New Zealand & Australia Semester - Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure

Video and Photos

Pacific Discovery takes a Gap Year!

Pacific Discovery will not be offering any programs in Summer 2018, Fall 2018, or Spring 2019. After 18 years of running programs, we will be taking a gap year ourselves to focus on time with family and our own adventures. We will continue to offer our custom faculty-led high school and university trips.

Thank you for supporting Pacific Discovery and we wish you all the best for the year ahead.

About

Engage your passions! Join us for a life-changing, overland journey through the heart of New Zealand and Australia.

10-week program for ages 18-24. Fall and Spring departures. Scholarships and academic credit available.

Develop a global perspective, independence, leadership and communication skills through outdoor expeditions, service learning projects, and authentic cultural immersion. Pacific Discovery programs foster empathy for other cultures, ethical and sustainable travel practices, and awareness of international issues. Students leave with a deepened sense of their identity, passion, and purpose.

Pacific Discovery is a global leader in experiential education, offering inspiring summer, semester, and gap year programs abroad since 2001, and is an inaugural member of the American Gap Association.

- Visit our website to request a detailed information booklet for this program –

Highlights
  • - Develop skills in independent travel, leadership, communication, rock climbing, surfing, canoeing, canyoning, mountain biking, trekking, snorkeling.
  • -Get to know the real culture and people of New Zealand and Australia.
  • - Volunteer in service learning projects with National Parks in New Zealand and Australia.
  • - Explore New Zealand and Australia’s highlights – The Noosa Everglades, Sydney, The Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Auckland, Kahurangi National Park, Queenstown, Rotorua, Frans Josef Glacier, islands, beaches, national parks
  • - Experience transformative personal growth that pushes students to reflect and ask questions of themselves, working towards a deeper understanding of their values, identity, passions and purpose.

Questions & Answers

My trip was also ranging between 18-22 years old. Most of the people were 18, but I was 22 at the time, done with college, and was the oldest besides the trip leaders. I wasn't bothered by this though because it was still awesome to hang out with such outgoing and motivated people!

Reviews

96%
based on 37 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.6
  • Fun 9.7
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.8
Showing 31 - 37 of 37
Default avatar
Serena
10/10

We woke up at four in the morning, packed everything into the trailer, and piled into the van once again. We should have been miserable, but we were all still smiling.

In New Zealand and in Australia, I woke up each day with bright eyes and ready feet. I had not a care for my aches or pains (though there were always many) and felt full of a never ending supply of adventuresome spirit. It was very rare for one of us to feel a lack of excitement for the day's plans- though, of course, it did happen; living every hour with the same group of people for two months comes with its inherent challenges. But, waking up with the next dawn, I would realize that I was on the top of a mountain in Kahurangi National Park, and that I had trekked all the way up there on my own two feet. Or that I was camping in the bush in Australia, being woken by the laughter of the kookaburras. Or yawning, sore as can be, at Surfaris Surf Camp in Crescent Head, ready to throw myself into the arms of the Pacific Ocean once again, to be battered by its waves until I could learn to ride them. I felt giddy with the beauty of the world and its people. This trip never felt like...a program to me. It just felt like living. Like true, joyous living.

How can this program be improved?
The truth is, I was rarely unhappy on this trip. The difficulties came when we moved too quickly from one place to another, with no chance to rest in between. This also added a strain on group dynamics which was my greatest challenge.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Nikki
10/10

Best Time Ever

This program was essential to my successful gap year. Meeting everyone for the first time in Auckland, NZ will be an unforgettable experience. I remember feeling scared, nervous, and awkward... but so did everyone else. Seeing how our group dynamics changed by the end of the trip was pretty incredible. We were so close that we still make time to meet up (after the program)! The people I met on this trip will hold a special place in my heart. We went through some hard times, and the best of times. We laughed, cried, sang, and danced together. They are seriously the coolest people I know, and I am so fortunate to have met them!

On another note, Pacific Discovery provided me with the chance to fully explore New Zealand and Australia. We went on many adventures and I learned some lifelong skills-- both technical and social. I find myself often wishing I was back on this program!

How can this program be improved?
For the leader to foster more reflections at night. There was a lot of "play" but very little "serious moments". Also, the activities in Australia were not comparable to NZ. Fraser Island was not my favorite.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Sophia
10/10

New Zealand & Australia experience of a lifetime!

Even after months to process, my Pacific Discovery experience is still difficult to put into words. I feel so privileged to have participated in the New Zealand/ Australia semester program that Scott and Rachel so brilliantly planned.

