GapForce

GapForce

About

Gapforce is a leading provider of structured Gap Year programs and summer opportunities overseas. The wide range of global adventures includes marine conservation, wildlife protection, community volunteering & healthcare, extreme expeditions, leadership training, working holidays, internships, sport coaching, ski instructor and leadership training.

For over thirty years, Gapforce has been running safe, unique and rewarding programs to some of the world’s most exciting and exotic locations. Our overseas staff are some of the most experienced in the industry and look after you every step of the way. You have a choice of group start dates throughout the year – your adventure starts here!

Founded
1989
Headquarters

4 Queens Road
The Old Town Hall
Wimbledon
SW19 8YB
United Kingdom

Reviews

Default avatar
Lia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My decision to go on the Southeast Asia adventure was very spontaneous and out of character for me, and it ended up being the best decision I’ve ever made! I wanted to experience other cultures, meet friends from around the world, and gain perspective away from my little bubble at home. All of that was achieved and more! Genuinely, from the moment I stepped off the plane and met up with a few of the participants, I knew I was in the right place and that I was going to have a couple very transformative months.
One of my favorite things was house building in Cambodia. It was extremely humbling and eye opening to work alongside the locals in the village, and to see how quickly we could get a house up when we all worked together! I also loved the gorgeous scenery and beaches on the island Koh Tao, hikes through the jungle in Thailand, and the stunning boat ride through Halong Bay in Vietnam.
If you are on the fence, you should do the trip!! You will be challenged, and sometimes uncomfortable, but mostly having the best time and making memories you will never ever forget.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Probably navigating the streets in the major cities. No vehicle will stop for you. By the end of the trip I was having nightmares about my friends getting crushed my motorbikes. It’s fine as long as you have your wits about you all the time but the problem is that I don’t!
Default avatar
Sophia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Arriving by myself part way into the trip, I was apprehensive about joining a group that had already trekked to Everest base camp and had that shared history, but everyone in the group was so lovely and welcoming that I really had nothing to worry about. So if you aren’t too keen on doing the trek but want to experience the sights and smells of India, go for it! For me, I struggled with remembering that the trip is more of an adventure over being a holiday so bear in mind that you will experience accommodation of hostels at both ends of the spectrum BUT don’t let that put you off because you are ok the move so often that it really doesn’t matter that much. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on this trip thanks to the wonderful leader who could expertly navigate, communicate, and barter with the locals. I would without a doubt recommend this trip, no matter your apprehensions, the positives outweighs any negatives! Thank you gap force :)

Default avatar
Beth
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The day that I clicked the button to confirm that I was going with Gap force to South East Asia I felt sick.... I was worried about being away from home, flying by myself, not knowing anyone, the food etc but as soon as I was greeted by Terence in the airport in Thailand I felt as ease! And from that moment on I just sucked up every aspect of adventure within Thailand and Cambodia and I have to say I don’t think I stopped smiling!
The dynamics of our group were so lovely and I felt that after a couple of days we became so comfortable around each other and truly became good friends. This also applied to our leaders Callum and Terence who became very close to us ,along with being super protective of the group, energetic and being able to give advice under all circumstances!
The food, hostels and areas we visited were all unique and met everyone’s tastes. Our hostels sleeping arrangements varied from location to location yet we always slept well and had access to a bath room even if this included having to get up early to get the first slot in the shower! There were also some cases where there were strangers in the room as-well which was slightly strange and was always tried to be avoided.
The food took me awhile to get used to. Especially when we had to have noodles/rice for breakfast! But now I’m back home I crave the Thai food so much and despite bringing my own spices home I can’t seem to replicate the food to anywhere near the quality that it was.... so embrace it while you are there!!!
Every location we went to was different from the last and therefore contained both positives and negatives. My favourite places were Pai which felt very small and safe aswell as Bees elephant sanctuary which consisted of very simple living in the countryside, with the company of the most amazing people and creatures which I loved! I didn’t like Bangkok which is dirty, busy and very smelly! Sadly Bangkok is a focal point during the course of the trip which means that despite its negative connotations we had to revisit it quite a lot which was a downside to the trip as no one was ever looking forward to the return!
The trip contains a lot of travelling such as overnight buses which last on average about 10 hours. These are not incredibly fun to travel on so make sure you have a neck pillow and some good snacks as you never really know when your next stop is!
Also if you are considering doing this trip I advise you to review your fitness level as some of the hikes ie to view points and waterfalls are quite physically challenging for some. However don’t let this hold you back as there are sometimes alternative activities such as a cooking class which can fill your day if your not up for a hike!
During my time on the trip I was surprised yet I enjoyed the amount of independence and free time we were given. We could utilise our free time in whatever way we wanted even if that was just a day of chilling or perhaps going to explore a new temple. We were allowed to go out to the local shops whenever we wanted and could eat when and with who suited us!
All in all if you are reading this review then you must be somewhat interested in joining Gapforce to go to South East Asia and I urge you to do it! It was one of the best decisions I made and I was supported the whole way by my team leaders who were such great guys and from my family at home (there is WiFi everywhere). As a result of this trip (the first time I travelled alone) I feel like I have developed so much as an individual and I am much more independent and capable of travelling alone in the future. So my advice to you is to just go for it and you will soon get the travel bug too! X

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I feel like the whole trip was full of surprises and laughter so it is hard to narrow such a question down to a single event but I loved- pushing myself on the hike to the waterfall, taking part in a fire show, building a fence for the elephant sanctuary, sleeping on a overnight train, eating noodles for breakfast, white water rafting and realising that centipedes are infact super dangerous (so take a torch) etc etc etc .....
Read my full story
Default avatar
Alexia
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I would highly recommend this trip to anyone and everyone! Having always wanted to travel Australia I would never of been able to organise everything on this trip i.e white water rafting, fraiser island, surfing (I could go on) making my trip very easy. Our leaders, Andy and Humphrey truly made our experience being the parent, friend and occasional doctor we needed for our little family. We laughed the whole way up the coast whilst obviously conducting many dynamic risk assessments! The people on the trip were amazing and I made many true friends who saying goodbye was difficult. It’s crazy to me that I ever considered NOT going on this trip, it’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone whilst always feeling safe and make friends. The only bad thing about it is that the rest of gap year might not measure up! Thank you GapForce (Andy and Humphrey). Memories for a lifetime

What would you improve about this program?
Spend longer in a few places, I.e Byron bay and leave out the one nights i.e. Brisbane
Default avatar
Chloe
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Where do i start! This trip has exceeded my expectations and i am so pleased I pushed myself to take part as i wouldn't have made so many memories, met the most amazing people and formed amazing friendships.
My trip didn't have the smoothest of starts feeling homesick but I wouldn't have enjoyed it half as much if it wasn't for the encouragement of my leaders Andy and Humphrey. They really take care of you and made the trip so enjoyable.
Byron Bay was by far my most favourite place and i tried surfing for the first time. This trip enabled me to try new experiences like the Harbour Bridge, hold a koala, snorkel the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsundays Boat Trip will be a trip i will never forget.
This trip is perfect for first travellers!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 15

Alumni Interviews

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

Ronnie Blackburn

Ronnie is an LA-based researcher in the video games industry who has a personal passion for the Chinese language. After learning informally through language apps for a year or so, she decided to take a sabbatical from work to dedicate herself to learning Chinese.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CLI for two main reasons: 1) its structure, and 2) its flexibility.

1) Structure: The classes are entirely 1-on-1 tutoring. This has a lot of critical implications. Firstly, you can enter the program at any level of existing knowledge. You can be a complete beginner, or you can have any level of proficiency beyond that: even if it's lopsided proficiency (e.g. being able to read well but needing more work on speaking/listening). Furthermore, there's no opportunity to hide at the back of a big classroom from a mispronunciation or a lack of understanding: if you aren't grasping a concept, it will be immediately obvious and your teachers will guide you & work with you until you get it. On one hand, this may seem intimidating (and it certainly can be!), but on the other hand, this is exactly the kind of structure that will guarantee thorough, effective learning.

2) Flexibility: Because of CLI's 1-on-1 structure, there are no pre-set "classes" -- you can start whenever you want, and study for as long as you want. I had an existing 60-day Chinese visa and a limited amount of time I could take away from my job, so I chose to stay at CLI for 8 weeks. However, I made friends who studied anywhere from 2 weeks to a full year.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CLI is so incredibly thorough! Their welcome packets (the documents sent prior to your arrival as well as the physical welcome packets you receive on your first day) include all the information you could possibly need about the surrounding area and more. They arranged my pickup from the airport, and the interns who greeted me when I arrived at CLI helped me with everything I needed on my first day: getting a meal, getting a new SIM card, and touring the school.

Beyond that, anytime I had a question or needed help, the staff and interns were there to assist. This was especially critical when I got very sick during my 6th week and needed to be taken to the doctor. Two very kind and helpful interns escorted me to the doctor, helped me pick up my medicine, and even made sure I got lunch afterward.

To be honest, I can't think of anything that they wouldn't have helped me with if I needed it. I would never take advantage of their kindness (as I saw some other students do: effectively treating the interns as personal servants) but the staff and interns are truly exceptional in this regard.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

SPEAK CHINESE. SPEAK CHINESE ALL THE TIME. Because there is no enforced language pledge, many, many CLI students fall into the trap of only speaking Chinese in the classroom and when interfacing with locals.

I know it's hard to express what you want to say in Chinese when you're first starting out, and I know that it's mentally tiring. But that's the point. This is the only thing that will make you better. And when you start setting the example of speaking Chinese outside the classroom, you'll be helping your fellow students, too.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

In total, you'll have three different teachers (one Speaking/Listening, one Reading/Writing, one Comprehensive). Each day will consist of two 2-hour classes: typically, you'll see your Comprehensive teacher each day, and then either have Speaking/Listening or Reading/Writing as your second class. Lunch is provided at CLI for a fee, which I highly encourage: the meals are delicious and the pricing is extremely reasonable.

After classes, you'll spend some time doing homework (a healthy balance is about 2 hours, in my opinion). Most days, CLI has activities you can sign up for. Some are as simple as playing volleyball together, while others are as involved as weekend trips to the rural rice terraces. I especially enjoyed the activity where we made moon cakes during the Mid-Autumn Festival, not to mention the awe-inspiring trips to Yangshuo and Longji.

There are many great dinner options nearby if you prefer to eat out (shout-out to the local 拌面 [ban4mian4: mixed noodles] restaurant with the amazing 荞麦 [qiao2mai4: buckwheat] tea!), though you can also use the CLI kitchen if you prefer to make your own food. Then, you can chat with interns, continue studying, play mahjong in the activity room, use the CLI computers, or explore downtown Guilin!

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 not being good enough: not progressing fast enough, not learning as much as I wanted to, etc. I overcame this by realizing that I'm not a machine. I can't just cram a bunch of inputs and expect perfection immediately. Language learning, especially Chinese, takes time.

I learned how to be patient with myself. I learned how to forgive myself for missteps. And I learned how to swallow my pride and communicate with my teachers honestly about my shortcomings and where I needed more work.

What's something that surprised you about your stay in China?

I'm a big PC gamer, and I expected to spend a fair amount of my spare time in a local 网吧 (wang4ba1: PC cafe). However, after going to a Jimmy's exactly once and experiencing the cigarette haze (despite smoking being "forbidden"), grimy equipment, and less-than-kind employees, I ended up becoming a full-on mobile gamer during my stay.

As a researcher in video games, I gained a deep, tangible empathy for mobile gamers in China, and learned to love many new games! :) (Although it was a real pain to get a QQ account to verify my age...).

Staff Interviews

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

Sophie Aspden

Did you participate in a program abroad? If so, where and what inspired you to go?

Sophie Aspden GapForce Volunteer Coordinator

Sophie: Not yet, but I plan to after I finish my degree as I would love to explore different dive sites around the world such as Fiji and Australia and also visit Costa Rica and Madagascar.

What aspect of working at Gapforce inspires you the most?

Sophie: The aspect that really drew me to working at Gapforce was the Greenforce foundation the company has set up, which highlights the importance of conservation not only on land but also with marine life.

As the Volunteer Coordinator, I think that its great to be able to send volunteers out to have an amazing time and also expand their knowledge on the aspects of conservation in the country they go to.

If you had to choose one, what destination would you recommend to gap year travelers?

Sophie: If I had to choose one destination I would recommend the South America Explore program as you get a taster into different areas such as Ecuador, Peru and the Galapagos and you also have a chance to learn some Spanish and take in different cultures.

Also, you are able to help out at an animal sanctuary and a street children's project. Also I would recommend it due to it being an easy area to carry on your travels from.

What is one piece of advice you would offer someone considering going abroad?

Sophie: One piece of advice I would give would to be to have fun and enjoy your experience to make it unforgettable!