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!


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


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Yes, I recommend this program

When I found this training, I knew I had to sign up. It would be intense, but I needed to do it.
From the first email to the first day in the training, the predeparture support was great, answering all the questions and giving advise.
The last four months have come and gone in the blink of an eye. Every day has been an adventure, every moment has been a challenge to step out of my comfort zone. It's been hard, intense and fun. And the end of this trip is only the beginning of the new me. It has inspired me to continue to push my limits, to be stronger. To stand up for the life I want. To open my eyes and face my fears.
I am going back with a suitcase full of laughter, crazy stories, lots of mud and some bullet ants.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Commit to it. You'll start the training with a lot of energy and positivity. Know that there will be days when you will be tired, uncomfortable and overwhelmed. It's easy to laugh when you are feeling good, but the low moments will allow you to grow the most.
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Yes, I recommend this program

What an excellent 4 months. I had looked into the course for 2 years, eventually I signed up. From the time you sign up to the day you finish you are supported by Gapforce staff.

I have found this course to be extremely fulfilling, it has challenged me in different ways; mentally and physically. I feel I have grown as a person, improving self confidence, interpersonal skills, understanding others and personal ability in the course content.

To those who are looking at this course, I would say to get the most from this experience you need to have a reason why you are on the course, it doesn't have to be to become an expedition leader but if you have a goal you have an overarching objective to reach for, this will help keep focus throughout.

The course content itself is varied, kept industry relevant, always evolving and suitably challenging.
From mastering cooking in swampy mud in driving rain, conducting sleep deprived medical scenarios in caves, shepherding your group around Costa Rica and Panama to spending days alone surviving in the jungle. You will be challenged but you get out what you put in.

If you want a challenging, life changing, self improving and once in a lifetime experience the Expedition Leadership Training course is for you! 4 months of your time extremely well spent.

Expect to be busy, tired, wet, muddy, smelly and deeply rewarded. You won't be disappointed!

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Yes, I recommend this program

I came into the ELT course not knowing if being an expedition leader is something I wanted out of this course. That being said and now having completed the course I can still say it was an amazing experience. Definitely is challenging and everyone will be challenged more at different parts of the course than others. But it’s incredibly eye opening in showing you what adversity you can push through and what obstacles you can overcome.

I met a lot of fantastic people on my team that will remain life long friends of mine. All of us had varying levels of experience with expeditions, hiking and camping to start this course. I was one of those who had less experience than some other members of my team but still played a crucial role on my team and very much enjoyed the course with them.

For me this course showed me that most challenges in life aren’t really all that bad. Especially when you have luxuries like a bed, bathroom and shower.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Invest in good boots, socks, and a good pack. And break them in well!
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Yes, I recommend this program

I signed up to this course not really sure what I wanted out of it but having always loved challenging myself, being outdoors and travelling the world. This course delivered that and more.

The last four months have been a serious test of grit and perseverance; from eating porridge every day for four months to trekking through beautiful, dense jungle for twelve hours a day; leading multi-day cycles around lakes and volcanoes and trying to stay awake through overnight cave rescue/medical training.

The instructors are awesome, supportive and experienced people who help you discover strengths you didn’t think you had. I’ve come away with a clear idea of the direction I want to take and relevant, industry recognised qualifications. The course packs a lot in so don’t expect to have a day off in the four months you’re away but who cares when you’re doing something different and insane pretty much every day!

Whether you’re interested in getting into the industry or not I cannot recommend this course enough. If you’re currently sat in a grey office wondering if this course is worth the investment then I can 100% confirm that signing up will be the best choice you make.

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Yes, I recommend this program

I signed up for the TEL course with no intention of becoming an exped leader. Despite this I still really enjoyed the course. It’s a really good opportunity to have adventures that are hard to come by in the normal adventure tourism industry.
The biggest issue with doing the course as someone who doesn’t want to be and exped leader is the amount of paper work. I understand that this essential for people wanting to go into the industry but for someone who doesn’t I found it incredibly dull.

But overall it’s a really fun and testing 4 months


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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!