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Youth International

About

Authentic, rugged, meaningful travel since 1997. Youth International's mission is to open the doors for young adults to discover a broader perspective on the world while developing a deeper understanding of themselves.

We currently offer experiential learning programs in Nepal, Kenya, and Ecuador, ranging in length from 25 to 30 days. Join a YI peer group on the adventure of a lifetime that combines international travel, cultural exchange, home stays, community service, and outdoor expeditions!

Youth International is accredited by the Gap Year Association and affiliated with Western Colorado University, with optional college credit courses designed specifically to complement our programs. 529 funds are accepted to pay for course fees and program fees.

Take this unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of a new country and push yourself to new limits!

Reviews

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Drew
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

N.E.P.A.L - Never Ending Peace and Love

I tried to go into this trip without any expectations about the experience I was about to have. I knew that I would be traveling with a group of people around my age that I had never met before. I knew that I would spend the majority of my time in Nepal either trekking through the Himalayas or living amongst local Nepalese people. Beyond that, I was totally blind as to what the future would hold. Fortunately, I don't think that there is any way that someone could have been prepared for such a perspective-altering journey, regardless of previous travel experience. I would consider my time in Nepal to be one of the most fulfilling and happiest periods in my life. In addition to having a great team to travel with, I felt as though I was able to achieve one of the most immersive travel experiences possible and connect with my host family and the local community on a very intimate level. The Annapurna Base Camp trek was exceptionally beautiful, and the guides/porters were quick witted and caring. Nepal is a naturally blessed land, but endowed with equally amazing people. The trip itinerary is a constant stream of amazing experiences that will leave you at a loss for words at times. P.S. Brad is such a great mentor figure and human being who constantly maintains a high level of positive energy and humor which elevates the group environment. Any backpacker would be lucky to travel alongside him for a month.

Pros
  • Incredible itinerary that has been meticulously planned over the course of decades
  • Amazing value
  • Great connections with the local communities and guides
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Peg
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Youth International - Nepal Spring 2022

YI programs are THE best, from start to finish. This program was a complete immersion in Nepalese culture & daily life. The trekking in the Himalayas was humbling & stunning, rewarding & life-changing for our son. He lived with host families, helped with daily tasks, taught in local schools and visited UNESCO World Heritage Sites. He was safe & well taken care of in Nepal. YI communication from start to finish was top notch. Additionally, we were able to tap in to our son's college fund to pay for the trip & he earned transferable college credits! When our younger son is old enough, he will join YI for an adventure too. Please do not hesitate to book this trip - it was so worth it!

Pros
  • Home Stays & Working with local schools
  • Cultural Immersion
  • Trekking Adventure
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Hannah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

One of the best times of my life :)

This program was perfectly executed, I am very grateful for Brad and other people who made it so amazing. It personally hit every corner of things I would want out of a program: cultural immersion, adventure & activity, sight seeing, homestays, and volunteering with purpose. The country & the people there were beautiful & inviting. The trek was challenging in the most rewarding way, and there were a lot of moments of mindfulness; my mental state thrived in Nepal :) I only wish there was better compatibility and maturity within the group, which is more so up to the individual. Great program that gives you everything you would need in a gap year program; I understand another country more & I got to learn about a new culture I’ve never been exposed to before. Make what you can out of the parts that are challenging, put yourself out of your comfort zone. It’s mostly up to the individual for what kind of experience they’re going to have. I’m glad and will cherish all of the people I met, and wish everyone the best. I recommend this program if you’re looking for a raw, beautiful experience.

Pros
  • Positive environment
  • True cultural immersion
  • Mentally & physically rewarding
Cons
  • Not a strong group dynamic
  • Lack of diversity in the group
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Leilani
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Truly an Amazing Experience

This is going to sound cliche, but going on this program has truly changed who I am as a person. The organizer, Brad, is someone who is very mindful of how service trips may be perceived by local people. This is an organization that is truly devoted for first-world students to work alongside locals, rather than encouraging us to be "first-world" saviors. The experiences we had in the home-stays really encouraged cultural immersion and the activities we did as groups were nothing but adventure and fun.

What was the most nerve-racking moment and how did you overcome it?
Performing campfire songs on my guitar to local kids
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Annika
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Incredible Experience

The three months I spent in Asia with my YI group were by far the most impactful three months of my life. I learned so much about the world and myself that it's hard to put into words. Not even a week after returning to Canada, I began planning my own independent trip and less than a mont later I was backpacking through Europe with two friends that I met on my YI adventure! So be warned, this experience may cause you to get bit by the travel bug but it will also teach you valuable life/travel skills and self-confidence to help you become an awesome, independent young adult. Plus, you will no doubt make incredible life-long friend/travel buddies!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
What you put into your experience is what you will get out of it, so be sure to keep an open mind and make every moment count!

