Travel, service, experiential learning, and adventure in Central America
97% Rating
(9 Reviews)

Travel, service, experiential learning, and adventure in Central America

This semester intertwines personal growth with adventure, service, and a greater awareness of the global community as you travel throughout Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica with a small group of 12 other intrepid travelers. In Guatemala and Nicaragua study Spanish, live with home stay families, and teach at local community schools with your new language skills. Then volunteer at a sustainable arts center and live in an eco-lodge as you learn about permaculture and alternative building techniques, enriching your experience as you embrace local cuisine, folklore, and indigenous culture. Complement your personal journey with trekking through the Guatemalan Highlands, sea turtle conservation in Costa Rica, and a mindfulness retreat to explore your inner self. End the epic adventure earning your SCUBA diving certification off the coast of Roatan!

Our programs are accredited by PSU, meaning you can earn a full semester of credit while having the experience of a lifetime!

As a Carpe Diem participant, you'll not only have access to our immersive, service-based programming and stellar staff -- but you can opt to also receive up to 18 college credits (an official transcript from Portland State University) and may be eligible for financial aid. We're one of the only Gap Year providers on the market that offers these options for a nominal fee.
North America » Nicaragua
North America » Guatemala
North America » Costa Rica
Program Tags
Adventure Travel
Language Immersion
Study Abroad
Volunteer Abroad
1-3 Months
6-12 Months
Host Family
Primary Language
Age Max
Starting Price
Price Details
$10,300 Program fee includes all food, accommodations, international health insurance, and scheduled program activities for the duration of the program. International airfare and spending money are extra. International airfare we estimate will cost between $1400 and $1600.

Scholarships and tuition reductions are available on a case by case basis. All students can receive a full semester of college credit from Portland State University, credits are an additional $1100 (*note, you will not be in a classroom at all!).

Questions & Answers

That's a great question, and one I definitely asked myself before signing up with Carpe Diem Education. But after going on the trip and learning more about Carpe, I don't believe there is any typical student. I could pick a few defining characteristics of the students that go on Carpe Diem adventures. These would be a sense of adventure, a drive to explore new places, and a passion to learn not ju...

Program Reviews

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Program Reviews (9)

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19 years old
Columbus, Ohio
Brandeis University

The most amazing semester of your life!


Carpe Diem Education gave me the most incredible semester filled with fun, service, experiential-learning, and life-long friends. I did service projects, took Spanish classes, lived with home-stay families, hiked volcanoes, made chocolate, went SCUBA diving, helped with sea turtle conservation, went surfing, and experienced the beautiful nature and landscapes of Central America. I learned how to be a global citizen by being immersed in other cultures, and I realized how much we take for granted in our society, and I am so grateful for so much more now. I had the best semester of my life because of Carpe Diem Education and how much it taught me about other cultures, the world, and about who I am and who I want to be.

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20 years old
Portland, OR

A New Perspective


My trip to Centroamérica gave me a new perspective. I picked this program because of the different options and diversity that it offers. Carpe Diem Education encourages students to travel consciously, we not only learn explore as a traveler (not a tourist), but we also learn about ourselves and how we fit in a group dynamic. Through my exploration in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, I had the opportunity to learn Spanish, engage in outdoor adventures, and participated in service learning. I gained a new perspective through community developing and service-learning projects. One of my biggest take away from my trip was that there is no rush. It is okay that I did not know what I want to do with my life, as long as I keep exploring my options, I will find a purpose. In my trip, I found my passion in helping others through interactions with host families, partner organizations, and my group members. I learned the styles of how I communicate and how others perceive me, along with the mindfulness of other cultures and diversity around me.

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19 years old
Rhode Island

No Expectations


"Okay bye mom, love you, gotta go to Guatemala. I'll see you in three months!" Yeah. It didn't set in until i was flying over the mountainous landscapes of Central America, and a stranger was sitting next to me, not my mom. However, when traveling, strangers quickly become family. Oh man, I didn't know what to expect. I had been to Central America in the past, for a short 10 tens, but this was three months I was looking at! I let it be though. I figured that all of the wonderful colors I would see, music I would hear, and people I would meet were going to be new experiences. That is exactly what they were. Peers around me, they had expectations. They wanted to learn something specific, or "find themselves" well, you just can't set your mind up for that. Halfway through the trip I had to seperate myself when they would begin to speak of excitement of going home. If you live in the moment, ask questions, and respectfully experience the culture in your comfort zone, and out of it then you are going to have a remarkable adventure. I am writing this review in regards to a magnificent program. Time for independent learning, time for mountain climbing, time for beachin it, time for hard work, time for yoga, time for love, time for laughter. Always remember to advocate for yourself, this is your trip!

