Global Gap Year -- Thinking Beyond Borders
97% Rating
(41 Reviews)

Global Gap Year -- Thinking Beyond Borders

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. This unparalleled gap year program includes:

- Living with Host Families
- Fieldwork with Local Experts
- Academic Study
- Language Learning
- Independent Travel Opportunities

Itinerary – 7 months:
Orientation: Guatemala – 2 weeks
Unit 1: Food & Sustainability - Guatemala – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Guatemala: Mayan Ruins & Volcanoes – 1 week
Unit 2: Education - Thailand – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Angkor Wat – 1 week
Unit 3: Public Health - Ghana – 7 weeks
Enrichment: Morocco - 1 week
Culmination: Washington, DC - 3 weeks

United States of America
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Cultural Exploration
Hands-On Learning
Language Immersion
Post-High School
Study Abroad
Volunteer Abroad
6-12 Months
Academic Year
Host Family
Primary Language
Age Min.
Age Max
Starting Price
Price Details
Program tuition is $31,000, including all costs except for airfare. Airfare is estimated at $5,000, though it varies based on fuel costs. Need-based scholarships and tuitions financing options are available. Learn more on our Financial Aid page.

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

based on 41 reviews
  • Housing 8.7
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.9
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 16 - 30 of 41
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The Best Learning Happens Far Beyond The Walls Of A Classroom

I had known that I wanted to take a gap year for quite some time when I came across Thinking Beyond Borders. I was a bit burnt out from school, and I was also hoping to learn more about myself and the world as a whole. I did not really enter TBB with many expectations as I am not a huge fan of them, but the program ended up being more than I could possibly have imagined. Looking through the website, the amount of countries covered initially jumped out at me above everything else, but I came to the quick realization that the travel aspect hardly skimmed the surface as to what was to come. Do not get me wrong, the travelling was great and absolutely eye-opening. I lived with an indigenous community in Ecuador, I hiked Machu Picchu, I saw the lantern festival in Thailand, I farmed rice with my host family, I walked through the killing fields in Cambodia, I taught in schools in India, I jumped off of a bridge in South Africa, I most definitely experienced the world. The travelling was great, but that coupled with the individuals that I travelled with and the in depth discussions we had together made the program incredible. During our seminars eyes were opened and perspectives were changed. Everyone always had the opportunity to share their ideas, thoughts, and questions with the entire group; people brought up ideas that had never even crossed my mind before. We were pushed to think deeply and in completely different ways day after day. The program staff always emphasizes that this is our program, so we have a say in what we do. They take our input seriously if we want changes in the curriculum or in the work experience or in the homestays. They have a rough guideline as to what we should be doing, but we stray from it over and over to our benefit. It is also important to know that everything is optional; not once were we forced into doing something we were not up for or comfortable doing (all about consent culture). During this gap year I not only learned about environmental problems, sustainable agriculture, problems in the educational system, and healthcare, but I also learned how to question authority, how to be my own source of truth, how to be part of a community, and how to be who I am as an individual.

How can this program be improved?

Some of the homestays could have been better. They were all pleasant experiences; It is just that some of the homestay families were a bit distant and I was not able to connect with them to a great extent. Saying this, I think that they are making changes to homestay families next year because of this.

Yes, I recommend
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World is like a book. If you stay at one place you read only one page.

Morra; Namaste; Savadi-krap; buenas dias.

Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone and this is where personal growth accelerates the most. Going abroad with people you don't know, going to countries that you are not familiar with and learning about things you have never heard about will give you a broad perspective of life and change you for sure.

How can this program be improved?

More freedom. The best place for people to learn independence.

Yes, I recommend
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Sign Up Now!

Thinking Beyond Borders is a gap year for anybody. If you love beautiful places, getting to form close relationships with other people, and are interested in other cultures, then TBB is the gap year for you. The type of traveling you get to do with TBB is amazing because you get access to things I don't think I could traveling alone or with friends. Staying in home stays was my favorite part of the program as you get to become close with people you wouldn't have known otherwise. TBB provides an excellent academic portion of the program that you can choose to use how you like, I suggest taking advantage of the eye opening readings and seminars they have prepared. Along with that the access to fun activities is fantastic, my personal favorite being "Africanyon" a canyoning adventure we did in South Africa repelling down waterfalls and jumping off rocks in a canyon river. I don't feel like I missed out on anything not going to college as I gained so many amazing experiences, and now know what I want to study and where I want to go!

Yes, I recommend

A Year of Immense Growth

Thinking Beyond Borders was an incredible experience and a decision I am very glad I made. The program is one of informal learning through seminars, experiential activities, and travel. The academic portion of the trip is focused on the question, "What is development?", which was then framed within the contexts of global issues such as education, the health system, sustainable agriculture, and the environment. As students we were able to do as much learning as we wanted to for ourselves; readings, seminars, and activities are provided, but everything is optional (though the more you do the more you gain!!), so you really have control over your experience in that way. We got to live with host families in incredibly diverse locations and were able to really get to know the communities we lived with as we were there for 4-6 weeks. Beyond the academic portion of the trip, there were enrichment weeks filled with fun activities and "touristy" things (i.e. the Taj Mahal, Macchu Picchu, bungee jumping, exploring new cities, etc.). Overall it was a wonderful experience that cannot be rivaled by classroom learning. If you want to push yourself emotionally, academically, socially, and physically you should absolutely take part in TBB. It's not always easy, but you have support systems through the program itself, as well as in your peers -- the relationships I built on my gap year are deeper than any I've ever had and have taught me so much -- so do it!! You'll grow and hold a unique education that will assist you in whatever you choose to do next.

Yes, I recommend
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Life changing gap year for sure!

Thinking Beyond Borders was more than just a gap year where you got to travel the world. It is not a gap year where you get to just travel about the world but you get to do deep exploring of the world and of yourself. You get to join a community of people who also want to change the world but that will also become a family over the seven months together. You learn so much that you would never think possible and it is such a good experience to have before college. We got to live with host families, which is sometimes difficult, but in my opinion one of the best ways to experience a culture! Being away from family for so long right after high school can be hard but living with another family in a way can alleviate that homesickness. TBB was a once in a lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to learn about the world, about their place in the world, and just about themselves in general. It does that and a lot more if you are willing to let it!

Yes, I recommend
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I Love TBB

I can't express how lucky I feel to have participated in TBB. I learned so many valuable lessons and had so many incredible experiences that I will never forget. Thinking Beyond Borders is a Gap Year program with a purpose and I would recommend it to anyone!

Yes, I recommend
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An Eye Opening Experience!

My decision to do Thinking Beyond Borders Global Gap Year is probably the best decision I have made in my life. It was truly incredible in ways that make it hard to put into words.
I'll start by saying that TBB creates an amazing way to push students out of their comfort zones, both with experiences and concepts, while surrounded by an awesome group of peers and mentors. I loved the readings and discussions about the four topics covered in the program because I felt I was learning information relevant to my life and participation in the world. As I said before its truly hard to describe but I will briefly explain the four main countries I went to.

Ecuador: My group planted trees in the Tsachila Community of Búa. I spoke Spanish after taking it in high school and really connected with my host family. The work project was physically demanding at times but always rewarding. The community was very welcoming. Be prepared for the fact that it is quite rural though. Bathing in the river and using compost toilets are the norm! It also helps if you love bananas!

China: I don't think TBB is going back to the community I visited in China. That being said the sustainable agriculture unit was my favorite! I became passionate about the food issues in the United States and am still motivated to do something about them now that I am home.

India: In India, we taught English in schools. The education unit was certainly the most challenging for me because I was teaching in school without a translator. The readings covered in this topic area also really get you thinking about the reasons you are teaching and if they are valid.

South Africa: The Public Health Unit was also a surprise to me. I knew next to nothing about public health issues, especially in Africa. I followed a caregiver around in a township as he did routine check ups on patients with everything from high blood pressure and diabetes to tuberculoses and HIV/AIDS. The patients really welcome you into their homes and offer a whole new perspective to learn from.

How can this program be improved?

Off the top of my head, I can't think of anything that I really want to change about TBB. I will say that I was hoping to leave the program with a clear direction in what I wanted to study. I didn't find that but I have found that the experiences I had on the program are still relevant in my everyday life in college.

Yes, I recommend
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A Fun, Deep, Not Watered Down Gap Year

I chose Thinking Beyond Borders (TBB) because it gave me the unique experience of traveling to 7 different countries in 8 months, without returning to the US or seeing my family. I had never traveled like that before, and had only traveled with my family in hotels previously. TBB's arranging homestays for its students gave me the rare opportunity to learn and engage a culture intimately with a local family I got to know over the course of 6-7 weeks. Despite TBB's staff and teachers being there to help me with cultural difficulties, the program forced me to address and overcome cultural difficulties myself, giving me a greater understanding of my own cultural assumptions. I continue to glean new meaning from my year with TBB, even now as a junior in college.

How can this program be improved?

I think Thinking Beyond Borders' program is set up really well for students to take responsibility for their own academic and cultural learning; looking back now, I wish I took more responsibility for my experience and learning. Our teachers supported us in all of our questions, but sometimes I look back at how they may have supported me less so I learned more for myself. It is a minor change, but something I wish I asked for more explicitly; I now realize that despite my increased responsibility for personal growth, I wish I took more opportunity to learn more about the different countries' cultures without the direct support of the group.

Yes, I recommend
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Thinking Beyond My Borders

Thinking Beyond Borders global gap year program is an amazing combination of travel, volunteer work and global studies. The global gap year is both challenging and rewarding, traveling with a group of 18 provides amazing friendships and community. Seminar discussions allow for processing and critical thinking. My experiences reframed my thinking and changed the way I engage with my community and the world.

How can this program be improved?