Programs

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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.
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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.

Hayley Saramaki

Job Title
Team Leader & Communications Manager
Soon after graduating from University, Hayley took off to Asia, where she lived and taught in the Vietnamese capital of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for two years.

After returning home to Canada, she dabbled in the film, media, and television industries before starting to work as part of Youth International’s core leadership team remotely and on the ground with the teams.
Hayley Saramaki

What is your favorite travel memory?

Aside from the incredible memories that I have created while working with Youth International (I really can’t decide on a specific one!), my favourite overall travel memory was when I did four days of trekking in rural Myanmar. I was exposed to some of the true mental and physical challenges that arise while trekking in remote areas and also got more acquainted with participating with homestays in tiny mountain villages.

In these small villages, I gained a real sense of daily cultural practices by the Burmese tribes and an understanding of their openness and kindness to strangers. Children didn’t chase after me to beg for money and candy, which was quite opposite to what I had grown used to while living in densely-populated and tourist-trodden big cities in Southeast Asia. The village children skipped after me to braid flowers into my hair and decorate my face with their native beauty products, simply due to their interest in experiencing a cross-cultural interaction.

It was through this profoundly authentic experience that I realized how I would love to facilitate and guide younger travellers through similar circumstances, and open up discussions about various styles of living conditions, global wealth gaps, and how the concepts of expectations and ideal happiness differ between various social groups.

When I think back on my independent backpacking experiences, this is the one that stands out that lead me in the direction of leading with Youth International, which I am endlessly thankful for.

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

I can confidently say that I have experienced profound growth both personally and professionally. The model of the program truly aims at fostering personal introspection and challenging yourself.

On the ground, I truly learned that I am stronger than I think I am. I began to see ways that I could apply this newfound confidence not only to working with my YI team but also to my very own life outside of my work with Youth International. I feel that I not only helped my students grow but by being right there with them through very intimate and challenging experiences, I was able to grow with them.

I also saw a lot of improvement in my team management and personal coaching skills between my first experiences in the field and those following. I noticed exponentially more growth from my first group of my students to my second, which in many areas I can say was due to my growing experience.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

The best story I have heard was from one of the students that I had encouraged to pursue some overseas work following the end of Youth International's program. They told me about how they learned so much from their time traveling with our group and how they had brand new confidence when it came to interacting with people from very different cultures as well as jumping right into brand new work environments.

They were so proud of how much they had accomplished and were incredibly thankful for my guidance and support, which was so rewarding to hear.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would absolutely choose the Asia program. It has so much adventure, cultural connection, and deep thinking embedded within it and a lot of room for personal interests of the students to lead the focuses of the daily activities. That being said, knowing how much planning and incredible experiences are woven into the Asia program, I have no doubt that any of their other current programs are nothing short of awesome.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

While given expert coaching from the company directors, the team leaders have the ability to alter some plans and operations of the program on the ground that allows for individualized and dynamic responses from the students. This really brings the program to life, especially when the students jump at opportunities to truly make it their own. Most specifically while in Dharamsala, home of the Dalai Lama and countless other Tibetans living in exile, we were able to piece together being part of a one in a lifetime experience: we were able to figure out how to get passes to attend a live teaching by this incredible world leader and philosopher.

The director gave us his full support to adapt to the growing interests of the students and the opportunities presented to us in person. The look on my students’ faces when they were able to first see him in person was incredibly rewarding.

I understand that some more rigid programs likely would not have this luxury and ability to truly make experiences tailored to their groups while following itineraries and protocols. I was especially proud to see all of the hard work and planning are done by the Youth International management staff harmonizing with what the students were experiencing. I could really see how the students used the itinerary and guidelines created by Brad as a jumping-off point for their own curiosity and global education.

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

I think that the biggest factor is genuine human connections. A company that goes above and beyond to respect and care about their staff and clients not only attracts good team members but retains them.

Youth International has an awesome history of having great team leaders, many who come back to lead several other trips. Brad and Alex are both exceptional leaders who truly do care about the wellbeing of their leaders, as much as the students along for the journey. The entire experience feels more like working as a family and less like working for a travel and tourism corporation.

Professional Associations

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