oddest forms. From natural beauty of the ocean in South Africa, mountains in India, and the forest in Ecuador, to human beauty in its most unique forms. Individual human beauty...people that, despite suffering from several major illnesses, somehow manage to keep on living, struggling, and rising above some of the most daunting circumstances I have ever seen. People that have gone through hell yet still manage to put a smile on their face and laugh through the pain were probably the best things I experience. It beats out experiences such as the Taj Mahal, an African safari, and Machu Picchu. This trip changed my life for the better in countless ways.

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Maddie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Gap Years are for EVERYONE

Words cannot describe how amazing my experience with TBB was. I came into this program burnt out from high school, wanting to travel and learn more about the world and myself, as cheesy as that sounds. To say that the program changed me would not be true, TBB gave me the safe space and the tools to truly discover more about the worlds issues and how I can become an effective agent of change. TBB gave me an amazing community of people and the opportunity to go live and work in these local communities. You cannot learn about the world in a classroom, we learned through interactions with our host families, through readings and seminars, through discussions with each other at anytime of day, through random adventures, and through questioning what we saw around us. If you get the chance to do TBB, take on the challenge and just do it, you won't regret it.

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Abby
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thinking Beyond Borders--DO IT!!!!

Thinking Beyond Borders is an amazing program. I grew so much on my year with them, both intellectually and emotionally. The homestays allow you to make deep connections with local communities and literally make families all over the world. Travelling with a small group of students is a lot of fun, and you always have a support system. Doing TBB was one of the best decisions I have ever made and I have no regrets. If in doubt, do it!!!!! You will have sooo much fun and grow so much. College will still be here when you get back.

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Katy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Take a gap year!!

All through high school, I researched and dreamt about taking a gap year, but it never seemed like something I would actually do. I enjoyed academic rigor and I was excited by the collegiate level of learning. However, as I struggled with the college admission process senior year, I finally realized that the opportunity to pause my education career and explore the world might not come again for a long time and there is no better way to expand your horizons and explore your passions and potential through immersion to new culture and ideas. Thinking Beyond Borders was one of two programs I strongly considered. Looking back at it now, it is by far the best decision I have made yet. TBB fosters an inmate learning community through seminar style learning, reflecting the global issues you are witnessing, living and working to understand how to fix in daily life. Everyday you will pull information and connections from field work in local organizations, group dynamics and excursions, meal times with host families, student exploration through communities and TBB's curriculum of seminar and literature. I explored ideas I had never thought about and delved into topics that I understood, but I came away with a more grounded and holistic perspective. Every student walks away with unique thoughts about our global world, but all share the same drive and determination to be effective agents of change in the future.

What would you improve about this program?
Don't be alarmed by the seemingly small amount of information that is disclosed pre-departure (my mom was definitely worried about what I was actually doing and if I would be safe in all these foreign countries). Trust the process and accept that living day to day is an incredibly rewarding opportunity that many people don't get to step back and enjoy.
Mattie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Radical Love

It's been over a year now since I graduated from Thinking Beyond Borders, but I am still an active member of my group's community, as well as the larger and bountiful TBB Alumni community. As I go through the typical ups and downs that life throws at us, I wonder how I could do it without TBB. Without learning what it meant to challenge my assumptions. Without the guidance of my TBB Program Leaders and Mentors, whom I am still in close contact with. Without learning what it meant to love radically--both others and myself. Sitting on my campus lawn, I still have moments when I realize that a lesson from TBB has finally kicked in. It takes a long time to process such an extraordinary experience, and it truly is a gift that keeps on giving. I am who I am today because of TBB. I am strong and loving and resilient and honest and humble and growing because of TBB and the people I met on it. This is not a trip for those who just want to "see the sights." This is a trip for those who want to learn radical love, vulnerability, humility, reflection (and also "see the sights").

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Mandy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Decision of My Life

It has taken me a couple of months after graduating from the Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap Year program to begin to get an idea of how I could write this review. It's absolutely easy, and true, to say that this program is phenomenal. Every day, I question myself about what I'm doing in ways I probably wouldn't have learned without TBB, and I become a better person each day because of it. This program revolves not only around traveling, but is focused intently on personal growth and consciousness about the world around me. The main takeaway from TBB is that I feel like once I graduate college in a couple years, it will be easy to say "wow there were so many other colleges that maybe would have fit my values and learning style better" but looking back, I can honestly say I wouldn't want to go on any program other than Thinking Beyond Borders. It's an incredible program that will challenge you in every way possible- physical, mental, spiritual, emotional, religiously, but I now have a greater sense of who I am because every part of me was challenged. Also, with the different aspects of international development we studied, it absolutely changed my interests in the world and what my major will be in college. If someone had told me a year ago that I would want to major in environmental studies/sustainability and global issues, I probably would have laughed. The growth this program creates in each person that graduates from it is incredible, and I wish I could go on another gap year! If you have the chance to go on TBB, do it and don't look back. It's the best decision I ever made!

