Youth International

Youth International


Youth International programs focus on authentic travel, first-hand educational experiences, cultural immersion, and volunteer service work. Our mission is to open the doors for young adults to discover a broader perspective on the world while developing a deeper understanding of themselves and their place within the world.

A leader in international experiential education since 1997, Youth International offers 3-month semester programs in South America and Asia, with start dates in September and February each year. Youth International is accredited by the Gap Year Association and affiliated with Western Colorado University, with optional college credit courses designed specifically to compliment our programs.

Take this unique opportunity to experience a new region of the world and push yourself to new limits!


2319 Woodbury Lane
Evergreen, CO 80439
United States


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Yes, I recommend this program

I cannot recommend this program enough! My experience with Youth International was stellar. I had a truly life-changing, eye-opening trip, and I met some of my best friends along the way. I felt comfortable and well-informed from the very beginning, thanks to the phone calls and email correspondence I had with Youth International before the trip. The trip itself is incredible. You can tell that Brad and his team really know what they’re doing because the itinerary is meticulously planned out and every day is an adventure. I was constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone, but I always felt safe. Experiential learning is the way to go. You’ll do things you’ve dreamed of—trekking in the Himalayas, seeing the Taj Mahal, a desert camel safari, and so much more. If you’re waiting for a sign to see if this program is the right one, here it is. You won’t regret it!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go into it with an open mind and no expectations, and get ready to learn a ton about yourself and the world around you.
Yes, I recommend this program

Youth international was the absolute best way for me to start my Gap Year between high school and college. Before I left America I had very little confidence in myself, I had terrible social anxiety, I was afraid of confrontation, and I could never envision myself ever traveling alone. Youth International changed all of that! I went on to travel solo for another 5 months after the end of the program. Youth international was one of the most influential experiences in my entire life. I’ve come away with new knowledge of the social, economic and political situations of the cultures I experienced and I have believe I have matured as a person in the process. I would recommend this to anyone who wants a chance to grow up and learn about the real world at the same time.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
The most nerve-racking moment was definitely meeting my first host family in Kapan, Nepal. I’d never done a homestay or stayed at a strangers house, I had no idea how to exist in the situation I was in. I didn’t want to get out of the bus, I didn’t want to meet anyone, I would have rather crawled into a hole buried myself. But by the end of the week, that family ended up being one of my favorite families I met and I still keep in touch with them to this day. Since then, I’ve lived with over 20 different families and strangers over my travels, and I’ve come away with 20 new groups of friends. This homestay started it all.
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Yes, I recommend this program

This program had a huge impact in my life. Coming from high school, being a frustrated teen dealing with decisions that will depict your future this program gave me a clear mind and transformed my life. I went from thinking rowing D1 was my path since the beginning, to knowing it’s okay to be unsure of the right path to take from this eye opening experience I received when completing this program.
The South America program was harder than I expected. I thought it was going to be just “fun traveling” which it was, although it was much more than that. I learned how to communicate with other cultures even when I didn’t speak their language. I learned that the saying, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes.” Is one of the most accurate sayings. I say this because before I shadowed the lifestyles throughout this trip in South America I viewed them as a “hard way to live” but what I quickly noticed was that even though the work was hard everyone was happy and content and that is what matters and that is what changed my mind set. Seeing that people could be happy doing anything and it doesn’t matter what path you take as long as you’re happy.

My favorite memory was seeing how happy and thankful all the kids were at the school when we arrived.
My personal memory I look back on a lot was during the Manchu Picchu trek, when I was pushed to my limits physically. Previous to the trek my clumsy self fell off of a bus and messed up my shoulder resulting with me having to wear a sling and then hurting my knee having to wear a knee brace. Even though I was physically having trouble the amount of support I had from my group members and my leaders was outstanding, they picked me up when I was down (literally haha) and with their support I was able to complete the trip and the trek.
Tips: have a spending cap for yourself for each week or each country, it will help.
-read up on some basic Spanish to help you when you’re in a taxi or restaurants.

Post-program- I got the courage to go to Costa Rica for 8 weeks by myself, using the things I learned from traveling in Sourh America I became street smart and knew how to get around in a foreign place with little to no help.
Overall the program gave me an experience of a life time and even gave me friends for a life time.
Would very much recommend.

What would you improve about this program?
Give more information about the $spending the individuals will have to do so they can prepare better with a spending plan.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My experience on YI's Asia trip was an unforgettable trip. I was able to meet new people, new places, learn about different cultures by being emerged into it from doing homestays to helping the schools and interacting with students and teachers. There were some challenges, but manageable to get through. You will experience culture shock, being a little home sick, and even being sick. Everyone was really helpful and supportive and when I got really sick, my team leaders were there for me and also the members on the trip.
There was always fun, yet challenging things to do such as the Annapurna Hike, teaching, and homestays. I was able to learn a lot about myself as a person and as a traveler.
I encourage anyone interested in a gap year to go with Youth International, especially this trip.

