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Pacific Discovery


Pacific Discovery gap year, semester and summer programs are experiential education programs, suitable for high school graduates, university students and recent graduates, developed with a focus on six core components: educational travel, service learning, cultural and language immersion, sustainable adventure travel, outdoors and wilderness exploration, personal and leadership development.

By giving students responsibilities and freedom within the framework and safety of a well designed and carefully managed program, they are supported and empowered, helping them become more capable and self-reliant. These programs are pivotal experiences in our participants lives.

Pacific Discovery is an educational travel organization accredited with American Gap Association (USA)and a member of The Forum on Education Abroad (USA).



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Maddie Jo
Yes, I recommend this program

Invigorating Travel and Cultural Immersion with a new Ohana!

My time with Pacific Discovery in Hawai’i was beyond amazing. Having had a hard time with a brain injury holding me back from the paths I thought I would take, I was looking for something that would not only give me a break from my injury, but rejuvenate my soul. My PD experience did just that! Being surrounded by an amazing group of friends that quickly became family, and two incredible instructors, I found the safety I had been looking for to let go, and enjoy new experiences. I was very excited to get to immerse in the local Hawaiian culture, and found that the program immersed us even more than I could have imagined. I now feel like I know Hawai’i better than my own backyard. It felt really good to connect to a place at such a deep level. When people ask me “how was Hawai’i?”, I sometimes find myself at a loss of words. It can be hard to describe how good it felt to be connected to a new place and new friends in such a unique way. I am forever grateful for my time in Hawai’i with Pacific Discovery and hope to do another program sometime soon!

  • Amazing Instructors, and Group Atmosphere
  • Deep and diverse experiences
  • So much fun!
  • Can be taxing
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Yes, I recommend this program

Hawaii summer program

I was very nervous before attending the program. However, everyone I met in the program was very nice and friendly. We did so many things together and gained lifelong friendships and experiences. Camping is one of my favorite parts. I really glad that I live in the moment during the whole trip, I cherish every moment and memories I shared with the group. Being out in nature every day and hiking with friends while exploring the culture of Hawaii are also my favorite parts of the program. If you're still debating it, just do it.

  • Friendship
  • Nature
  • Fun
  • Tired
  • Hungry sometimes
  • Away from family
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Yes, I recommend this program

Hawaii 4 week program

I highly recommend this trip, the two group leaders I had were absolutely fantastic. I learned and grew more in 4 weeks than I ever thought was possible! This program helped me center my focus for what I wanted to do to make change in the world, and also opened my eyes to another culture. Through the hands on aspects and the immersive learning opportunities I gained prospective and respect of others and learned many valuable lessons that I use in everyday life. The memories I made in the last 4 weeks will forever be part of me.

  • Friends
  • Adventure
  • Education
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Yes, I recommend this program

Amazing program!

This program absolutely changed my life. My instructors were spectacular and guided me through so many incredible experiences in Thailand. I can genuinely say this program was everything I hoped for and more. I would recommend this program to any graduating high school student, I feel much more prepared for life and future travel after completing this program. I undoubtedly learned way more in those three months than I did in all of my secondary education. It’s the perfect bridge in between high school and college/life!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Throw your all into the experience! Take in every moment and enjoy every second.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Life-Changing Semester

Whenever anybody asks me how my semester was in Hawaii, I always tell them that it was one of the most fulfilling and incredible things I have ever done- and I can't think of a statement that better describes my experience with Pacific Discovery. During the 10 weeks I spent in Hawaii, I met people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life, saw things that are indescribably beautiful, laughed uncontrollably, stepped out of my comfort zone, found endless support in times of struggle, discovered my potential, grew as a person, soaked up the sun, pushed myself more and more every single day, danced under the orange sky as the sun was setting, went on some crazy adventures, and created memories that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

No day is the same on a PD program, but that's a huge part fo what makes it such an amazing experience. The programs are incredibly well thought out, and the detailed itinerary allows students to make the absolute most out of their time on the program. The program is set up in a way that allows students to have the time and space to grow independently, but at the same time, grow their people skills, learn how to collaborate with others effectively, and have an amazing and supportive group around them 24/7. I truly learned something new every day, and grew more than I was ever expecting to.

Looking back on my semester with Pacific Discovery, I can truly see how it changed my life. Everything about my semester was absolutely magical, and I could not recommend Pacific Discovery enough.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
It sounds cliché, but really try to push yourself out of your comfort zone every day, and never turn down the opportunity to try something new. The more you try, the more you'll learn- and you'll create some pretty incredible memories along the way!


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Alumni Interviews

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

Sophie Torres

Sophie is a recent graduate of Binghamton University, receiving her Bachelor of Science in Human Development, with a Minor in Sociology. She is currently looking to work for an organization that is a proponent of experiential learning, serving as a leader and mentor for students from diverse backgrounds. In her free time she loves practicing yoga, and being surrounded with family and friends.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose the Nepal and Tibet program because I wanted to immerse myself in cultures that I have never been exposed to before. When reading over the itinerary, everything sounded like a dream and I knew that if I embarked on this journey, my life would change for the better.

What I also liked about this program was that it included a fourteen-day trek across the Annapurna circuit and I thought it would be so cool to be embark on a trek that would challenge me both physically and mentally. I wanted to be able to look back and say, "wow this is something I was able to do", and when I finally got to experience the trek it was way more rewarding than I thought it would be. I feel very lucky to have gone on this program.

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

Pacific Discovery is very buttoned up with everything they do, which made me feel that I was in very good hands. Everything that I needed to pack was included in a well thought out gear list, which also offered suggestions as to where I could get some of the necessary items.

PD was also very good with responding to any questions about the trip. They helped every step of the way and I am very thankful for that.

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

The most important piece of advice I would give to someone going on this program would be to trust in the process! When it comes to making plans I often like to take control, because change can be difficult for me at times but on a program like this I had so much more fun when I adopted a "go-with-the-flow" attitude.

Some of the other students on my program found themselves frustrated because they wanted to know what was going to happen every step of the way, but sometimes it's nice to let things surprise you, because you never know what amazing experiences you might have as a result!

The trip goes by so fast, so why waste any second of it worrying about what you're doing next.

What did you learn about yourself from taking part in this program?

I learned that I am capable of far much more than I give myself credit for. On this trip I trekked up to about 17,000 feet, I got up on stage during a cultural dance performance, and I lived with a Nepali family for ten days without speaking English.

What is so special about going on a program like this is that it forces you to reveal your true self.

Makeup and other materialistic things fade to the background and the focus becomes what lies in your heart and soul. What I discovered is that I am brave, compassionate and ready to experience more of the what the world has to offer.

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

It's difficult to say what an average day/week would look like on this program because we were constantly doing different things! I would say, however, that when we were on the trek for two weeks, we got up at very similar times and would begin trekking to the next destination, stopping to get lunch in between.

It never felt monotonous though because the Annapurna circuit has such an eclectic mix of landscapes, the scenery we experienced each day had its own unique beauty.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it and/or how did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear before embarking on this journey was the plane ride. I have been to many places (including Greece), but Nepal and Tibet are the farthest I have ever been from home. I am not afraid of being on planes, however I was nervous that I would get anxious or not know what to do with myself.

As soon as I sat down on the plane I realized that it wasn't going to be as bad as I had originally thought. In fact I had plenty of movies to watch, and I was actually starting to get excited about what I was about to experience. I think that I will definitely keep this positive perspective with me for future plane rides.

Staff Interviews

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

Sophia Allen

Job Title
Program Instructor
Sophia grew up in the lush Appalachian mountains of North Carolina. Attending an adventure camp throughout her childhood instilled within her a strong desire to provide others with the same special experiences in the outdoors. After completing a bachelors in Outdoor Education, Sophia went on to coordinate and implement expeditions and educational activities across the North America, South America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania for a wide range of demographics and backgrounds.

What is your favorite travel memory?

When I roadtripped across Texas with my sister in a big white van. I was directing a course near Big Bend National Park, and my teams needed a van and a trailer full of gear transported to them from the east coast. My older sister decided to join me for the journey and it has become one of our most memorable experiences. We explored hidden waterfalls in the desert and at night were amazed by the countless stars in the sky. We had hours of quality time to talk and speak of our dreams for the future as we traveled across the bizarre landscape of Texas. From Big Bend to the Guadeloupe Mountains, and El Paso where we said our goodbyes. Camping and Roadtripping are always a special way to share an adventure. I think that’s why I like the style of Pacific Discovery programs so much. It is the slower way of seeing all the beauty along the way and the adventures that spring up on the road.

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

I had worked in a lot of different settings before Pacific Discovery, but I had never worked a seventy day shift before with one team. It was an extraordinary learning experience to empower and support students over an extended length of time. The rewards are immense in the sense that you are sharing an incredible journey with them and you get to see all ways that everyone including yourself grows from the experience. I personally learned a lot about adjusting my leadership style according to the skill set of a team. Throughout the course, the students were becoming more and more independent which required me to use discernment in the ways that I stepped back in order to give them opportunities to lead themselves autonomously.

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

One of my students wrote a lovely blog about volunteering alongside an elderly woman who was once a world class surfer.

Please enjoy below:
“We have arrived in New Zealand! Wahoo! Our first stop was the Tawharanui park and campground. Riddled with sheep, cows and plenty of birds, including the endangered Takahe, we awoke each morning to a symphony of moos, baas and indescribable birds tweets.
Throughout the week, directed by park rangers Morris and Amy, we “tickled” trails to create easier walking paths, planted trees with retired volunteers and took advantage of our surroundings by exploring the park, jumping in the ocean, and watching the sunrise over the rolling hills.
My personal favorite moment of the week was talking to Gale, one of the retired volunteers, while we bagged some young trees. Gale was the New Zealand woman’s surfing champion in 1969 and represented her country at the world championships in Australia the next year. As an aspiring surfer bum myself, I was eager to learn anything I could from her. Though I expected her to discuss the nitty gritty mechanics of surfing and how to dominate waves, she spoke of it as if it was still just a fun hobby. She wasn’t concerned with being the best surfer in the water. She just loved the ocean and riding the waves, both surfing and bodysurfing. As someone who gets in their own head about perfecting every single detail of riding waves, it was refreshing and calming to hear how to dominate surfing: chill out.”

-Sam L

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

Toughest question yet! All of the locations are exciting and beautiful. I am a bit biassed for the Australia and New Zealand Course though. You can’t beat the activities such as canyoneering through the Blue Mountains, surfing the beautiful waves of Australia, and rafting the highest navigable waterfall in the world! The volunteer opportunities are also interesting and enriching. We work with the local park service to fight invasive species, learn how to maintain trails in New Zealand, and live on a beautiful permaculture farm South of Sydney for a week. It is a marvelous course and I highly recommend it, but all programs at Pacific Discovery have something special and different to offer for everyone.

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

Pacific Discovery is different in the sense that the program is designed to empower you to become an independent ethical traveler. The adventures are outstanding and there are a lot of other companies that could simply take you sightseeing, but Pacific Discovery provides an educational viewpoint on each region and has an excellent curriculum to help you reflect on your gap year. One of the moments I was most proud of my team is when they designed their own itinerary for their student led section of their program. It was amazing to see everyone collaborating and creating a wonderful experience traveling across New Zealand. They did an excellent job and it was great to see how comfortable they had become with trip logistics and designing an adventure. I hope they utilize those skills in the future so that they can continue to explore the world outside of the course.

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

How companies treat their employees always speaks volumes to me. Companies that place value in everyone on the team have a much better atmosphere that people want to be around and a part of. It is an incredibly feeling to work for a company that is such a team player. Even though we are spread out all over the world on course, everyone knows that they are a part of something wonderful and meaningful and it connects us. From the local vendors and guides that conduct our adventure activities to the folks in the office that make sure our logistics are running smoothly we are all focused on giving students the best experience possible.

Professional Associations

The Forum on Education Abroad Logo
Gap Year Association Logo
Institute of International Education Logo
USA Gap Year Fairs Logo