Increased Diversity

Yes, I recommend
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Worth it

I knew I wanted to do something different on my gap year, though at first the idea of being away from home for 8 months was pretty intimidating. Though I was nervous and unsure of what to expect, I plunged into my Global Gap Year with Thinking Beyond Borders, and I am so glad I did. The program structure is, I believe, a perfect balance between academic, travel, and immersion experiences. Overall, it changed the way I saw the world and has allowed me to make the most of my college experience. I made some of my best friends on this program, as well as some of my dearest memories. One of my favorite things about the program is how the extraordinary becomes ordinary. My routine in Ecuador might include being woken by roosters, breakfasting with my host family, planting trees in the jungle, bathing in the nearby river, relaxing and playing with my host sisters and then settling into a seminar in a straw hut with my fellow students to have critical discussions about water shortages. It is definitely a challenging year, but the process of overcoming the hardships you encounter--the difficult questions, the homesickness, the culture shock--is part of what makes this year so valuable.

Yes, I recommend
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Unique Gap Year

Thinking Beyond Borders allows you to connect broad concepts of international development and globalization to specific situations. If you are in a classroom, abstract concepts or even political policies are always some degree removed from reality. TBB is the opposite in that you are learning mainly from your environment, the organizations you work with, the people you get to know. It is a challenging experience to be confronted with gross inequality and your own privilege, to travel in a small group, to be out of your element. But it is worth it for what you learn, question, become. I met some of the most incredible people on TBB, including my best friends.

Yes, I recommend
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A Completely Unique and Invaluable Experience

I was a leader for TBB a few years ago and while I saw a different side of the program than the participants did, I was still a hugely important experience for me and one that still informs many of my decisions and interests currently. I've also led and had experience with a few other student travel organizations and while I know many of them run valuable programs, TBB's are special. Here's a few reasons why:

1) The quality of the program. The program is more than a curriculum, more than an itinerary, more than work projects, more than a set of goals - though all of these things are addressed with such thoroughness and intentionality you'd think there'd have to be a staff of 15 people designing this course and not just the handful of exceptional individuals who do it. The curriculum entails a college-level reading list with accompanying seminars and creative projects that changes the ways students are used to interacting with 'academic' material. Readings can cover both classics and the latest literature on a given problem. Moreover, traveling with laptops, kindles, and academically experienced leaders, the group always has the option of modifying the curriculum to meet student interests or address current issues. The 'work projects' can sometimes seem fruitless to students - as there might not be a new school to marvel at by the end of your stay in wherever - but they are more focused on exploring an issue than they are producing a tangible result. The program is perfect for students who are interested in learning.

2) The comprehensiveness. Virtually nothing is excluded from TBBs scope. Students are given the opportunity to explore every aspect of themselves, internal and external, personal and social, academic and physical, their personalities at work and on vacation. The range of geographic locations (city to forest) also vary widely and students are able to explore across environments and issues - as well as simply experience life abroad in some of its many settings. For example, too often Gap Years feature nothing but the exotic jungle of Bali or wherever, forgetting that the vast majority of people in the world are dealing with issues of urbanization more immediately than they are with issues of the destruction of coral reefs. Not that reefs aren't cool, but you get my point!

3) The change entailed. This program is hard, long, not for the weak or those who just want something - anything - besides school. This means, however, that students can emerge from the program rather differently than they entered. After returning from a summer or even semester abroad, it is easy to fall back into the same habits and worldviews that you had before you left because you didn't spent all that much time breaking or at least reconsidering these assumptions. TBB is long and intensive enough to develop a significant change in personality. I think nearly half the students on our trip changed the university and/or major by the time they finished TBB. The people who come out of this program - students and leaders both - are very different than they people who went in.

The only downside of TBB is the price - though it has dropped significantly in recent years. Moreover, the TBB staff is committed to helping students fundraise for their own trip - a valuable skill to acquire at such a young age. This should also help attract a great diversity of participants, which would also benefit the program greatly.

From it's own side, TBB is an incredible program deserving of almost any student. A better question to ask yourself is: are you deserving of TBB?

How can this program be improved?

See above.

- Lower Price
- Increasing Student diversity
- Students must go on this program for the right reasons.

Yes, I recommend
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Question your assumptions

Though I graduated from Thinking Beyond Borders a few years ago, the lessons and experiences from the program affect how I think and interact with the world every day. We were constantly challenged by the program leaders, content, and projects to question our selves, our place in the world, and our understanding of development. I don't feel that I can speak to the specifics of daily life during the program, because TBB has evolved a lot over the past few years, but I can definitely vouch for the integrity, intelligence, and compassion of the staff and the quality of the curriculum.

Yes, I recommend
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It was the most amazing experience to be able to combine travel and learning in such a way. The home stays can be hard but also some of the most rewarding parts of the experience. Ecuador was my favorite part of the whole trip. The tree planting project makes you feel like you are really making a difference. South Africa is also an amazing part of the trip very demanding emotionally but extremely rewarding.

How can this program be improved?

Needs better response to health issues. It would be cool if you could get college credit for the program.

Yes, I recommend
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The greatest trip you will ever take

My experience with Thinking Beyond Borders was amazing. From bathing in a river in the ecuadorian jungle or shadowing health care workers in South Africa, it taught me about the world, myself and how we both work together and make it a better place.

How can this program be improved?

Communication and taking action about health issues of the participants needs to be improved.

Yes, I recommend

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...