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Alea
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I LOVE TBB

This trip was incredible on a lot of levels. I not only learned about myself but I learned about the world. I met so many incredible people and each place was so unique and special. I really want to keep up these connections from TBB and maybe visit these places again one day. I think that the organizations that we work with have really helped me grow and be aware of the issues from around the world. One thing I would change is to update the books and readings, sometimes they were very out-dated.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have more independent student travel and have a little more freedom at times. ISTs felt a little rushed and I would have loved to explore more and become more independent.
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Erin
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Everyone Needs to Do This

I have learned more on this year than I ever could have anticipated. There were definitely times when I missed home, but getting super close with my host families, having adventures like skydiving and bungee jumping, participating in really reflective conversations with my friends at any hour of the day or night in and out of seminar, really distracted from feelings of homesickness. My perspective has widened drastically and I am so much more ready to go to college than I was before I left. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is interested.

What would you improve about this program?
Definitely making sure the people signing up for this trip are genuinely interested in learning and reflecting on the world around them is a really important component to making this a positive experience for everyone. I think some of the disinterest in the program coming from a few people made it hard for everyone else to feel good about participating.
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Mara
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

BEST GAP YEAR PROGRAM OUT THERE

Thinking Beyond Borders is hands-down the most self-aware, balanced, and socially/culturally conscious gap year program I have ever heard of. I have loved every moment of my experience, from connecting with my indigenous Tsa'chila host family in Ecuador, to shadowing health care professionals in the townships of South Africa. I will forever cherish the stories I've collected and the friendships I've forged over the past 7 months. No matter what your background or your interests, as long as you are a passionate and curious person who seeks out learning, you will love this program. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What would you improve about this program?
Longer time spent in each host family.
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Nelsen
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best Decision of My Life

Before TBB all I new for sure was that I needed TBB. I knew, that it would be the thing that allow me to become more of who I am and that I would be doing that with a potentially amazing group of people in places far away and exotic. Like many things I knew these things were filled with assumptions. Mostly correct in how amazing TBB was, but I didn't truly understand what I would learn to be. That I would learn to understand the world for more of what it was, that I would understand who I am and how the personal and the social fit together. That I would learn to question everything, assumptions everywhere.

I can only say that it has been the best "gap time" if my life.

What would you improve about this program?
I have a lot of food restrictions that make any travel hard, which is why I understand that our travels didn't always run smoothly, but it would have been nice to have more consistent and reliable support on occasion. Other than that, it would perfect in the fluctuality that it is.
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Hannah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TBB is unlike anything else

TBB is unlike any other gap year program out there. Through this year I have learned more about myself and about the world than I ever thought possible. TBB taught me about development, identity, and more and it's hands-down the best gap year program you could go on. This gap year was very challenging and could be hard at times, but I learned so much and made friends for a lifetime. Being away from home for so long had made me feel better prepared for college than I ever was before.

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Maggie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Too good to be put into words

My experience with TBB has been the best thing that has ever happened to me and I know that a lot of my new friends and family can say the same. The hardships you see, experience and live in, along with the liberating education you receive, is un imaginable until you have done it, and for each person it is different and unique. What I love about TBB is that, it is an environment setup for personal growth, that way you can help the growth of the planet. You become aware of many new things in your self as well as your role here on Earth and with other people. Now that my trip is done, I miss the people I was with and I miss the community feeling that we had between the 20 of us. The last thing I will add, is that I did not choose this trip for personal growth, I wanted to travel and learn. But the most important part of my trip turned out to be that TBB gave me a space to process and see the importance of reflection and talking about events that taken place in my life. If you don't take time to process and discuss what is going on, you never truly learn the lessons that life is putting before you.

What would you improve about this program?
If I had to change one thing, I would change--hmm well honestly my experience was so great and I am grateful for every thing that happened. Even the hard parts or the parts that might have been unorganized taught me something.

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About Thinking Beyond Borders

A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn in the real world. It’s a time to find the direction you need to make college meaningful. Take a gap year with purpose. Go beyond just travel or service. Our global community faces...