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ARCC Programs


ARCC has been offering summer and gap programs for young adults since 1983. We offer an opportunity to live and learn in some of the greatest classrooms on earth. Our 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 programs have a vibrant educational foundation complementing each destination and highlight regional topics that are directly linked to global issues. Summer trips range from 2-3 weeks with up to 18 students, and have a theme of cultural immersion, experiential learning, or focus on a specific topic. Gap semesters focus on personal growth in small groups of 8-14 students in an engaging, project-based, and leadership-focused environment. 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.


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Yes, I recommend this program


This was a once in a life time experience that I’m so glad I participated in. I meet amazing people and did amazing things. Everyday there was something different. We got to do things and go on adventures I would have never imagined. There was a mix between fun and educational and helpful. We did a lot of activities that include waterfall guides, relaxing on the beach, zip lining, and more. We also learned a lot about the different countries not used from planned lectures but from the different people we met, as well as did a lot of influential work helping communities.

  • Connections
  • Experience
  • Adventure
  • Heat
  • Homesickness
  • Sudden change
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Yes, I recommend this program

Southeast Asia Semester

The Southeast Asia Gap Semester experience was probably the most fun and most important experience I have had in my life so far. Being able to step outside of the normal American life and into the cultures and places of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand was nothing short of amazing and very influential towards me as a person. I personally think that doing things like this, and especially while young, is incredibly important because you are able to be exposed to things that would never even be thought about unless you were there. In fact, on this program I learned many important things that were never even taught in school whether that be about conflicts, the environment, or the depths to the different cultures we were immersed in. Not to mention the people that I got to experience all of this with. I have friends for life because of this program! Overall, I am very thankful that I was able to take part in this program, and I am so happy that I got to meet all of these wonderful people and got to do all of these wonderful things.

  • Cultural Immersion
  • Wonderful Peers
  • Amazing Instructors
  • Away from Family
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Yes, I recommend this program

Centro Caribbean

This experience was life changing. It definitely had its challenges but the cultural immersion I experienced and the impact I had on others lives from the meaningful volunteer work I will never forget. It was also super fun and I got to learn a lot of new skills such as scuba diving and surfing. Amazing culture and and wildlife. These countries were beautiful and the people were so welcoming. I grew so much and am eternally grateful for this experienced thank you ARCC and my amazing counselors !!

  • Cultural immersion
  • Volunteer work
  • Adventure activities
  • Not much variety with food
  • Not everything on the packing list was needed
  • Group dynamics sometimes was difficult
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Yes, I recommend this program

ARCC Centro Caribbean Review

I had an amazing time on this program! Our two leaders (Ryan and Madison) were amazing; both of them were super knowledgeable, fun, and supportive and really helped make the trip so enjoyable. Our group moved locations about every 5 days, and I loved how faced paced it felt. I had some truly incredible experiences in nature, especially in Costa Rica, where we got to hike and sleep in field stations in the rainforest, go on night patrols looking for sea turtles, and raft down and stay in lodges on the side of the Pacuare river. Our time in Panama was less exciting in my opinion and I sometimes felt that we stayed in one place for too long. However, working with Floating Doctors was an amazing experience. Finally, scuba diving in Belize and spearing lion fish was as fun as it sounds and maybe my highlight of the trip.

One important thing to understand about this trip is that it is very structured. You are with the group 24/7 which means you won't have much alone time but will become super close to everyone in your group. ARCC also has a lot of rules that could sometimes feel unnecessarily restricting, although our leaders gave us freedom where they could.

The activities and group experience this trip provides is seriously a once in a lifetime opportunity. Taking the leap and going on this program has been one of the best decisions I've made, and if you're thinking about doing this program I'm telling you right now you'll have an amazing time.

  • Meaningful and strong connections built with peers
  • Fantastic and capable group leaders
  • Amazing experiences in nature and with conservation
  • ARCC rules sometimes felt restricting
  • Not a huge focus on learning Spanish
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Yes, I recommend this program

Centro Caribbean Gap Semester

It is hard to articulate just how incredible and formative my experience on the Centro-Caribbean Gap Semester was. The group leaders (Madison and Ryan) were not only prepared and well-informed, but also incredible friends to everyone in the group. Throughout the program, I sharpened my Spanish skills, learned SO much about conservation and the role I can play in the efforts to protect our planet, and made valuable, life-long connections with those around me. This trip truly changed my life, and I couldn’t recommend it any more (especially to those looking to sharpen up their spanish skills!).

  • Spanish learning
  • Hands-on conservation work
  • Life-long, incomparable connections with peers and leaders
  • Some parts of the program were less busy/action-packed than others. We found ourselves a little bored at times.
  • Some accommodations were pretty small and/or not in the best condition.


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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.

Professional Associations

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