Up with People, a Multi-Country Gap Year Program

Up with People


In a world filled with constant change, we are often divided by fear and intolerance. Up with People is breaking down these fears by using our unique blend of music and social action to empower people across the globe to think differently about their world, and understand the things that unite us as people and societies – our common humanity.

With a rich legacy that spans more than 50 years, Up with People has been reaching communities and people across the globe through our music, our message and our service since 1965. Our commitment runs deep and our aspirations are bold.

Through music and action, Up with People empowers our youth to become positive agents of change for a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world.

To learn more about our semester and year long multi-gap year programs, visit our site or our Program Page!


6800 Broadway, Suite 106
Denver, CO 80221-2851
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

I traveled with Up with People as a student participant for 6 months and then 4 years as part of the volunteer staff. The program took me to places I never would have taken the initiative to visit otherwise, like Cuba, Kosovo, Estonia, Bermuda, and Mexico. Staying with host families has allowed me to see how much good there still is in the world. My memories from my time on the road are focused around people - I remember each country by the people I stayed with, the people I served with and the people we performed for. It's a unique way to see the world that only Up with People can offer. Living these experiences in a group from 20 different countries builds international friendships for life - you become part of something so much bigger than yourself.

What was the most nerve-racking moment?
I was given the opportunity to gift a photo to Pope Francis and shake his hand on behalf of our cast.
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Yes, I recommend this program

I traveled with Up with People in 2008, and had the most incredible, culturally-immersive experience! I now have friends, and host families from countries around the globe. The opportunity to travel while giving back to communities through volunteer efforts gave me valuable perspective as to what others are doing to give back and create change. I am grateful for all that I got to experience and loved that my tour allowed me to see different regions of the world and many places I wouldn't have otherwise have visited. I was initially hesitant about living with host families, but that aspect turned out to be my favorite part. The conversations that happened around dinner tables worldwide gave me personal insight into the communities, and the people that call those places home. More than 10 years later, I am still in touch with the families and friends I encountered along my way!
I can't say enough about this program and the value of seeing the world in such a unique context. I highly recommend Up with People to anyone wanting a transformative cross-cultural experience!

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Yes, I recommend this program

I never had the chance to travel with Up with People since I only found out about it when I was well past traveling age. But I have been working for 2.5 years in the admissions department in the Denver office and it has been fantastic! The program has so much to offer - leadership training, international travel, cultural immersion (through host family stays), community service, musical performances - there really is no other program like it. Getting to see the cast when they arrive in Denver and be around their energy is incredible, and it just continues to get stronger and even more incredible as the weeks go by. If you're looking for a unique gap year or study abroad experience where you can have fun, help others, and make lifelong friends that become like family, then this is the program for you!

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Yes, I recommend this program

UWP is truly a program like no other, combining a multi-cultural program (typically 15-20 different nationalities represented) with international travel, host family stays, an intense and rewarding community service program, and the performing arts (even for those who can't sing or dance :-) ).
I traveled with UWP in the '80s, and in addition to life-long friends who are still my closest friends today, I met my wife on the road.
I owe a great deal of my career, and certainly my family situation, to the impact that UWP had on my life.
Coming out of high school, I wanted to be a teacher. Little did I know that I would spend my life teaching in a totally different way than in the classroom in eastern Iowa. After UWP I spent 25 years in the intercultural field, and have now returned to UWP, working in their European operations.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come with an open mind, a passion for people and learning, be ready to stretch yourself and live outside your comfort zone, and plan to "sleep later" when your semester is complete.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Up with People has been a major part of my life for as long as I can remember. My mother traveled and worked with this organization when she was young so I grew up listening to the songs and her stories from the road. The experiences she shared with me that the students have during their semester on tour are incredibly unique and special. The bonds formed within casts truly last a lifetime! Through my connection to the program I am close friends with many of the recent alum (many of whom are even children of my mother's cast mates!) I am thrilled to now be working at the Denver Headquarters as an Admissions Recruiter helping to shape the incoming casts! When you reach out for more information on this program you will likely be hearing back from me; I'm excited to work with you!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come into the program with an open mind and be ready for an incredible journey!


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Alumni Interviews

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

Joris Van Doorslaer

Why did you choose this program?

When I was exploring my options, I wasn't entirely sure of exactly what I was looking for in a program - something abroad, something unique & something with variety.

When I discovered that Up with People had the traveling, community impact, and performance aspects, I was amazed this could all fit in one program. With a mission of bringing the world together, that was something I could support.

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

I enrolled in Up with People via their website, an easy apply button. Very shortly after they messaged me for an interview. After that they signed a counselor that helped me with all my questions.

