Up with People, a Multi-Country Gap Year Program

Up with People

About

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 volunteering, the performing arts, and travel 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 young adults to become leaders and positive agents of change for a more hopeful, trusting and peaceful world.

To learn more about our gap semester (5 months) and full gap year programs, visit our site or our Program Page!

Founded
1965
Headquarters

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

Reviews

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

Traveling in Up With People was an amazing experience. We didn't just visit other countries, we lived with families every place we went. I had never sung or danced before Up With People, but I was surprised by how much I loved performing and being a part of our show. We also had some very memorable community engagement opportunities, from visiting refugee camps in Scandinavia to flood clean-up in the US to helping a poor neighborhood in Mexico to renovate their homes. Traveling with the other people in the cast was the best part, in my opinion. Spending every day with people from more than 20 different nations who have all come together to learn and make the world better... it changed my perspective forever, and I am still in touch with friends around the world 25 years later. My experiences in Up With People led me to amazing international career opportunities and to lifelong friendships.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
Performing for the Pope in packed Mile-High Stadium
Default avatar
Likun
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I traveled with Up with People 5 years ago. I was a backpacker before but it was so hard for me to get US and Schengen visa to travel when i was a students back then. I heard Up with People from a friend that his friend traveled in this program. For me at that moment, it was a great opportunity for me to see the world outside of Asia and i never regret for a minute with this decision. Stay with host family, travel to a new city every week and volunteer work have give me so many opportunity to do new stuff, meet new friends and there are so many "aha" moment on the tour that just broad my horizon.I don't know there is a show though, and i never sing or dance before in my life, but it turn out to be a high and super memorable experience when i look back my Up with People experience.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
I ate cherry jelly for the first time with my host family in Denver. But i invited them to try to black jelly (Tortoise Jelly) from China later and they all get scared.
Default avatar
Alys
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

When I came to this programme I had no idea what to expect. I just packed up my bags and showed up in Denver. After going through some ups and downs learning the songs, the dances, the names, the people, the travels, the courses, and of course the program, I found such a weird family of loveable goofballs I never wanted to leave. We would sing in public together, go on crazy city exploring adventures, laugh about how we were broke and then adventure some more. I learned so much about so many different cultures and people and cities and just about the world around me. But something I never imagined was that I’d feel like a sister to someone from Switzerland, or have a best friend in Texas, or meet other people from Bermuda. Now not only do I have so many new skills to put on a resume and college application, but I have a home in at least 25 different countries around the world.
So something I would say is people ask me “Why Travel” and my response is “Why not?”

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
People tell you that everyone will love you and want to get to know you and be your friend, you won’t believe them. But you will find your chosen family here, and everyone will love you and be your friend and care for you. It is such a great experience.
Default avatar
Angela
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Up with people is changing. There’s a before and after up with people. Why? Because you grow in every single aspect of your life, your mind understands new things that maybe you didn’t see before but they were always there, you learn how to truly love everyone no matter what your differences are, you become adaptable to any situation because you get to be in a new city every week so everything is changing all the time, and very very important you get to know yourself, what you want, and how much you have left to do in your life. it motivates you to start new projects and to do things that maybe you wouldn’t have done before. plus it’s fun, you travel so much and get involved in cultures, languages and communities as well as finding a new family that Will always support and be there no Matter what
it’s super amazing!!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Try to be your best self, and to always ask questions and learn. Also never waste the opportunity to get to know someone, make connections
Default avatar
Ellie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I spent about 2 years in uwp as a student and staff member. I’m not lying when I say my best memories are from those two years. I’ve made life long friends, mentors, and family through this program. It’s not for people who aren’t willing to put in effort and commitment to others and the countries you visit. It’s not for people who don’t want to be pushed out of your comfort zone. It will bring the best out in you, it will show you sides of yourself you didn’t know you had. It’s a 6 month or year commitment and it’s not free, so putting in as much as you want to get out of Up with People is IMPORTANT! I’ve seen myself transform in a matter of 6 months. My family didn’t recognize me because they saw a new confidence I never had. Don’t pass this up!

What would you improve about this program?
Improvement could be diversification and Implementing new ideas and not being afraid to break some societal rules.

Programs

Displaying 1 - 1 of 1

Alumni Interviews

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

Alys Ann Webber

Alys is an 18-year-old Bermudian girl who traveled in Up With People during Cast B'18 and A'19, and after Up With People, she studies Forensic Science at Keele University. She loves to read, travel, write, do community service, cook, and, of course, perform. She thoroughly enjoyed her experience and recommends Up With People for anyone who wants to travel, perform or do community service as the perfect Gap Year Program.

Why did you choose this program?

