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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 Hawai'i, Italy & Greece, 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 scholarships are available on both our semester and year-long programs.

Scholarships

Carpe Diem Education Scholarships

Carpe Diem Education awards $30,000 annually to support diversity and inclusion in its programs. The Access Scholarship provides up to $5,000 for a gap year semester or full-year experience. The Inclusion Scholarship offers up to $2,000 for a gap year semester. The Carpe Mundi Scholarship is for Portland-based students. Grants are mostly need-based, and applications open in January.

Reviews

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Maddie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

CAM Semester

Throughout this program, I grew so much as a person. My group felt like a second family, and everyone we met along the way was so accommodating and knowledgable.

I highly recommend this program if you're looking for Spanish immersion and are interested in sustainability and hiking. Although prior Spanish knowledge is not required, it is definitely more difficult to jump into homestays having barely spoken Spanish before. We learned a lot about the culture and about different ways to live and travel sustainably. At our volunteer sites we did green building, reforestation, and permaculture work, with fun activities mixed in so it wasn't all work all the time. The 3 day trek to Lake Atitlan is a big challenge if you're not a big hiker, but doable. It is a very rewarding experience once you do finish, ending with the prettiest sunrise over the lake. The accommodations vary a lot, so be prepared for periods of rugged living and bucket showers. Our homestay families were all very happy to have us, so if that's a worry for you just know that you'll be in good hands. The food was a BIG highlight of the trip. We had amazing food for almost every meal, and learned how to cook authentic Guatemalan/Costa Rican dishes. And if you're vegetarian or vegan, there will be options for you. In terms of tech, we had very limited access to internet, even after the first 3 weeks of no wifi, so be prepared for limited contact to home. Most people didn't mind it though, as it helps you stay present with each other. We had a good balance of independence and group stability. During free time, we could do whatever we wanted (within reason) but we also had a good amount of structure with group activities. The end of the trip was also awesome: scuba diving, seeing cool wildlife, and staying in a hostel that was a 5minute walk from the beach! It felt like each week we did something completely different, which is such a unique opportunity.

I was not 100% wanting to do this program initially, which made the first month especially hard. I ended up loving my experience and being so happy I went, but it took some time to adjust. My best advice would be to take some time and think about what you really want to get out of your semester, and you should only do this program if you truly want to push yourself and experience a whole new way of living. If you go into this program open to whatever comes your way, you will thrive and have the time of your life!

Pros
  • Beautiful scenery
  • Improvement on Spanish language abilities
  • Personal growth
Cons
  • Traveler's sickness
  • Limited technology access
  • Rugged accommodations (only for a few stretches of time)
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Cedar
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Adventures Abroad

I absolutely loved my experience in Italy and Greece with Carpe Diem. The program is a beautiful blend of city and rural living, and the contacts we met along the way were truly amazing. This program is an excellent way to experience Europe in a diverse way, in a manner that would have been impossible for me to do on my own. The Oversee Educators were supportive and fun, and it was beautiful to connect deeply with a group of students from across the United States. My one critique of the program is that our travels weren't framed through the lens of environmentalism or climate change. There were some places and people who framed it that way (Regreen, Carly the Archeobotanist) but for a program advertised as environmentally focused it could have leaned more heavily that way. Overall, I would absolutely recommend this program to anyone looking to expand their horizons and take a hiatus from the USA.

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Luke
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Hawaii Spring 2022 - An Authentic, Valuable Experience

At first, I was hesitant to spend ten weeks away from home with a group of people I have not met before, but I completed this program and left with no regrets. These ten weeks were probably the best weeks of my life. I got to experience what it feels like to live and bond with people in a genuine, human way, which was especially beneficial during the pandemic. A huge part of my life has been dominated by the use of technology and screens, and this program allowed for me to connect with people in a wholesome, face-to-face manner (in one of the most beautiful places on earth!). I made such great friends from this program, and learned so much from it, too. I now feel much more confident traveling, and I have a greater appreciation for different cultures and ways of living as well. I have learned several very important lessons about myself from this experience that I will take with me through the rest of my life. I would strongly recommend this program to any gap year student.

Pros
  • Program fostered self growth
  • Ability to connect with people was unbeatable
  • Allowed for cultural immersion & enlightenment
Cons
  • Had to get used to wearing dirty clothes
  • Majority of the program was spent camping in tents (a pro for me, but may be a con for some)
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Saul
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Great Experience

These past three months were a great opportunity to get away from everything going on the world and just go out and live. You get to be with 11 other people for 10 weeks, some people you like, some aren’t your vibe and that’s okay - you learn how to work together and just put differences aside.

The accommodations were not the best at times but it was definitely a great experience and with that brought a lot of learning experiences and fun times.

I was very hesitant to go on this trip when I originally signed up but now after completing this trip - no regrets!

Pros
  • Community
  • Traveling
  • Food
Cons
  • Accommodations
  • Getting sick
Default avatar
Elliot
8/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Carpe program review

This program was an incredibly unique and fun way for me to take a break from the everyday life I live back home and emirs myself in a variety of different cultures and countries. This program gives students a chance to get a feel for independence and what the life of traveling looks like. For me personally the semester abroad was a great opportunity to take some time away from the stresses of everyday life to thoroughly reflect on what I would like out of life in the future. This program also provides students with an large number of unique activities that include the perfect balance of education and fun. Happy

Pros
  • You get the opportunity to take time away from your normal everyday life
  • You get to see new places and really dive into the culture of the places you visit
Cons
  • Sometimes the people in your group might not be the best fit for you and you have to spend an extended period of time with them

Jobs

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

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

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.
Doug Zaideman

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.

Professional Associations

Gap Year Association Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo