Why did you choose this program?
I chose Carpe Diem after looking at many different gap year programs because I could see that the goals of the program matched my own goals.
I wanted to be able to travel and see new incredible parts of the world while also learning and volunteering to help the communities around me. The goals of the Central America program specifically surrounding sustainability interested me a lot because I wanted to learn more about climate change and what we can do in our own lives to lessen our negative impact.
I also wanted to study Spanish in a more immersive environment and this program gave me excellent opportunities to do that.
What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
I was assisted in booking international flights and also we were all given helpful information such as packing lists and tips on what to expect. Almost all of the trip was planned for us except for the one week of student-directed travel which we all worked together to plan on our own.
This experience showed me how difficult it can be to make travel plans but also gave me valuable skills for when I want to travel more on my own in the future.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
To anyone interested in this program, I would suggest that they start learning a bit of Spanish beforehand if they don't already know any. I had taken high school Spanish for a few years before this trip and personally I felt that it helped me to enjoy the program even more because I felt more immersed in the local culture. Along with that, take advantage of the Spanish classes that we have throughout the trip for the same reason.
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
Every single week was quite different actually but in general, we had three different types of days/weeks: Spanish classes, working with projects/organizations, or group work (either teambuilding or adventure).
During Spanish classes, there would be four to five hours of classes a day and then free time with group activities. When we were working with projects every day varied, sometimes we had a lot more free time, other days we would have activities most of the day.
Group days were also widely varied with lots of different activities depending on our location, from yoga and meditation to kayaking or scuba diving.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
My biggest fear was about being so far away from everyone and everything that I knew. I was scared I would end up being really homesick, but in reality, there were only a few times where I missed home and even then the group started to feel like a second family so I could talk to my friends and I was never feeling down for long.
I think this was such a fear because I was worried I wouldn't bond with my group but I was so wrong about that. Everyone ended up bonding relatively quickly and we remained a close-knit group (with only a few normal problems or disagreements here and there) throughout the trip!
Do you think this experience was meaningful/worth it?
At first, another of my worries was that I would come back from the trip and feel like I had gone on a fun adventure but that I was falling behind all my classmates that had gone to college.
This could not be further from how it turned out. I am so glad that I chose to take a gap year and this program in particular because it helped me to see the world with a widened perspective. This is so valuable to me now that I am making decisions about where I want to go to college and what I want to study.
The trip also greatly enhanced my self-reliance and independence, which is something that has also already made an impact on how I live my day to day life.