How can this program be improved?

This program does a great job at emphasizing the importance of feedback by alumni to improve their program. One of the many reasons I am writing this review!

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20 years old
Clayton, NC

Great kickoff to my gap year


I wanted to take a gap year to volunteer independently, but after I graduated at 16 with zero travel experience in the developing world, my parents insisted that I start off with a structured program and offered to help fund it. I picked Carpe Diem because I liked their values and the fact that I could go to 4 different countries in just 3 months and get to scuba dive! My semester taught me so much, especially how to work with 12 people who were really different from me and turn them into a family. The curriculum rotates logistical duties among the students every week, so I got practice in booking transportation and hostels too that was really helpful for when I set out on my own. The Spanish schools were usually 1 on 1 and amazing, and we went on fun trips all the time based on what our group's interests were. It was a phenomenal 3 months and I recommend it to anyone who wants a little support on their gap year but still wants some freedom to do awesome things. Only con was that our service projects were not very meaningful even though the organizations themselves were doing good work.

How can this program be improved?

Better service projects, maybe more curriculum in terms of learning about the countries you're in such as required reading (however most students really wouldn't want that so I understand the challenge)

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22 years old
Bend, Or
Portland State University

Passions Reached


As college students, we are expected to know EXACTLY what we want to do with out life, before it has even begun. Carpe Diem introduced me to every single passion I know have; Spanish, Business, International Politics, Environmental Protection. Without Carpe Diem, I would not be so inspired to travel the world and become a global citizen. I am now working on scholarships to study in Spain next Fall and Thailand next Spring. I never thought I would be able to just decide to go somewhere and actually do it. Ben and Jess, my mentors while abroad, are the type of people I want to be someday. I hope to lead students into another country and be able to show them all the world has to offer. Education outside of academics is what I learned is truly important. I gained 24 college credits, which was amazing and kept me on track, but the expense I got when wandering the streets and speaking to fruit vendors is what taught me the most. Go study abroad, get lost for awhile, find yourself again, and get out of the god damn classroom.

Pura Vida

How can this program be improved?

More students. My program had 7 students and it was not enough. the social aspect was very hard and most of the group did not like one another.

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24 years old
Vancouver, Canada
Capilano University

Better than a dream


Carpe Diem Education semester in Central America is like no other program I found online. It encompassed so many different things including (but not limited to) language study, home-stays, conservation work, volunteering, Group-lead travel week, volunteering, hiking and so much more.

My semester with my group was one of the most challenging things I have ever done. To be truthful: I did not get along with everyone in the group and they didn't get along with me. But since I had to spend 3 months with them: I learned a lot about living and working as a group member and how to deal with people/things that make you uncomfortable or unhappy.

Not every location we stayed in was nice or even had showers but that was the best part, those weeks we shared with no access to electricity or showers were some of the best. We stayed in all kinds of housing, it was the best way to really feel a part of the communities we stayed with.

My leaders gave me some of the best personal growth guidance I have ever received. I learned how to be flexible, to enjoy things even if they weren't going well and how to travel!! Carpe sets up their students for success with well designed programs and fantastic leaders. I felt that my Spanish was very good by the end of the program and that was a major goal of mine going into the program. I took away a lot of experiences and learning lessons; so many that I could probably write a book.

One of my favourite weeks was our week in Xela, Guatemala. We stayed in separate homestays (alone with a family) and everyday I walked to school through the city, had one on one Spanish instruction and then at lunch I would walk home, have lunch with my host mother. After lunch we would have other activities or we would meet up in the square, check out the festivals or anything else.
Most of my favourite times were when I didn't feel like a tacky-tourist just taking pictures and leaving in a few ays, I felt like this was everyday life. Just walking to school, exploring the cities.