The documents they sent were extremely useful, and helped me get my personal travel needs in order and as soon as I had done that, everything was taken care of.

I arrived to the tour and people welcomed me at the airport. Already that evening I was in my first host family. How unique to not be worried about the logistics and be able to spend all your time on truly experiencing. Very unique.

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

The program is hard to explain, everyone will ask what you are going to do and this is a complex program to explain because it does not just match one box.

Up with People contains so many elements. My tip is to focus on 3 words: travel, perform, & impact. After that the questions will start and you can sidetrack into the topics they want. A second tip, in our mind we find hundreds of reasons to not do something, but when a decision is made then you find hundreds of reasons why you are doing that something.

Take the leap, it will be worth it. If you are currently taking the time to read this, then it already says so much about your desire.

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

Monday is a travel day, love it because you get to hang out on the bus with friends or have some alone downtime with some music or a book.

You arrive into a new city where you will be welcomed in a fun way, sometimes with firetrucks making sounds and the mayor waiting to welcome you. That evening you will meet your new host family, which is always so exciting and fun. Those first night conversations are really unique.

Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday are typically days that you will go do volunteer work. This can be a variety of projects, from interaction with kids to labor work. In the late afternoon the group will always come back and have an educational workshop together (so useful & fun). In the evenings you get to know your host family even better and discover local foods.

Friday & Saturday are typically show days. In the morning the stage is set up, some people are rehearsing specific parts, some people are preparing the next week and so many other great things that take place on show mornings. In the afternoon we all rehearse together because who is performing in the show always changes a bit from show to show and it is great to keep making the show better.

In the evenings around 7 or 8 PM the show will start. Amazing moments for the community to come together. On Saturday we stay a bit later to take the stage down. Sunday is our host family day, a day with some more rest, often a nice brunch and then typically I went with my host family to a fun place that they wanted me to see.

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 upfront was whether the places we were going would be safe and that the host families were safe. Upfront you imagine every worst case scenario. After traveling, I realize how many ways Up with People double checks the safety of its placements.

Host families are selected via community networks and people who sign up are typically just on the great scale of caring. Going to places like Mexico has been way more safe than I expected, since we travel in groups and have good local connections there is great safety built in. Of course you are still traveling and should be aware of yourself, but that is common sense even at home.

Have you recommended this program to others?

Since I participated, my best friend has traveled with Up with People, as well as my sister and several of my host family siblings. This is probably the best indicator that the program is worth it. I definitely do not recommend everything, but this program without a doubt.

Staff Interviews

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

Ellen Enebo

Job Title
Curriculum Manager
Ellen traveled in Up with People (UWP) as a gap year option in 1997, and returned to join their traveling “road staff” in 2007 for 3 tours before taking on her current role as Curriculum Manager. Ellen lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and two daughters, and loves biking, quilting, and being outside.

What position do you hold at Up with People and why do you like working there?

woman eating dumplings in taipei taiwan

I am UWP’s Curriculum Manager, which means I train and support our touring staff in delivering workshops & reflections, in volunteer service working with youth and schools, and leading the orientation sessions for the incoming groups.

Working for UWP allows me to be an integral part of an opportunity that was a significant growth experience in my own life. I watch young adults enter this program seeking to make a difference and create positive change in the world, and I am proud of my role in setting them up for success and providing tools for them to be prepared and thoughtful in their journey.

What keeps you excited about your job?

My job stays exciting because I work with driven and positive people in a fast-paced environment. Our touring cast is busy moving to a new city each week and with so much activity planned into every day, the work is ever-changing.

We tailor our curriculum and cast discussions to the specific tours and opportunities around us. It is so fulfilling to have the chance to continually improve our programs and customize it for the group to get as much from it as possible.

Do students have a hard time transitioning back after the program? If so, what is your advice on this?

two women posing by the water in stockholm sweden

After my first UWP tour, I had a hard time transitioning home—my Up with People community was so fun and so supportive, it was challenging to go back home and be on my own again on campus. We do our best to prepare participants for this reality- that their worldview has broadened and what they want from their life has probably changed during their UWP experience.

My advice is what I hope all our participants do—figure out a way to continue the energy and enthusiasm of their time in UWP into their home life. To get involved, to choose a community need they feel strongly about and take action to meet it and make a difference in a tangible way.

What is one common misconception about going abroad?

One common misconception about going abroad is that you go to learn about the place you are visiting. This is true of course, but it is nothing in comparison to what you will learn about yourself, your values, and your priorities. You discover what you believe by comparing the differences and similarities in how you were raised to the places where you are traveling.

Being put in the position to represent your city, your state, your country in a faraway place wakes up inside you a sense of pride and a chance to reflect on how your life so far made you what you are, and how you are in control of what’s next.

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