ARCC Gap Programs

ARCC Programs

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


19800 Village Office Ct
Bend, OR 97702
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

I went on the East Africa fall semester in 2018, and it was the best three months! I chose to go to East Africa because I wanted to experience a new culture. I remember feeling so scared before leaving my home in Denver, Colorado to embark on this adventure. But after meeting my group during orientation, and getting to know them a little bit, I felt a new sense of comfort. Once I was on the plane that took us to Uganda, I already felt comfortable around my group and my two leaders. Every single one of us came from a different state (and two students from other countries), yet we became so connected on the trip. We traveled together, shared every meal together, and shared so many experiences. I kept a journal everyday and still fondly read it when I miss my group and time in East Africa. I have now been in college for one complete semester, and I still keep in touch with my group! Between our busy schedules we try and connect when possible, often exchanging memories about how we miss chapati (a delicious bread), our host families, and the beloved truck we drove around in. In college, I can positively say that ARCC provided me with a fresh prospective in my classes, and made me more comfortable with making a place that is not my house my home. I cannot recommend this experience enough!

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
My most nerve racking moment was being sick while staying in tents in rural Tanzania. I felt worried because I was sick in a foreign country with limited access to doctors, or the comfort of a bed. I overcame this with the support of my group and competency of my leaders. When somebody in the group was sick, everybody else worked together to help them feel better. The leaders were also extremely attentive to our specific health (both mental and physical) needs. We were a team and a family. This extreme sense of love and empathy from my group got me through my time when I felt sick.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This program was one of the most interesting, difficult, fun, and rewarding experiences I've had throughout my life. To get you through the difficult parts though, is a extremely helpful well prepared staff, both in the office and with you on the program. This program is extremely group oriented yet manages to build your sense if independence throughout the semester. On this trip, you will need to be prepared to see a lot of devastation in some of the poorer communities you will volunteer in. These experiences completely shifted my world view and I now feel so much more aware in my daily life. Over all, I highly recommend this program- you will get to do really incredible things like living in a Tibetan Buddhist community, or being up close to Sloth Bears and Elephants all while meeting incredible locals.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
For me one of the most scary parts of the trip would have to be the Mardi-Himal Trek. I'm someone who lives at sea level and only does yoga for exercise so this was a big personal challenge for me. I expressed my concerns to my leaders and group (who almost all had trekking experience) and was met with so much support. I'm really proud of myself for overcoming that obstacle and really grateful for the support the group provided me that helped me get through it.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This program is filled with fun activities, volunteering, and learning not only about a different culture but also about yourself. In the beginning of my search to find gap semester programs, I was overwhelmed with so many options that all had amazing itineraries. I narrowed it down to 3 and tried to figure out which one had projects that focused on issues that I was interested in, adventurous activities, and learning but not super academic (I wanted to learn by doing and experiencing not just sitting and reading about the countries that we were in). One program that I liked was more rustic then others but it was only in Nepal and I wanted to experience India as well. Another program had more adventures like hiking and rafting but I felt like they weren’t getting immersed in the culture as much as this ARCC program. This program had the right balance of academics with reading different articles and experiential learning. This program also had the right balance of adventurous activities like hiking and rafting but also service and having down time. I also really enjoyed it being in two different countries. I took this program in the fall semester and for me it was important to start my year off with a structured program where I was immersed in the culture, had fun, and learned something new. That all happened within ARCC Himalaya and I am very happy that I chose this program.

One of my favorite memories from this trip was staying with a family in rural Nepal celebrating Dasain, a Hindu festival. The family I stayed with were so kind and always wanted to talk about in what ways our cultures were different, sports, and our interests. Even though I was fed pounds of dal bhat (lentils and rice) where I need to be rolled out of the room, I was so happy talking to my brother and sisters and learning about their culture and how they celebrate Dasain. Other favorites were doing hands on work caring for sloth bears at Wildlife SOS in India, talking with women at Her Farm about women’s issues in Nepal, and learning about Tibetan refugees at a monastery in Nepal. I also enjoyed the time spent with our group where we had deep conversations about life, made each other laugh, and created memories that I will never forget.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Before you go on this trip some things to know is that you will be traveling a lot by bus, plane, or tuk tuk and sometimes it will be exhausting because is order to see all the amazing sites we would need to wake up at like 3am but it’s worth it in the end. Another thing that you should know is that there isn’t a lot of independent time. This makes sense because we were traveling in a small group in an unknown country where we didn’t speak the language well, so I understand why we didn’t have a ton of independent time. Also I was able to get some alone time here and there but just something to note. One of my highlights on this trip was the Annapurna trek in Nepal, even though it was shorter then I would have liked. If you love hiking like me this trek was too short, but the views were still spectacular. If you are looking for a backpacking trip, this isn’t it. But, if you are looking for a program that immerses you into the culture while also going on a small, but worth while, trek then this is the one. I also brought too much stuff, all you really need is one hiking pants, one comfortable pants, a hiking shirt, 2 comfortable shirts, underwear, and 3 pairs of socks (hiking and normal), jacket, water filtration, toiletries, and a journal. You don’t need a sleeping pad, rash guard (it was nice to have but I only wore it once out of the 3 months), and heavy hiking boots (bring lightweight hiking boots). Pack light and bring some money to buy cheap and cool clothing (I got a really cool shirt for $4) and toiletries. Another thing to note is to keep an open mind and try new things. The culture is different, food is different (and delicious), and dress is different. You will see and do things that are outside your comfort zone but do it because that is how you grow. If you are thinking about taking a gap year be brave and do it. I grew as a leader and as a person on this trip, and if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and try something new go on this program because it will give you a new perspective on life.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I can't even begin to describe how much I loved my ARCC Semester in East Africa. It honestly changed my life, and whenever people ask how it was, my immediate response is "if I could get on a plane right now and go back, I would. No question about it", even after I tell them about bucket showers, pit toilets, wet tents, and the malaria concern. If I could spend the rest of my life working for ARCC and being able to travel and share these amazing experiences with students, and change their lives and perspectives like Chris and Adri did for me, I would be the happiest girl in the world. I met a best friend who brought out new sides of me, a boy I want to spend the rest of my life with, and an unbreakable bond with 11 amazing people. I never felt homesick, which in itself says a lot about the group, even when I was super sick. In fact, I feel more homesick being back home, away from everyone. I'm getting emotional writing this, there is simply no way to possibly describe this experience in words, besides amazing.

What would you improve about this program?
We were under the impression we'd have wifi a bit more often, so some of us were not prepared to have to activate an international plan until we were there. I can't really think of anything to improve, everything was amazing, even the hard times.
Read my full story
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Yes, I recommend this program

My gosh!! I cannot say this loudly enough... BEST GUIDES, BEST PLACES, BEST ACCOMMODATIONS, BEST EVERYTHING!! After first hearing that I had been selected to go on this trip, I had to pinch myself. Now being almost a year later, I pinch myself thinking "that did really did happen!" I cannot express enough through words how much this trip made me see the world through different eyes, believe in myself and learn that everything happens for a reason. I, 100% believe that from seeing wild orangutans 3 feet in front of you in Sumatra, to hiking to the most unbelievable waterfalls in Bali, and finally rafting through the most beautiful Fijian rivers, you will pinch yourself after your 90 days too!


Displaying 1 - 9 of 16
ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: East Africa - Uganda, Kenya & Tanzania
Multiple Countries
9.8 •25 reviews

ARCC Gap East Africa explores the majesty, cultures, and challenges of...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Asia - Nepal, Vietnam, Cambodia & Thailand
Multiple Countries
9.67 •24 reviews

Leave the traditional classroom far behind, as we journey to the heart...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: South America - Peru, Ecuador & Patagonia
Multiple Countries
9.39 •23 reviews

Adventure and education collide during our three-month journey through...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Centro-Caribbean - Cuba, Panama, Costa Rica & Belize
Multiple Countries
9.75 •4 reviews

ARCC’s Centro-Caribbean Spring Gap Program explores some of the most...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Pacific Islands - Fiji, Sumatra & Bali
10 •3 reviews

Travel to and immerse yourself in the island lifestyles of Sumatra...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Himalaya - Nepal & India
Multiple Countries
9.33 •3 reviews

Embark on the journey of a lifetime as we experience the rich cultures...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Hawaii - O'ahu, Kauai & the Big Island
United States of America

Building on 38 years of domestic programming and our long standing...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Southwest - Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona & California
United States of America

Immerse in a western Colorado homestay on a cattle ranch and learn...

ARCC Programs
ARCC Gap: Northwest - Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Washington & Hawaii
United States of America

Explore the gems of the west on this road trip from the stunning peaks...

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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