As I was graduating from High School, an admissions representative of Up With People came to my school and gave a presentation about the program. I was very interested, I had never seen a full show before but I had immediate memories of a school show I saw in Middle School with some people I knew in it. She told us about traveling around the world, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people, performing a show, doing community service and just growing as people. I have always loved Traveling, Performing and Community Service, but I was still doubtful about whether or not I should apply. I then thought to myself if I didn't, I would regret it for the rest of my life. So I decided to apply, because I thought the worst that could happen was I didn't get accepted.

Honestly, I am so glad I did, because the day I got my acceptance letter, I was overjoyed and so excited; I would be doing everything that I loved for a year, and even though there were some parts I was nervous about (like the fact that there would be so many new people), I am so glad that I did this because it turns out that these people are some of my best friends now.

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

Well, I found out about Up With People through an admissions counselor stationed in Bermuda, and they helped me through all the steps that I needed to take to get fill out all the forms and let me know all the medical tests I would need to take. They also gave me different ideas on how I could fund-raise or get scholarships in the program. A few things I had to do on my own was actually raise the money, get my flights and contact my doctors and etc, to get the tests (and proof of such tests). However, my admissions counselor was really helpful and got me through the whole process.

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

Honestly, this may sound like the most obvious answer, but you REALLY don't need as many things as you are going to pack. Like, you may think you're going to need that many shirts and pants and dresses, but you really won't. I was given SO MANY SHIRTS from sponsors, beneficiaries, service sites and even Up With People themselves. I barely had any room in my suitcase for souvenirs. So pack really smartly; plus, anything you forget, you can probably buy in the first week if you need it! Even on my second semester, I packed too much, and just don't forget you can be stylish with any shirt and pants! I generally tend to mix and match too: I bring black leggings that I can use for workout and professional days, so think of some innovative ways you can 'kill two birds with one stone'!

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

Well, we have a lot of 'Up With People language', so I will try to spell it out.

On Mondays, they tend to be our travel days, so we get on buses or planes and drive from one city to another. Then Tuesdays-Thursdays tend to be Community Service days, where in the morning we could be doing anything from school workshops with kids, to picking up trash by a river bed. Then in the afternoon on these days we have some workshops with the other members of the cast; these can be just learning about the cities we are in, learning about world news and current issues, or even practicing for our show!

Then on Fridays and/or Saturdays typically tend to be our Show Days, where we come in early in the morning, build our stage, rehearse for our show, perform the show, then take down the stage again!

And finally Sunday is our Host Family Day! In the program, we stay with host families so we can better learn about the culture of each city we are in and not just be tourists. So this is a day where you can hang out with your host families and do some sightseeing, or just having fun!

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

I was honestly worried about how I would fit in with all the different people from so many different cultures. Everyone said to me that everyone would love everyone and we would all be friends, and I didn't believe them. I was so worried I wouldn't find any friends or anyone like me. But during the first few days, I got to know so many different people, and not only found out that people also felt worried like me, but that we weren't all so different after all. Now I can say that I have so many friends all around the world and I will say it Loud and Proud.

What are some of your favorite memories abroad?

This may sound so silly, but it really is the small moments in a group of so many people that light up your world and you remember so clearly. I have three little memories that made me laugh so hard, cry so much and feel so loved, that I can still feel it in my gut.

  • It was in the first few days of everyone getting to know each other, so we were all still a little awkward and shy, then this song plays and one guy begins to dance some of the funkiest choreography in the world, which he'd made up himself. After a little bit of everyone watching and cheering him on, we eventually all joined in on the fun and started clapping and dancing too! One of the most enjoyable moments I can remember us having as a group.
  • During one rehearsal, as we were practicing a song, the guy who sung the solo was the lights intern at the time, so they weren't there. So the whole cast, as we were sitting on the stage, began singing the song together. The solo parts, the cast vocals, the second soloist parts, as the band was happily playing along. All the staff found it so impressive and amusing because they didn't even know the cast knew the solo parts for it!
  • I was walking with one of my friends (I won't name names so he won't be embarrassed

Staff Interviews

These 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.

US visitors, meet us in person!

  1. Sunday 5 January
    West Orange, NJ Gap Year Fair
    JCC Metro West
    Fair:
    1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
    Presentation:
    1:00 PM - 2:00 PM
  2. Monday 6 January
    Scarsdale, NY Gap Year Fair
    Scarsdale High School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM
  3. Tuesday 7 January
    Brooklyn, NY Gap Year Fair
    Brooklyn Friends School - Upper School
    Fair:
    6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
    Presentation:
    6:00 PM - 6:45 PM

Professional Associations

USA Gap Year Fairs Logo