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Yes, I recommend this program

It is difficult for me to put into words the impact that this trip had on me. I have been an avid traveler my entire life but it was nothing like anything I experienced with Youth International. I was pushed out of my comfort zone from the moment I arrived in Estes Park for the pre-trip meetings. Everything about the places we visited and the people we met felt genuine and real. The hikes we went on were some of the most amazing excursions I have ever experienced, and I have never seen stars so beautiful as the ones on the Salkantay Trek to Macchu Picchu and in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador. The trip was humbling, and as cliche as it may sound, a truly life-changing experience. My only complaint about the program was that I wish it was longer. At the end of the trip, we all wrote letters to ourselves, and in mine I wrote "In this moment, you love yourself. Keep loving yourself. Never forget these 3 months, they changed you for the better." I am a different person because of my trip. I became more confident, independent, and happy, and I made some of the most amazing friends. I truly recommend this program to anyone, especially to those who may feel lost, as I did.


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Alumni Interviews

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

John Griffith

John T. Griffith, Sep-Dec 2008. I spent 6 years in the Air Force. I am from the Boston suburbs, studied engineering at Northeastern University and worked at a handful of companies before changing my career to follow my passion. I am now a personal coach and yoga instructor and give people the tools to transform their lives.
Riding elephants in Thailand

Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with Youth International?

Because rather than stay in just one area of Asia, they travelled all over and the Youth International program spanned across different countries and many cities. I also wanted to go to the meditation retreat in India. I loved the element of home-stays and really being embedded in the culture, rather than simply staying in hostels.

Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

We did a lot of teaching English to children, which was really fun because we could play games with them. We also built walls and structures and gardened.

What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?

The thing that made it most special was the opportunity to stay in the homes of locals. I met some of the kindest and happiest people in the world. And they didn't speak a word of English! Yet somehow we were able to effectively communicate with gestures and grunts and smiles. I learned so much about what's truly important in life and the experience of being so deep in a culture is something you simply cannot get when travelling alone.

How has this experience impacted your future?

I decided to leave my career as an engineer and start a business following my passion. I am now a personal coach and also teach yoga and meditation. After seeing people who were so happy, and yet had no money or possessions, I realized that money really doesn't make you happy and it's more important to help people and make an impact in the world.

Staff Interviews

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

Alexandra Retzleff

Job Title
female headshot

What is your favorite travel memory?

I spent a lot of time living, working, and backpacking around the Middle East in the 1990s, when the political situation was much more stable than it is now. I especially cherish my memories of Syria, because I experienced first-hand the beauty and hospitality of a region which is now devastated by ISIS. I remember one time arriving with my Australian travel companion in a remote town in Northern Syria, not realizing there would be nowhere for us to eat or stay (as happens sometimes when you are really off the beaten path).

Concerned townspeople ushered us to the local school to meet the principal. He took us into his home for dinner, interviewed us for the local newspaper, took us for a walk to a beautiful shady tea garden, and let us sleep on mats on the floor of the school. The town really came together to look after us!

Which destination is most underrated? Conversely, which is most overrated?

It is hard for any highly-rated destination to live up to its reputation. Just like the best books or movies are often those you just come across without any particular expectations, I find travel can work in a similar way. The unexpected places that you just stumble upon are often the most interesting, so I am a big believer in wandering off the beaten path. That having been said, the Galapagos Islands are truly amazing and deserving of every bit of their reputation. Birds with blue feet nesting right beside your footpath? Friendly little penguins swimming around you? Ripples in the lava fields hardened into mesmerizing patterns? Darwin’s research subjects crawling all about? The natural world here is expansively breathtaking, abundant, and truly unique.

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

Delivering what has been promised. It is essential to promote an image that is true to your service and to ensure that your clients receive what they signed up for. At Youth International, we provide our potential participants with a lot of detailed information before they sign up: you can review the complete daily itinerary of the trip, and you will have an in-depth phone interview to make sure that all your questions are answered. You can also read travel blogs written by past teams, and even get in touch with our alumni. Being well-informed is the best way to make sure your choice of program is a good fit for your interests.

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

I began my career in education as a university professor, so working in experiential learning was a big transition for me. One of my major frustrations working in the ivory tower was the difficulty in making material relevant to students.

Through working with Youth International, I have come to appreciate “learning by doing” as the highest form of education, because profound intercultural experiences can be the most deeply intellectually transformative moments on one’s life. This is the stuff you never forget!

Most recently, I have brought my academic experience full circle through our partnership with Western State Colorado University, by designing college-credit courses centered on key field activities of the Youth International programs. It is fulfilling to be able to bring these subjects to life through real world experiences.

What unique qualities does your company possess?

Over the past 20 years, we have stayed true to a program model that we have found offers the best possible experience for our participants. All of our programs are 3 months long, and involve travel in 3 countries. Our quality and consistency have allowed us to form strong connections to local communities across the globe, and to keep our community service projects running from one year to the next, allowing us to make a real impact. Our particular combination of international travel, service work, and outdoor adventure encourages cultural understanding and supports profound personal growth. Our programs are also a lot of fun!

Professional Associations

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