Pacific Discovery Gap Year Programs Abroad

Pacific Discovery

About

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).

Founded
2001
Headquarters

Hammond Street
Portland, ME 04101
United States

Scholarships available for Fall 2019 programs!

We have a few partial scholarships available for students for our Fall 19 programs! We're looking for students who are savvy with a camera to create compelling content/those who love writing blogs. If you're 17-24, creative and looking to broaden your horizons with an overseas semester/gap year program from Sept-Nov 19-please email us with: name, age, phone number, why you think you'd be a great candidate and what program you're interested in.

Reviews

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sam
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I went on the NZ and Fiji program in July and it was amazing. It was super varied from relaxing on the beach in Fiji to going to hobbition in NZ. We also did scuba diving, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, we even went to castaway island. It was only 4 weeks long and I wish it was longer! We had a smaller group which made the trip really feel like a family and for me, made the trip even better. I learnt so much about myself and think the others on the program did too. We really became so close in such a short time, i feel like I've known everyone for years. I recommend this trip to anyone that wants to see NZ and Fiji and travel with others the same age as you, you will make lifelong friends and memory’s you will never forget. I will never forget this trip.

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Lian
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time with Pacific Discovery surprised me. I was challenged emotionally, physically, and mentally and I learned an incredible amount about myself and the cultures we visited that has broadened my perspective in the best way possible. The program is so well organized and the experiences are authentic and meaningful. You see beautiful places, meet beautiful people, grow as a human on the earth, and make memories that will last a lifetime. If anything it just gives you time to enjoy the fruits of life, grow, mature, question and be curious, get inspired, and experience settings that truly are once in a lifetime.

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Eva
2/10
No, I don't recommend this program

I never took the time to leave a review from my semester in Australia and New Zealand last year. I decided I would share what I wish I had known beforehand, as it may help someone who is on the fence about deciding on this program. Honestly, I know several people who have had amazing experiences with PD. The trip had really amazing moments and lessons, but overall, to me it was absolutely not worth the price and the stress. I had no idea that the program was going to be so strictly structured- from assigned rotating seats/ rooms in the van, not being allowed to spend time with other people in the group without inviting the entire group, extremely little free time and uncomfortably forced 'sessions" (basically group therapy.) The volunteer work was lengthy and impersonal- usually it consisted of fence clipping, weed-poisoning, and cleaning. Most of the time it felt all too much like a children's summer camp plus intense labor. The food was so limited that our group would get into fights about someone getting seconds or eating the last ricecracker. It was ridiculous, such a drama scene.
Aside from the negatives, I ended up growing a lot from the experience. Months after reflecting on the trip, it has made me aware of my faults and I have learned to become a more open-hearted and flexible person. I also saw some of the most beautiful places of my life, and pushed my comfort zones to new levels. After the trip, I travelled independently in Asia and gained SO much more from my experience. If you are the type of person who likes structure and the convenience of a planned-out schedule, this may be for you. If you are a nonconformist, do NOT chose this trip.

Response from Pacific Discovery

Dear Eva, we really appreciate you submitting a review, and are sorry to hear that the group-focused and structured elements of the program were not what you were looking for in your semester abroad experience. We applaud you for taking the learning from this semester and subsequently travelling independently in Southeast Asia...it's what we hope for all of our participants...that they will learn and grow from their time with us and carry that over into their own lifelong adventures! Wishing you all the best, Rachel and Scott, Founding Directors

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Liam
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Pacific Discovery is a great company staffed by passionate, wonderful people who are great at what they do. The trip was well planned out. Just by looking at the itinerary I could tell that the trip we would be embarking on encompassed a great variety of activities. We volunteered, spent time on mini outdoors trips, and learned a lot of great skills along the way. Pacific discovery facilitated inner growth as well with seminars held throughout the program.

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

Pacific Discovery's Southeast Asia program was the perfect mix of volunteering, adventure travel, independent exploring, and personal development. We were given so many opportunities to try new things and experience the culture in a meaningful way. My program leaders Jess & Devin are some of the coolest people I know and they were always there to support us. It was very clear while traveling how much effort was put into planning the program and if you are at all thinking about traveling with Pacific Discovery I would say you ABSOLUTELY should.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 10 of 10

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.
hiking in Nepal and Tibet

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.

More Interviews

Staff Interviews

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

Meagan Goodman

Job Title
Program Coordinator
Meagan Goodman grew up on Vashon Island, Washington and graduated with a B.A. in Psychology and Environmental Studies. She is a Program Coordinator for Pacific Discovery. Her focus of work is on admissions and participant well-being. Meagan has travelled around the world and is passionate about supporting young people to have life-changing experiences in a global setting.
female headshot

What position do you hold at Pacific Discovery? What has been your career path so far?

I currently work as a Program Coordinator for Pacific Discovery. My role at Pacific Discovery is to work closely with all registered participants and their families, to help support them to have a successful and life-changing experience on the program.

Prior to working with Pacific Discovery, I worked in the field of Wilderness Therapy in Asheville, North Carolina. I primarily worked with adolescent boys with substance abuse issues. I found this work to be incredibly rewarding, albeit challenging. I then moved to New Zealand and started working for the New Zealand Government. I helped to holistically support vulnerable New Zealand families to ensure their safety and well-being. I now have a young family, however when the time comes, I look forward to returning to the field!

Did YOU take a gap year abroad?! If so, where and what inspired you to go?

My first study-abroad experience was in France when I was 14. I travelled to Biarritz to do a language immersion course, and instead fell in love with travelling. When I was 21, I had my first official study abroad/gap year experience; I went to Australia to study sustainability and environmental action through an experiential learning semester program. I was inspired by Aboriginal culture and I wanted to delve deeper into examining the relationship between ecological identity and well-being. This experience was life-changing and I never would have ended up in New Zealand if it weren’t for my gap year abroad in Australia.

What country have you always wanted to visit?

I have always wanted to visit Bhutan. The small, isolated Buddhist Kingdom has always fascinated me, and I found it admirable that tourism only began in 1974. Bhutan seems to recognize and value its unique natural environment, and in an effort to reduce environmental degradation, it still places many restrictions on travel to the Kingdom today. I truly believe that Bhutan is a modern day "Shangri –La" and I hope to visit it myself one day.

Why is language learning and cultural immersion important to you?

As Mark Twain so eloquently put it:

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.

I believe that immersing yourself in a foreign culture and language helps to foster empathy, connection, and compassion. I cherish the connections I have made with people, communities, and natural environments across the globe. My cultural immersion experiences have been pivotal to forming the values and ethics I live by.

More Interviews

Professional Associations

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