Another favourite moment was during our week at Playa Jesus working with the turtle conservation project. We stayed up half the night working with turtles and we got to tag them, mark them, catch eggs and collect data. It was awesome!

How can this program be improved?

As someone who has since grown into a major advocate for fair trade, human rights and poverty eradication, I would love to see Carpe incorporate more projects that work with communities to show North Americans what life can really be like. I felt like we witnessed these challenges but I felt separated from them. Community development projects, working in villages that are being exploited by foreign companies and projects that open up our eyes to the realities of the challenges faced by the locals. I felt we saw a lot of it, I wanted (and still do want) to help more!

My other issue was the cost, for my family it was a little expensive and put a strain on my university budget for the 4 years following. I don't regret it for a moment because of everything I took away, but if I could change it I would make it cheaper and more accessible to more people. I truly think that it should become the North American norm to do a program like Carpe!

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24 years old
Richmond, VA
University of Richmond

Life Changing Adventure


The Central America program with Carpe Diem was so much more than I could ever have expected it to be. It wasn't just learning Spanish, travelling to beautiful countries, and engaging in extraordinary opportunities. It was throwing myself into new experiences, knowing I had the full support of my leaders and fellow group members as I expanded my comfort zone by leaps and bounds. After Carpe Diem I could confidently say that I can backpack and hike mountains, hold conversations in Spanish (which I had never spoken previously), live with a host family and bond with them, and even scuba dive. My memories of dancing to the marimba in the cloud forest, roasting marshmallows on lava and throwing flour with children on Carnival are reminders that exploring new places can have amazing and lasting effects.

How can this program be improved?

Nothing, our group was fantastic and our leaders especially supportive.

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24 years old
El Dorado Hills, CA



Without a doubt Carpe Diem has been the most significant experience of my life. I graduated from highschool last year and didnt really know what direction i wanted to take in life but i did know that i had a passion for travel and exploration.
Carpe Diem Education was the first gap year program i stumbled upon and even though i researched tons of other programs, Carpe Diem kept drawing me back to it. I absolutely loved the group dynamic CD provides as well as the wide range of activities provided in each different CD program, everything from adventure activities to community service projects to laughing with host families about language barriers and cultural differences.
My leaders on the trip were AMAZING. They were both so caring, fun, and extremely well educated in the ways of travelling. Both held a passion for life and were incredibly inspiring.
I had the time of my life on my Carpe Diem semester. I made new best friends, became more confident in my independence, and learned more about myself, others, and the world than i could have ever imagined.

Carpe Diem Education is incredible incredible incredible!

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24 years old
Orange, Connecticut
Southern Connecticut State University



Carpe Diem changed my life!

Before going on this trip I had spent two years at college not knowing what I wanted to do with my life or where I was going. I lived in a little bubble with hardly any view on the real world. I had never left home for more than a week without my family and didn't go very far when picking a college.

From the moment I met my leaders and group at the airport I knew that this was going to be the best three months of my life, and I was right! My leaders were the most amazing two people in my entire life; they were so welcoming and interested in each one of us. They guided us through our ups and downs and made sure we were healthy and safe the entire way. They made sure that we were taken care of before they even thought about themselves! I now also have 10 other brothers and sisters in my life thanks to Carpe! My group members were just as amazing as my leaders were. I am so lucky to have met such amazing, beautiful people. I still keep in touch with them all the time!

The trip was just as wonderful as my fellow travelers. I felt completely safe the entire time I was away and got to experience things that most people never get to experience. From living in a hut that has no electricity and running water to scuba diving in the beautiful waters of Roatan, I loved every second of it. The people are so warm and welcoming and just want to teach you all about their culture. And I cant forget about the warm pan dulce or the fresh fruit.

If I could go back and do it again I would be jumping on a plane right now. I couldn't thank Carpe enough for this amazing experience that I had, it is something that I will never forget.

How can this program be improved?

I would not change one thing about Carpe!

About The Provider


Our programs are designed to safely challenge every student. Through service, travel, community and cultural exchange – our students receive a unique and personal insight into themselves and the cultures they live within. Our Overseas Educators are trained to facilitate personal growth and learning within