Highlights for me (although difficult to choose only a few) were learning to rock climb, sleeping under the stars multiple times, feeding and playing with eels at Nelson Lakes, staying up late to see a cavern of glow worms light up, meeting my Pacific Discovery family, volunteering at a permaculture farm in the bush, learning to surf in an amazing surf town in Australia and volunteering and exploring the amazing Mimiwhangata Coastal park.

It would be a lie to say the trip wasn't challenging, but the trials are what make Pacific Discovery so unique. On the trip I definitely pushed myself out of my comfort zone which I wouldn't have done otherwise when traveling on my own. Which was awesome. Every trial resulted in a glorious triumph and incredible learning experience. The hardest part for me was scrambling through the cave on the Kahurangi hiking trip. Being claustrophobic, I was definitely scared. Pushing through it with friends and seeing the light at the end of the tunnel was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip.

Although I considered myself an experienced traveler, I learned more I could ever dream of on the trip. I learned so much about the countries we were in, about the people of the countries, relationships with others on the team and strangers all while discovering so much about myself. Scott and Rachel are two of the most inspiring people I've ever met. They are geniuses who have a beautiful relationship with world around them and so many of the people in it. Also I wouldn't have wanted our trip to be lead by anyone other than our leader, Kim. She is so kind-hearted and has a gift for sharing her happiness and knack for adventure with everyone she meets. I always felt safe yet independent during the trip. Pacific Discovery gave me the confidence I need to continue traveling and discovering the world in a way that brings myself, those around me and the earth happiness.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
George
10/10

Wish I could do it all over again!

I decided to do this trip as a chance to try things that I had never done before and be in a part of the world that I had never been to. This trip did exactly that. I had never been back packing, or canyoning, or canoeing, or anything of that sort before this trip. My leader (Dan) was as helpful and fun as anyone could have been. He was very supportive and helped everyone learn things they struggled with. By the end of the trip we were all comfortable living outdoors, cooking our own meals, and really traveling by ourselves.

Not only that, but I got to experience one of the biggest rugby tournaments in the world in New Zealand, I went to the famous Steve Irwin Zoo in Australia, oh and I jumped out of a plane 13,500 feet in the air! While all of these things were cool, I really felt I could enjoy these things because I was still giving back to the country. We did many volunteer projects during the trip and it made me feel like I was doing something productive for someone other than me. It's easy to be enjoying all that the countries had to offer, but it wouldn't feel right unless we did something in return.

I knew nobody going into the trip, and now I can proudly say that I keep in contact with everyone from my trip still a year and a half later. This was an amazing trip with amazing people and is truly an incredibly unique experience that I will remember for the rest of my life.

How can this program be improved?
One thing I would change is more interaction I guess with people of the countries. We had a good amount of interaction in New Zealand with the locals but not so much in Australia.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Josie
9/10

An Experience of a Lifetime

Scott and Rachel have put together a program unlike any other gap year program offered. Pacific Discovery is not just an ordinary gap year experience, it reaches above and beyond anything I could have ever imagined. The program is well-thought out, balancing the perfect amount of work and play. When I was searching for a program, I was looking for something that involved a substantial amount of community service, but also a program that allowed me to spend some time focusing on myself and pushing my boundaries. I wanted a program where I could travel with friends and be surrounded by people who were like-minded. I wanted something where I was going to grow as a person and challenge myself. Pacific Discovery blew my expectations out of the water.

Pacific Discovery allowed me the opportunities I would have never received if I had travelled elsewhere or on my own. They have made incredible connections with the people that we worked with and I genuinely felt like I was contributing something when I was doing environmental work. For example, we worked with a park ranger and his family in Mimiwhangata (New Zealand) doing various jobs each day. I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that hauling logs into bushes, whacking weeds, gardening, planting trees, or fixing up roads could be so much fun. Working with wonderful, kind people makes such a huge difference. Each day was a new adventure and once we got the jobs done we were able to relax by the beach in the one of most beautiful places in the world. It was incredible to be able to talk to the family and park ranger to see what a difference a group of 13 people can make. One of my favourite volunteer experiences was working on a perma-culture farm in Australia. We were welcomed into a family's home to learn about the perma-culture lifestyle and help them with their home. We stayed in old train carriages that they had turned into quaint bedrooms. During the day we worked either gardening, making a fence, or building terraces. We learned all about sustainable living through hands-on work experience. I could have never imagined how much I learned in just one week. Overall, I was amazed at how many wonderful people Scott and Rachel had connected with over the years and how much I enjoyed working on various projects throughout Australia and New Zealand.

The many adventures that I partook in were definitely a highlight of my life. My favourite part of the whole trip was going on a 90km canoe trip down the Whanganui River. It was near the beginning of the trip and it was a wonderful way to bond with other participants on the program. I was able to spend one-on-one time with different people each day in a canoe. It made us work together and allowed us to get to know one another very quickly. Some other highlights of the trip were learning how to rock climb, being able to stand up on a surf board after a 4 day surf camp, pushing myself out of my comfort level while hiking in Kahurangi National Park, snorkelling with the turtles, matarays, and hammerhead sharks, canyoning and abseiling in the Blue Mountains, spending a day at the most enjoyable water park, white water rafting and not falling out of the boat, and bungy jumping 134 metres off of a cable car. The program allowed me to challenge myself in ways I never thought imaginable and grow into a stronger, more confident person.

Lastly, the people on the trip were what made the trip so incredible. Scott and Rachel pour their heart and soul into everything that is planned. I was privileged to spend the first 3 weeks with Scott on our program and a few days with Rachel as well. It just shows that they care about the participants and they want to make your experience as wonderful as it can be. Also, my trip leader, Kim, was one of the most amazing people that I have ever met. She was well-organized, thoughtful and friendly, made sure everybody was comfortable, had a tremendous amount of life experience, and was one of the most kind-hearted, selfless people I have ever met. Also, the fact that she was from Australia made all the difference when it came to knowing her way around the places we visited. I feel as though I have a second family with Scott, Rachel, Kim, and all of the other participants on the program. I wouldn't have wanted to travel with anybody else.

I highly recommend Pacific Discovery if you are looking for a gap year experience of a lifetime.

Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
Amanda
9/10

My experiences on the other side of the world

My gap year trip to New Zealand and Australia will go on my list of most amazing experiences of my life. Not only was I half a world away from home, but I participated in so many activities that would usually fall outside of my comfort zone. After beating cancer, I thought challenging myself both mentally and physically would be an optimal way to demonstrate that I had gotten my strength back. This trip certainly fulfilled that goal. Not only did I hike over 30 miles or bungee jump from a suspended glass room, but I grew as a person. I learned that attitude is the key to getting through anything and it's the tiniest shift in perspective that allows you to overcome difficulties. I came home so proud with all that I was able to accomplish, with a new optimistic mindset and, not to mention, a few lifelong friends. I would not trade this experience for anything.

How can this program be improved?
I loved everything about this program, but unfortunately a case of bad weather removed one whole expedition from my specific trip. In the future, I think it would be helpful to have backup trips planned in case of such an event.
Yes, I recommend this program
Default avatar
julia
9/10

"Ma whero ma pango a oti ai te mahi"

(I wrote a lovely review but it got deleted by accident so this one will be less lovely.)

To be honest, going on my New Zealand/Australia trip was probably the best decision I've made to date. There wasn't a single moment during the trip where I thought to myself "darn, I regret this." I have so many wonderful memories and fantastic stories, It has made my friends at home totally sick of me.
Obviously there were some obstacles during the trip. Normally I would list examples but each group will have different difficulties presented to them (and different solutions to those problems). Regardless, the good times we had far outweighed the hard.
One of my favorite experiences was Canyoning and Repelling in Katoomba, AUS. I find heights challenging (and not always in a good way) but for some reason repelling down the 30 meter waterfall was invigorating instead of terrifying. Amazingly enough, I have a reason for this glorious change: About halfway through our trip, we realized that every experience we have is preparing us for the one that follows. (Ex. Volunteering for canoeing trip, canoeing trip for hiking trip, hiking trip for more volunteering, etc.). In each stage of the trip, we became stronger and more understanding. We also learned important life skills like how to work in a big group, how to use your strengths, and how to enjoy each day despite its challenges.
I am so grateful for all of the experiences that the NZ/AUS trip gave me. Everyday tested our limits and provided new challenges while exposing us to two amazing countries and to so many wonderful people. I hope that someday I can send my children on their own PD trip.

How can this program be improved?
Less time at the Permaculture farm, more time in Sydney!
Yes, I recommend this program

Interviews

Meet the Alumni

Meet the Staff

About Pacific Discovery

Pacific Discovery gap year, semester and summer programs are experiential education programs, suitable for high school graduates, university students and recent graduates, developed with a focus on six core components: educational travel, service...