South America Semester – Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure

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About

Who do you want to be in the world? Join us for an insightful, overland journey thought the cultural heart of The Andes: Peru, Ecuador and Galapagos Islands.

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

Develop a global perspective, independence, leadership and Spanish skills through outdoor expeditions, service learning projects, and authentic cultural and language 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
  • - Practice and grow your Spanish language skills through immersion and homestays.
  • - Volunteer in service learning projects with the Llama Pack Project, and in Community Development in the village of Agato.
  • - Develop skills in independent travel, communication, leadership, rafting, trekking, sustainability, conservation and snorkeling
  • - Explore South America's highlights – Machu Picchu, The Sacred Valley, Lake Titicaca, The Amazon River, Galapagos Islands, world heritage sites, Incan Ruins, beaches and 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

I don't think the program has an option for a whole year. That being said, someone could go with the program then stay afterwards for however long they wanted. As always, emailing someone who works for the company that this person is interested in going with, would result in the most accurate answer!

Reviews

100%
based on 7 reviews
  • Housing 9.3
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.9
  • Value 9.9
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 7 of 7
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Priyansh
10/10

Stories to Last a Lifetime

Where do I even begin? From adrenaline-pumping adventure activities like bridge-jumping and canyoning, to deep cultural immersion through homestays in Llachon and Agato, to genuinely engaging myself with the natural world through multitudes of hikes and treks, to eye-opening service projects with Sinchi Warmi and the Llama Pack Project, these two months have been some of the most formative of my life so far.

Our instructors were some of the most inspirational people I’ve ever met. Their go-with-the-flow attitudes, ability to remain calm amidst all situations and their sheer enthusiasm for travel and adventure was infectious - they were honestly role models, and I have a huge amount of appreciation for them.

Perhaps the most life-changing experience for me was the one-week homestay in Agato. The people of Agato have a golden, intrinsic thread of sheer willpower, love and community running through them, and they taught me to sew that very thread into everything I do in life, a lesson I cannot even begin to express my gratitude for.

And it’s hard to forget the myriad of adventure activities we took part in: a two-day rafting expedition in the Amazon, rock-climbing, mountain biking, trekking, trail-running, snorkeling, and spending a week in Baños, the adventure capital of Ecuador, where went paragliding, high-speed zip-lining, rappelling down waterfalls… the list goes on. I came out of the trip understanding the immense value of travel, and with a spark for adventure ignited; I know for a fact that this is going to become an integral part of my life moving forwards.

It’s easy to recommend this nine-week escapade to anyone who wants to truly experience the culture of Peru and Ecuador, partake in a ton of adventure and absorb themselves in nature. You’ll walk out a better person with a more worldly perspective and stories to last a lifetime, guaranteed. I know I did.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Allison
10/10

Pacific Discovery South America

When I was a senior in high school, I originally did not have the intention of taking a gap year. However, when I was given this chance to take a gap year, I just knew I wanted to travel somewhere. It was one of my best decisions to travel with Pacific Discovery in South America because I learned so much about myself and the world. My Spanish improved immensely, I created strong friendships with 13 other people, I tried paragliding for the first time, camped, connected with the four families through our homestays, went puenting (bridge jumping), made coffee, and had many more new experiences. The leaders acted as friends, advisers, and most importantly, role models. One of my favorite homestays was definitely in the rural Agato, Ecuador because the community is so tight knit, warm, welcoming, and thoughtful. Everybody knows each other in the community. I remember one of the host mothers went to get groceries from a market, and she had a list of items other community members needed as well.
During my trip, I created a video that captures small bits of our experience and the gap year program.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Claire
10/10

Most Amazing Gap Semester

My absolute favorite memory from this trip was staying with a family in Ecuador. My friend David and I stayed with a mom, dad, and 4 siblings. At the end of the week we were to have a celebration with all the families the group was staying with in the community. Our older sister told us we would be showing off a traditional Llachon dance. Each night after we helped prepare our delicious dinners, we would eat with our family and then dance! It was hilarious trying to dance correctly, but even funnier when we taught them a dance of our own. This brought us so close despite the language barrier. Through the music, dancing and laughs we became true family.

