Hello. My name is Emma and I was on the Spring 2020 Gap-mester program to India with Carpe Diem.
Short and simple: this program was nothing like I expected. I wish I had known better what I was getting into before I went, and I hope this review can serve as that info for other students.
1. Flights- the layovers were terribly long and extremely uncomfortable and inconvenient. There was 0 reason that the layovers should've been so horribly planned.
2. No devices- the program allows no WiFi-compatible devices, even just for music and pictures. Music is a coping mechanism for me, so this rule was extremely hard. They don't even allow the devices with the WiFi disabled, and that shows no trust to their students and no cares about their students' needs. When I spoke to the program director about this issue, he offered no compassion and assumed a "you're wrong, I'm right" attitude.
3. The program leaders and directors- On that note, all of the staff of Carpe assumed the "you're wrong, I'm right" attitude about every. single. thing. I constantly felt belittled, berated and wrong.
4. The communication- the itinerary was extremely vague, the communications between me, my family and the program before going was super misleading and vague, and when we were abroad, the communication between our program leaders and my parents was pretty much nonexistent. My parents were worried about me the whole time, never knew where I was, never knew what was happening, and when they asked, they were shut down by the HQ staff in Portland. My parents were not even made aware when my entire group got scabies and had to evacuate our camp.
5. Child labor- What the program called "volunteering" and "learning about sustainability" was actually just unpaid labor without food. I worked many mornings in the hot sun without breakfast. The labor was actually not necessary either... it was actually pointless and did nothing for the environment or forestation.
6. Probably the worst thing about my trip- The complete and utter imposing of ideals and morals onto me and the other students. We were "learning" about sustainability and climate change, but what that actually meant was our leaders telling us that basically everything we were doing was wrong. They said, "Screw the USA, screw Trump, screw capitalism, screw globalism, screw commercialism, screw gas cars, screw non-vegans, screw everything remotely right leaning." As leaders, they should've let us explore India and come up with our own opinions and views on the world. Instead, they told us theirs, and if we disagreed, we were treated differently. I was treated like an outcast in so many situations because I was not vegan, because I drove a gas car, because I shopped at the mall, etc etc. I went to India to learn about India... instead I learned about super left-leaning ideals that had nothing to do with where we were and could've been taught in the USA.
7. Stole our money- When our trip got cancelled due to Coronavirus and we had to come home 2 months early, the $13,000 program refunded us $1,000. Yep. $1,000. The money definitely did not go to our trip because we were all living on less than $7 USD a day in India. The money went straight into the pockets of the program leaders and directors, and they feel no remorse about it, even when many of our families became unemployed with Coronavirus business shut-downs and needed that money.
8. Oh yeah- and my host mom stole money from my roommate and I.
1. My group- many members of my group were awesome and we were all committed to making it a drama-free environment, which made it super fun in most cases.
2. The freedom- in a lot of places, we had a lot of freedom to kinda do whatever we wanted until we had to meet, or go to dinner, or something like that. It was fun to try and meet up with my peers and just explore.
3. *Some* of the places- I emphasize some because a lot of the places were a phenomenal waste of time (Sadhana Forest, Madurai, Proto Village) but Kochi, Munnar and Bangalore were all super awesome.
In conclusion, I wish I would've been more informed about what I was getting into. If you want to go to India to learn about Indian culture, Indian ideals, Indian life... go with another company. If you want to rant about all the problems with the USA, feel belittled and like everything you do in your life is wrong, (and explore some of India), go with Carpe Diem.