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Carpe Diem Education

About

Experiential education. Community. Intercultural exchange.

This is how we connect with and learn from the global communities we engage with—and how we are redefining what it means to embark on a meaningful gap year abroad. Learn a new language, live with a host family, and participate in a volunteer project—all while earning college credit—on a gap year or three-month semester around the world.

Currently offering semester programs in Spain & Morocco, India, Southeast Asia, South America, Central America, and the South Pacific.

Ready to extend your learning journey? Our year-long Latitudes program allows you to choose one of our group semesters in the fall, followed by a three-month focused volunteer placement in the spring.

College credit and financial aid (FAFSA) are available on both our semester and year-long programs.

Founded
2007
Headquarters

1529 N Killingsworth St
Portland, OR 97217
United States

Accepting Applications Now for Fall 2019 & Spring 2020 Semesters and the Latitudes Year!

How will you Carpe Diem? Explore our gap year and semester programs in eight global regions in 2019 - all while earning all while earning college credit!

Did you know we offer three different types of scholarships? Click the "Learn More" link below and discover how to make your gap year affordable.

Reviews

Default avatar
Hanya
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I loved the carpe Diem East Africa program! I had a great time there and still look back at my time with so much love! I’ve learned so much about the world around me and myself and everyday I still find myself connecting things in my everyday life to my time in East Africa. I especially love the retreat, it really was an emotional experience for EVERYONE. But we all came out of it so happy and at peace. The trekking was insane with amazing scenery! I couldn’t believe my eyes!! And the scuba diving was wonderful! And of course the safari. Seriously everything was amazing. And volunteering with SNEC was really something. Jonathan was wonderful to work with! I had a few problems that also the stopped me from going on the trip but Jonathan and everyone at Carpe Diem were so wonderful and so helpful! They made sure everything went smoothly and did everything possible for me to go on this trip. I really felt like they were fighting for me which was wonderful!

What would you improve about this program?
The food wasn’t that great honestly, but I don’t think there was anything they could’ve done about it. And the home stays were a bit too much but I think that’s changed.
Default avatar
Hunter
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I come from a town in Colorado where taking a gap year has never really been heard of. I remember sitting through classes during my junior year of high school thinking about how much I didn't want to go to college but had no idea on how to justify that to my family. Then, I found Carpe Diem.
I cannot even begin to explain how profoundly this past semester has impacted my life. I have had some of the most impactful experiences this semester--like in our remote Fijian village, at our yoga/meditation retreat in Australia, and in the Great Barrier Reef. I went into this program with uncertainty, fear, and loss of direction; I have left Carpe as a completely changed individual. I have gained so many new values I now carry into my day-to-day life. I feel exceptionally confident in my abilities as a solo traveler. I have made friends on this program that I still talk to everyday. If you are looking for an exceptional gap year program that will seriously challenge the way you think about the world (and life, for that matter), Carpe Diem is it.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
I personally didn't eat it--you know, being vegan and all--but on our last day at our Fijian village homestays, the nanas cooked us a manta ray curry. People who ate it said it felt kind of rubbery and tasted like chicken, haha!
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Lucia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Carpe Diem was incredible!! It was exactly what I needed after graduating high school and being tired of the traditional educational model. I went on the Central America program and I learned so much and had a fantastic time. I loved the home stays, the Spanish lessons, the trek, my instructors and my group. Each came with a few challenges but only the healthy kind and by the end of the trip I wasn’t ready to go home. Being home afterwards I am filled with a sense of gratitude that I got to go and of wonder because I really feel that I became a different, better, braver version of myself during the program. I bonded well with my group and connected to the curriculum and to the places we stayed. I am a little surprised to say that I am a big fan of the no cell phones policy because I felt that it gave me fewer opportunities to be homesick and more opportunities to connect with my group mates. Before the trip I considered myself an introvert and I was worried that I might not get enough time to myself. By the end I didn’t want to be alone because I loved my group so much: best possible outcome. I would highly recommend Carpe Diem to students who are interested in alternative education and in learning about other cultures. I would definitely recommend the Central America program to anyone who is interested in polishing their Spanish if you feel that your high school Spanish classes aren’t doing you justice. Choosing Carpe Diem is one of the best decisions I have ever made and I hope that if you choose Carpe that you’ll feel the same.

What would you improve about this program?
I think I would spent less time in Guatemala and more time in a different country, not more time in Costa Rica because it's very Americanized but more equal distribution of time throughout countries I think. It didn't matter that much, because I had a great time.
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Ava
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My experience in this South America Carpe Diem program was incredible. My Spanish language skills improved drastically, and so did the skills of everyone in the group. We had students who had never spoken Spanish before and by the end of the trip they were conversational! Some themes continue throughout the program such as permaculture, coffee production, and the government, so it’s easy to learn about the subjects from many different perspectives. Our contacts were amazing and I still keep in touch with a few of them. Although this was not the case for everyone in my group, my homestay experiences were not very personal, and at times felt more like a bed and breakfast. I was hoping to build strong connections with my homestay families as I have done in the past, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. Again, other members of my group had different experiences with host families. I am a Latitudes student, and am so excited to begin my volunteer placement soon! I believe that my experiences on this group semester have definitely prepared me to travel more independently.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Don’t bring so much stuff!! The lighter you pack, the better. But it is good to have one or two “unnecessary/luxury” items that you’ll feel good to have while on program.
Default avatar
Annika
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I had an amazing time on this trip, from seeing so many new places and working with so many cool organizations to meeting people I know I will stay in contact with for life. This program taught me how to question the way I live my life by pushing myself out of my comfort zone and always being open to learning more. Learning Spanish throughout the trip also greatly helped with being able to feel like we were really working with the communities rather than just passing by like tourists. We were able to talk to so many interesting people along the way such as Guatemalan guerrilla fighters which gave us new perspectives on the history and culture we were learning. Homestays were my favorite because all of the families were very welcoming and patient with our many questions and difficulties speaking Spanish. This was a trip I will never forget and I would very highly recommend it to anyone who is thinking about joining!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
To any future travelers I would say make sure to journal or take lots of photos because the trip goes by so fast and when you are finished you are going to want to have a way to revisit all of the amazing memories!
Read my full story

Programs

Displaying 1 - 8 of 8

Alumni Interviews

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

Annika Gregg

Annika graduated high school in 2019 and chose to take a gap year to travel, volunteer, and study Spanish. Her home state is Massachusetts.

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.

Staff Interviews

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

Doug Zaideman

Job Title
Latitudes Year Coordinator
Doug grew up with a great appreciation for the outdoors and experiential education. He liked it so much, he made it a career, and after several seasons working in the field as an Overseas Educator with Carpe Diem Education, Doug now serves as their Latitudes Year Coordinator, finding students internship and volunteer opportunities around the globe.

What is your favorite travel memory?

On my 30th birthday, while leading a program in Mozambique, my group's boat stumbled upon a manta ray feeding frenzy. In we jumped! After about 20 minutes in the water with the rays, a big ol' whale shark cruised up and joined in on the fun. I had never seen such an enormous, yet calm and peaceful creature before in my life.

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

Carpe Diem has taught me to be a more patient, compassionate and understanding person. The vast amount of cultures and communities I have been introduced to whilst working for Carpe Diem has given me inspiration unlike anything I've ever felt. I feel like I appreciate things more, and am quicker to vocalize that as well. Above all, the amazing friendships with people from all over the world that have come as a result from working for Carpe Diem have been the best icing on the cake.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Whenever a former student reaches out to me, it usually makes my day. "Doug, thank for being a great role model."

Whoa! Did that student realize they just made me want to cry? Some of the kindest, most powerful things ever said to me have been from past students on how our trip together changed their lives for the better or that I somehow had a positive influence on their future. I don't even think they realize it when they say things like that, but it's the best feeling in the world and makes me want to keep making a positive difference in the world however I can.

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

Carpe Diem's group semester to India. Maybe it's because it was the most recent trip I led in the field, or maybe it's because the program strikes such a great balance in exploring one of the richest, most diverse countries in the world. Learning and discovering about all of the different languages, religions, environments, sights, smells, and tastes India has to offer is an otherworldly experience. The warmth and hospitality that people showed us throughout our stay has me dreaming and scheming of how I can make it back there as soon as possible!

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

What stands out to me about Carpe Diem is COMMUNITY. Whether it be our HQ team in Portland, our groups out in the field, or the people and places our trips visit, when you are with Carpe Diem you are with family.

In addition, the way our programs transfer ownership to the students throughout the trip is unlike any organization I've worked with before. Our Student Directed Travel aspect of a group semester is always one of my favorite weeks on a group semester. When I see a group of students work together to make the most of their experience, it makes me proud of the work we are doing.

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

When you are able to assemble a team of people that are all passionate and excited to fulfill a company's mission, you are on the right track. What has always stood out to me about the Carpe Diem team is that there is always so much support for all of the employees, students and their families. It feels great to be part of an organization that strives to create the best experience possible for every person affiliated with the program.

US visitors, meet us in person!

  1. Tuesday 18 February
    Studio City, CA Gap Year Fair
    Harvard-Westlake School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  2. Wednesday 19 February
    El Segundo, CA Gap Year Fair
    Vistamar School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  3. Thursday 20 February
    La Jolla, CA Gap Year Fair
    La Jolla High School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM

Professional Associations

Gap Year Association Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo