ARCC Gap Programs

ARCC Programs


ARCC has been offering programs for young adults since 1983. ARCC Gap Semesters are an opportunity to live and learn in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Our semester programs take students on a journey of discovery of local peoples, places, cultures and ideas through project-based learning, rich cultural immersion, personal reflection and exhilarating adventure.

ARCC Gap Semesters have a vibrant educational foundation complementing each and every destination and highlighting regional topics that are directly linked to global issues. Through delving into these topics ranging from the environment to public health (and more) students have the opportunity to explore future aspirations in a tangible hands-on manner.

ARCC offers semesters in North America, South America, East Africa, Asia, Himalayas, Pacific Islands, and Central America. ARCC Gap Programs focus on personal growth in small groups of 8-12 students in an engaging, goal-driven, and leadership focused environment.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Even with the pandemic situation, I had the best time on this trip. One of the big focuses is student leadership so all the meals & many of the activities are student planned, and I feel like I gained a lot of experience. My group loved thrift shopping and beaches, so we did a lot of city days and surfing, but there were tons of opportunities for hikes, service work, whatever the group wants to do, really. The trip leaders and other students are so fun, there’s a perfect mix of exploring the cities and nature activities, and the curriculum is fascinating. We were camping probably 75% of the time because of COVID restrictions, so I can’t speak to the accommodations very accurately, but the campsites were pretty nice. The leaders facilitated a lot of personal growth experiences and I got to know myself a lot better over the 2 months, so if you like adventure-type stuff, learning about social activism/Indigenous history, and want to *find yourself*, I definitely recommend this trip. Also, feel free to email me if you have any questions or want to talk more about the trip!!! I’m doing another ARCC semester in Belize in the spring, which should be a good sign :) email:

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Bring a big duffel bag, backpacks are kind of a pain
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Yes, I recommend this program

I had a really great time on my trip even though it was during the COVID pandemic. I had really great instructors and made so many close friends. This trip helped me gain confidence in living away from home and I was able to learn through experience as opposed to being in a classroom, which was great for me. I enjoyed every main thing that we did and didn't really have any bad days at all. I feel really grateful to have gone on this trip and would recommend that people considering a gap year to go for it!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
We were scuba diving and saw a tiger shark, which was pretty nerve-racking in the moment but we discussed what we would do if we did see one beforehand which helped overcome it, and we were all calm and collected and didn't panic. Overall it was super cool, too.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I had the best semester in Hawaii with ARCC. My group was amazing, and we got along really well. Everyone came into this experience with an open mind, and we had so much fun exploring and learning together. ARCC managed to make this experience phenomenal despite the ongoing pandemic, and I always felt safe. Everyone that we interacted with outside our group was extremely kind and very willing to help us learn. I enjoyed getting my SCUBA certification and going on hikes and adventures around the Big Island. My instructors were caring, kind, and responsible. They helped us delve deeper into our passions and have meaningful experiences. The also helped us grow as leaders and individuals and were eager to teach, learn, and adventure alongside the group. I could not have asked for a better way to spend the first half of my gap year.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come into this trip with an open mind. Be ready to meet new people, have new experiences, try new things, and have fun!
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Yes, I recommend this program

This trip was some of the best 70 days of my life. I loved the combination of spending time in nature while also learning about the Southwest and volunteering. Even with COVID, ARCC figured out how we could safely work with most of our partners in person, whether that meant spending four days rafting the Colorado River while learning about water rights or building a fence for a wolf sanctuary. In addition to learning about the Southwest and more academic topics like environmental sustainability and immigration, I learned a lot about myself. I have a better sense of what it what I'm passionate about and how to achieve my goals.
While the prospect of spending 70 days in a tent seemed a little daunting to me at first, by the end of the trip, my tent and the rest of my group felt like home to me. There's nothing like waking up to the sun glowing through your tent and the sound of your friends laughing next to you. I'm grateful that I made so many close friends with whom I still talk to regularly. My instructors were also so passionate about their work. It was inspiring. They cared enough to take time to connect with us as people too, not just students.
If even part of you is considering taking a gap year, do it. I'm so glad I did and that I chose to do an ARCC program. 100% recommend.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come in with an open mind, never miss a chance to ask questions, embrace every experience head on, even when it is challenging, and appreciate your time as much as you can. The semester will end sooner than you want it to.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I had no plan to deviate from a four year college plan, right out of the gate of high school. But when COVID quickly turned college into a learn from home experience, I became open to other options. ARCC fit every niche of what I was looking for in an extracurricular experience. It brought together my love for the outdoors, adventure, and was a brief and welcome break from social distancing. The trip was safe and exceptional, and seeing the Southwest was like traveling through a nat geo issue. Every partner we had the opportunity to work with was enthusiastic and truly devoted to educating our group. We could be a handful at times, but an air of enthusiasm followed us around and carried into every activity.

What was your funniest moment?
We were left to cook our own meals, which was an important experience, and one evening we ended up with 48 servings of burnt spaghetti in the form of a pasta brick.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose to spend my first semester with the ARCC Gap Year Program for many reasons.

From the beginning, ARCC presented an extremely welcoming and engaging opportunity. After talking briefly with other organizations about their programs, where I could go, what a potential itinerary could be, I had no doubt that ARCC was the perfect match for me, they offered everything I was looking for and dreaming of. With a very organized website, stunning reviews, and very friendly staff that responded immediately to my many questions, I knew I could 100% trust this organization.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

ARCC sent out many personal emails and forms out to not only myself but also my parents. We received phone calls, video chats, and emails very frequently. These emails had lots of information, some focused on just describing the beautiful Masai culture we'd be living in or the population food in each culture. Other emails were about the specifics of the trip or scheduling a time to video chat and touch base.