How can this program be improved?
I think everything was perfectly planned and could not have asked for a better 2 months.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Ellen
10/10

South America Semester

My experience in South America with Pacific Discovery was amazing! There were so many incredible opportunities that I would never have had the chance to do otherwise. Between the service, learning and adventure, there was such a great balance between the different types of activities that we did. Some days we were in the garden helping out the community, while others we were improving our Spanish or rafting through the rapids in the middle of the Amazon. No matter how scared I was to try something different, it always ended up being an amazing experience and the leaders were always aware of when people were out of their comfort zone. This program went far above my expectations in terms of activities, food provided and accommodations. I definitely recommend this trip to anybody. Whether you speak Spanish or don’t, or whether you have tried the activities on the itinerary or not, the moments you experience during the trip are unforgettable and are definitely something you can share with people for years to come.

How can this program be improved?
I can not think of much that can be done to improve this program. The staff is wonderful and the activities we did and the places we visited were incredible.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Parker
10/10

Pacific Discovery - South America

This was the best experience of my life! Pacific Discovery is so amazing and they know how to run trips! You have the opportunity to travel through Peru, Ecuador, and the Galapagos Islands. Before, I didn't know any Spanish and it was really nice being able to travel with group leaders who handled the logistics. It was so awesome to be immersed in the culture and meet some incredible people from these countries! I really enjoyed learning Spanish (even though I was terrible) and being able to connect with other locals or our host families. The volunteer and service projects really allowed me to feel apart of the community and it was nice to help them. The question should be: what didn't we do? The entire trip was filled with exciting and unique experiences. We were able to go rafting, hiking, mountain biking, snorkeling, paragliding, zip lining, surfing, and so much more. The small group experience allows you to connect with others and build relationships which made the program so enjoyable! As I look back, I have so many great memories, but I loved the times with our host families. The meals we had were fantastic but the opportunity to spend time with them and learn was the most valuable. It should be said that the locations you get travel to are absolutely beautiful! The water in the Galapagos is so clear it's unbelievable and Machu Picchu is one of the seven wonders of the world.

How can this program be improved?
Not much! The amount of different and unique experiences you are able to enjoy is wonderful!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Madeleine
10/10

Incredible Experience!

I love Pacific Discovery! They do such an amazing job at organizing so many different activities in a 2 month program. I got to see so many incredible things like Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca but we also volunteered quite a bit too. Those really made me feel like we were there to not only see the sights but give back and help out as well! Some of my favorite memories were while we were in Lake Titicaca at a school, I loved playing with the kids when we took breaks while volunteering. One thing that always makes these types of trips so fun is the people you meet in your group. It made every bus ride, bike trip and spanish lesson 10 times more fun. I made some really great friendships and had a great experience on this trip!

How can this program be improved?
I truly loved every activity we did, but I guess it would have been nice to do even more outdoor activities or extend them, like the rafting trip or camping out in more locations!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Emily
10/10

Peru, Ecuador, and so much more!

Starting out in this program was a little challenging for me because I knew enough Spanish to get by, but not always enough to say what I wanted to. So for me, this was really frustrating and I got a little down. As time went on, however, I got more and more comfortable and really began to look past some limitations and enjoy the things I was learning and the culture I was being immersed in. Keeping an open mind was really important on this trip because the culture and life style in the places we visited are so different than what most people are used to who come from westernized countries. One thing I definitely didn't think I would enjoy were the days we were biking, but I ended up having a lot of fun and having a blast. Making sure to drink enough water was a little challenging because you have to be careful that you're drinking clean water, and my filter bottle can only hold so much and it was hard to filter it into another container. I can't complain though, I was able to see some amazingly beautiful places, go on some challenging (but rewarding) hikes, meet very diverse people, and continue my personal growth.

How can this program be improved?
I really enjoyed this program, but if I could change one thing it would be to make the outdoors part of the program longer. It would have been fun to go backpacking, or really go camping where we had to take our own food, equipment, clothes, and anything else we needed. Don't get me wrong, we had some fun times hiking the Inca Jungle Trail, but it wasn't like we were staying in tents every night cooking our own food.
Yes, I recommend this program

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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...