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

Reviews

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

Visiting Australia and New Zealand had always been on my bucket list, and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to experience it with Pacific Discovery. You can tell how much meticulous planning they put into curating each program's itinerary and making sure that you'll see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible in your 70 days there. On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. Looking back, the breadth and depth of activities you get to partake in on this program are amazing. From surfing on Australia's pristine beaches to taking in New Zealand's most famous glacier, your experience with PD will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

I am really so grateful to Pacific Discovery for giving me the ideal start to my gap year. I can't think of a better way to have spent the last 3 months. I want everyone to be able to have the same life-changing experience I did, so I highly recommend Pacific Discovery if you are taking a gap year! You'll learn about sustainability, culture, and the unique environment on these islands, but more importantly, you'll learn so much about yourself. If you're like me and haven't made up your mind about what you want your future to look like, this program will help give you clarity on what truly drives you to be who you are.

Once again, thanks to PD for this incredible experience!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
By the end of the program, you'll have caught the travel bug and be well equipped to set off on your own travels, so make sure to leave some time for a program extension if you can! Planning your own travels and living independently is such a rewarding experience. Plus, you're not going to be ready to say goodbye to New Zealand!
Default avatar
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.

Default avatar
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.

Default avatar
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

Default avatar
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.

Programs

Displaying 10 - 18 of 18
Pacific Discovery
Custom Study Abroad Programs | Pacific Discovery
Multiple Countries
9 •1 review

Experiencing a different culture and learning to adapt to alternative...

Pacific Discovery
Hawaii Semester Program | Pacific Discovery
United States of America
New Program

Join us on an epic journey to Hawaii! Our 70 - day semester offers you...

Pacific Discovery
Discovery Campus Hawaii | Pacific Discovery
United States of America

A new kind of campus, for today's student! Keep your college education...

Pacific Discovery
Hawaii + Western USA Semester Program | Pacific Discovery
United States of America

This 10-week semester program offers you enriching and inspiring...

Pacific Discovery
Eastern United States Semester Program | Pacific Discovery
United States of America

This 10-week semester program offers you enriching and inspiring...

Pacific Discovery
Western United States Semester Program | Pacific Discovery
United States of America

This 10-week semester program offers you enriching and inspiring...

Pacific Discovery
Service Learning Leadership Program in Cambodia
Cambodia

Equip yourself with the right skills to ensure your impact as a...

Pacific Discovery
Faculty-led & Custom Study Abroad Programs
Multiple Countries

Experiencing a different culture and learning to adapt to alternative...

Pacific Discovery
Central America Semester – Cultural Immersion, Service Learning, Adventure
Multiple Countries

How do you want to experience our world? Join us for a life-changing...

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 bachelor's in Outdoor Education, Sophia went on to coordinate and implement expeditions and educational activities across North America, South America, Southeast Asia, and Oceania for a wide range of demographics and backgrounds.

What is your favorite travel memory?

When I road-tripped 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 biased 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 incredible 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.

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