Sustainable Development in Central America on a Carpe Diem Education Gap Year

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Spring '19 and Fall '19 Programs Now Open!

How will you carpe diem? Explore our gap year and semester programs in eight global regions this Spring '19 and Fall '19—all while earning college credit! Did you know we offer three different types of scholarships? Click the "Learn More" link below and discover how to make your gap year affordable.

About

Learn about sustainable development and catch waves in the small coastal community of El Paredon. Practice Spanish with welcoming host families in rural Nicaragua. Get SCUBA certified in the sparkling turquoise waters of the Caribbean island of Roatan. Explore the diverse traditions of Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Roatan in the tropical haven of Central America.

Experiential Education: Volunteer with a turtle conservation non-profit in Costa Rica; help patrol the beach so that baby turtles make their way back to the ocean.

Community: Live communally as a group and eat your meals with host families on a lush Guatemalan property that was once a coffee plantation.

Intercultural Exchange: Learn about sustainable living and organic agriculture while staying on a farm on Ometepe Island in Nicaragua.

Note: this is a 3-month long semester program.

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.

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...

Reviews

95%
based on 16 reviews
  • Housing 9.1
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.6
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.1
Showing 1 - 15 of 16
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Natali
8/10

Carpe Diem - Central America

This program is great, it gives people a lot of support when they are going through challenges. While I was in Central America, I stayed with two host families, attended Spanish school, did a lot of community service (including building a compost toilet), and immersed myself in the culture. I also explored the nature and wildlife there. I was in Nicaragua for two months, and it was my first time out of the country. Exploring Nicaragua was an experience I will never forget.

How can this program be improved?
It was perfect.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Magdalena
10/10

Great contacts

All of Carpe Diem’s contacts were well established and fit perfectly together to form an altogether very well rounded, diverse, and unique travel experience. I loved getting to know the Carpe staff and hear about all of their previous trips. The program has some strict rules but they are all put in place for the safety of the students. Really loved my overseas educators, and met a lot of really great people. I would recommend this program to anyone looking to make some lifelong friends and experience some really special stuff.
Overall a really fantastic program!

Yes, I recommend this program
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victoria
10/10

great time

i had an amazing experience on my trip! i was very nervous at first but then towards the end realized how amazing it was and all the great people and memories i have and met over the course of 3 months. it was very eye opening and empowering! i recommend this trip or any other gap year program to everyone! I did wind up getting hurt on this trip and they brought me to every doctor i needed to understand my injury, then they sent me home and the leaders of the trip were able to let me come back on the trip and finish it out if i was cleared by a doctor! i went through many obsticles and through my trip i was able to face some fears and overcome some of th harder things in my life! Over all the greatest time of my life

How can this program be improved?
I honestly don’t believe this program could be improved at all it was everything i’ve ever looked for and wanted in a program!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Jillian
10/10

Probably my life peak

An amazing program!! Incredible balance between service, education (Spanish, sustainability, local history/culture), and adventure. Great group dynamics and leaders make sure everyone bonds and had a variety of workshops for us throughout the semester. Got to participate in a variety of leadership roles, and learned a bunch of Spanish after barely knowing any going in. Always felt safe, but you still have to be smart. From scuba diving to camping next to an active volcano, everyday on carpe was an adventure.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Estelle
10/10

Amazing Experience

Carpe Diem had every aspect of a Gap Year I was looking for. The price is amazing. I was able to take up to 18 credits a semester that were able to be transferred to my university at almost half the cost of a semester in college. Carpe Diem takes their students experience very seriously and adjust the program based on our feedback. This past semester, my group rated one of our activities poorly, and adjusted the schedule accordingly. The basis of the program is that the first semester, students spend with a group of about 10-12 other students and two Overseas Educators, or OE’s. The OE’s were extremely supportive and clearly cared about every person in the group. They gave us freedom to explore cities and surrounding areas when we had time and made sure we were safe in doing so. They taught me so much about international travel and ways to do that safely and in a cost effective manner. They pushed me intellectually and opened my eyes to many perspectives I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. As for the group dynamic, it was great! My group was insanely lucky and we were all very close. I have seen 4 of my friends since then and still keep in close touch with them! The first semester is spent traveling around almost every week. I never felt bored or rushed when we left areas, and I was always excited for the next place we were going. We spent 4 weeks doing Spanish classes and homestays and I learned more in those 4 weeks than I ever did in 3 years of high school Spanish. It is easy to learn in that environment and you don’t have to have any Spanish language skills prior to the trip to go! The Central America trip does a great job tying in learning Spanish with learning about community development and environmental sustainability. The second semester is an independent semester spent volunteering with one organization. My placement was in Roatan, Honduras where I worked to get my divemaster. That experience taught me so much about myself and helped me with my confidence in ways I didn’t think it would. Overall, my year was amazing and worth every penny. I highly recommend this program to anyone looking to take a semester or year abroad.

How can this program be improved?
It can’t be
Yes, I recommend this program
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April
7/10

Traveling through Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Traveling throughout Nicaragua and Costa Rica for two months changed my life. I traveled with an all female cohort. It definitely was stressful a lot of the time because of all the hormones but it was one f the best experiences I’ve had. I stayed with host families. One family which I’m still in contact with. Ate soooo many new and amazing foods. Traveled to places I would have never been able to go to if it wasn’t for Carpe Diem. I learned a lot about the Nicaraguan and Costa Rican cultural as well. Being there during Easter was an experience to remember for a life time. I went to church and walked in a procession. Before this trip I had traveled a little before, both in and out of the country. I did have a great time, most of the time that is. There were plenty of ups but also there were some downs. I twisted my ankle pretty bad the second day I was in Nicaragua. And broke my toe about 3 weeks before we left the country. These injuries didn’t stop me from doing much though. I still had lots of fun wether a few things had to be altered or not. This trip though changed my views on many things; other travelers, traveling to Spanish speaking countries, trying new foods, how to communicate better, and change with in myself. Because of the experience I got traveling in Nicaragua and Costa Rica makes me want to go back that much more. I’m already planning out my next adventures there. Thanks Carpe Diem for all that you offer.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Grace
10/10

Pushed Boundaries

I had such an incredible time on my semester with Carpe Diem. Our group did 5 weeks worth of home stays with local families which at first scared the hell out of me, but ended up being one of the most impactful experiences I’ve ever had in my life. Carpe pushes me not just to learn a new language but to put it to use in the most immersive way possible, and I am so happy to have had that experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Emmy
10/10

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Peyton
10/10

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Jillian
10/10

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!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Kaitlin
9/10

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)
Yes, I recommend this program
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Mary
8/10

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Emilie
10/10

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!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Lexi
10/10

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.
Yes, I recommend this program
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itzafriend
10/10

Incredible.

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!

Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

About Carpe Diem Education

Experiential education. Community. Intercultural exchange.

This is how we connect with and learn from the global communities we engage with—and how we are redefining what it means to embark on a meaningful gap year abroad. Learn a new language, live...