There was also a very informative and helpful pre-departure webinar answering all the questions imaginable.

I had to do a lot of this on my own, of course with the help of ARCC and my family. My high school, however, was not very familiar with this pathway and left me to work my way through it.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

My three months in East Africa with ARCC was the most amazing and incredible time of my life. I cannot begin to describe how much pure love and joy I experienced. There are some tough times, not everything is rainbows and butterflies. But those tougher moments make the other ones that much better.

Embrace the uncomfortable, the weird, the different. You will never regret taking a chance like this. I never once felt homesick, but now being back home, I am flooded with that feeling, wishing I was back with my ARCC family.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

It's hard to pinpoint exactly what an average day/week looks like in an ARCC program.

For my trip, we had about 50 days of camping, where we would wake up around 7:00 to prepare breakfast, get ready, and head off to whatever activity we were doing that day. We traveled around in a huge truck that held all our bags and food, so some days were spent traveling to a new location and singing throwbacks at the top of your lungs.

Without fail, however, every night before dinner, we would do a "chow circle" where we would come together, make announcements, give shoutouts, and "pass the pulse". P the P was a silent hand squeeze to the person next to you until it went all the way around the circle, a reassuring feeling that we are all there for each other.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Having struggled with anxiety and depression throughout high school, I was extremely nervous I couldn't do it. I wouldn't make friends, I'd be homesick, I'd be left behind and forgotten by my friends now in college. I got into my own head and started making up scenarios to scare myself. I thought I wasn't brave or strong enough.

What I learned, however, was that stepping out of your comfort zone and facing these fears head-on is sometimes the only way to understand what you're capable of.

Is there any other advice for prospective travelers?

Not only did I make some of the best friends imaginable, but I also met the love of my life.

Going into my gap year, I knew I wanted to focus on myself, learn to love myself before loving anyone else. And I did learn to do that, but I also learned what it feels like to truly be loved. So I guess my advice is to just be open to new relationships with the people on your trip, you may meet the person you didn't know you were even missing from your life.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Graham Phelps

Job Title
International Program Instructor
Graham grew up in Durham, New Hampshire in a beautiful house tucked away in the woods. He spent most of his childhood playing all kinds of sports and exploring in the woods. He has four sisters with whom he is very close. In his down time he loves to cook, spend time with friends, snowboard, surf, watch/read Game of Thrones, and participate in just about any kind of sport outside.

Tell us more about your educational, international, and professional experience:

I attended the University of Vermont where I was in the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources. My four years at UVM were the catalyst to my appreciation for the environment and how important it is that we all contribute to preserving the beauty we find in the natural world. I also pursued a variety of opportunities working with developing youth in my jobs as sports coordinator for a local YMCA and as a snowboard instructor for children with autism through Vermont Adaptive Sports.

While at UVM I developed my passion for exploring the world and discovering new cultural experiences. I studied abroad in Perth, Australia and organized a service trip to Peru to the small town of Lobitos. The latter was a life-changing experience for me that sparked my interest in “Voluntourism” and the cultural richness of Latin America, eventually leading me to live in Ecuador for four months.

I have been leading programs for ARCC for four years now in many amazing places such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Cuba, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, Thailand, including two gap semesters in Asia and Latin America. No matter if on a two week trip or a 3 month long gap program, I have watched these trips transform students. ARCC has provided me with an incredible platform to broaden horizons and spread love to all corners of the world which I can't wait to continue this Spring on the Patagonia/Cuba Gap Program.

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite memory traveling with ARCC is from a backpacking trip I led in California. My group was camping for the night in the Lake Tahoe Basin. We all decided that we were not going to set up our tents and all slept together under the stars outside.

That morning we all woke up at 4am to see the sun rise over the lake from a beautiful outlook on the ridge. We all watched the sun rise in silence and as I looked around I noticed a lot of the kids were crying. I was really confused so I went and asked one of the girls if she was ok? And she whispered to me "we are all from the city and have not seen anything this pretty before, the tears aren't because we are sad, this is amazing".

I went back to my rock in silence and felt so humbled to see how powerful that morning was for those students.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

The last four years working with ARCC has created so many incredible learning opportunities. I have discovered a lot about the world and about myself on these amazing trips. I have gained an appreciation for cultural exchange and the sentiment of love that can be spread person to person no matter what cultural differences exist.

I have grown a lot as a leader and have learned the true meaning of empathizing, both with the students on my trips and with the different cultures I have come across.

It is amazing how far a smile can go, and I have found that no matter where you are in the world they seem to always be contagious.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

Wow, this is a hard question. So many of the programs offer lots of different experiences so it would not be easy to choose just one. Nevertheless I would choose the Patagonia and Cuba Gap Program, which I am actually going to be leading this spring!

This program visits some of the most magnificent nature preserves in the world while in Patagonia and offers perspective to the importance of continuing the protection of these places. The Cuba section is also extremely enlightening but more on the side of cultural exchange and the power of peace through meaningful human to human interactions as we start to heal our country's relationship with this amazing country.

This trip has a healthy balance of experience in both urban, rural, and completely natural areas. The culture in the Andes and the Caribbean are both completely different and equally amazing!

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

The biggest reason ARCC has had so much success leading trips all over the world is because of how intentional we are with every aspect of the trips. Nothing we do with ARCC is done carelessly, there is a reason for everything we do.

As a leader I always adopt this philosophy, from how I debrief group initiatives, to the traditions I bring to my trips. The office staff also echo's this sentiment and they are very intentional with the service and educational opportunities they pursue and aim to make the experiences as enriching as possible for their students.

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