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 8-13 students in an engaging, project-based, and leadership-focused environment.

Upcoming Events

  1. Tue 8 February
    ARCC Gap Programs Webinars

    Join ARCC Gap Executive Director Sophia Weeks for a live online information session to learn more about our 2022-2023 program offerings!

    Hosted By:
    ARCC Programs
  2. Wed 9 March
    ARCC Gap Programs Webinars

    Join ARCC Gap Executive Director Sophia Weeks for a live online information session to learn more about our 2022-2023 program offerings!

    Hosted By:
    ARCC Programs
  3. Sat 16 April
    ARCC Gap Programs Webinars

    Join ARCC Gap Executive Director Sophia Weeks for a live online information session to learn more about our 2022-2023 program offerings!

    Hosted By:
    ARCC Programs


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Yes, I recommend this program

Best decision of my life

I was very reluctant to go on this trip, and was so nervous about being far away from home, meeting new people, not speaking the native language, and having to deal with COVID. I told myself I needed to step out of my comfort zone - and I most DEFINITELY did. We went all over Costa Rica (spent the most time there), Panama, and Belize (we didnt go to Cuba because of COVID and bad politics at the time in the country) and moved around every 3-5 days by bus. There were definitely some loooong travel days (be prepared for 5-12 hr bus rides and complicated flights). But we were in the mountains, on the beach, and everything in between. One of my favorite things in Costa Rica was working with baby sea turtles. Then in Panama we went to a privet resort, were in Panama City and also provided basic health care to a rural community. In Belize we went scuba diving and got certified (one of my favorite parts - wish we spent more than 10 days there)! I spoke 0 (literally) Spanish but by the end of the program I had completed a 1 week homestay and language school with a local and could order my food in Spanish. I had awesome instructors (shoutout Laura and Carl) and a great group of people. The group was so so close only a week in and were basically siblings by the end. If you are reading this, this is your sign!

- bring extra money for snacks because the meals can get very redundant
- bring a sweatshirt because in the mountains it can get cold
- filter ALL your water (would not recommend a SteriPen)
- accommodations have a very wide range
- pack lightly (very hard but you have too) because your bag gets really heavy fast
- journal every day to remember all the cool stuff you do :)

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
When I got SCUBA certified in Belize on a privet island. I was so exited the whole trip to do it (because it was at the very end for my group). But when I started learning all the skills for the certification I started getting anxiety about being under water. But when I went on my first boat dive (where you go out in the middle of the ocean and actually go diving off a boat) I was soo nervous but as soon as I got down low and saw amazing coral and wild life, it was the most amazing this I have ever experienced. I felt like I was in a movie as I swam through a sea of moon jellyfish!
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Yes, I recommend this program

ARCC Gap Semester

I had an amazing time on this program. What I love about ARCC is that they create an environment in which learning is fun. To me, learning is more than just facts, it’s emerging yourself and engaging with different communities; it’s learning more about yourself as a person and how you interact with the people around you. It was difficult being away from home for so long, but it made me more confident in my independence and provided a great transition into my life as a young adult. I grew so much as a leader, and I couldn’t have done that as successfully without going on this trip.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
My advice is to be unapologetically yourself because if you’re not, you won’t be able to grow.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Northwest Fall Gap Program Group A

This is an experience you will keep forever. No one else can understand how special it is. The places you see are absolutely worth it and beautiful. The people you will meet will become your best friends. Even if it can be scary do it! It will the best 70 days of your life. It will be hard yes. The hikes, sleeping outside, the weather, being with the same 14 people for 70 days but you make the best memories out of it. Only those people will understand it. You will grow and be the best version of yourself. You will the happiest when you go home after this crazy trip. But also really sad to leave your new friends. I 100% recommend it.

What was your funniest moment?
Honestly all the moments we joke in groups are always so funny.
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Yes, I recommend this program

ARCC Northwest

This semester has been really meaningful. I have learned so much and grown immensely. It has been really cool to be in such a tight knit community. We have done such a variety of activities which is something very unique to find in a gap semester. Also the leaders are amazing! I would recomend this semester for someone looking for a challenge, yet with support the whole time. I feel much more prepared for future endeavors and have gained an immense amount of confidence. I always felt very safe !

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Lots of camping! Now I feel much more comfortable :)
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Yes, I recommend this program


This was the absolute trip of a lifetime. It was incredibly pivotal in my life and my interests. ARCC allowed for me to learn more about the world and myself than I thought possible. I made friendships that will last forever. I will forever cherish everything about my experience and I recommend it to anyone. Being outside this much is good for the soul. We slept, ate, and did almost all of our activities outside. It was so extraordinary and refreshing. The places you see and all the wonderful people you meet along the way are so lovely!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Rock climbing outside for the first time was definitely frightening, however once I got going I fell in love with it. I surprised myself by how strong I had become throughout the trip.


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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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