Youth International

Program Reviews

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Leilani
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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

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!
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Rosalie
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

How can I possibly describe in words the past three months? Transformative. Intense. Eye-opening, perspective-growing, life-changing, the best three months of my life? I guess that’s a start. The three-month program is hard to reflect on because there are so many layers to an experience like that and there are so many ways, both subtle and profound, in which I have changed and grown.

For starters, I met nine interesting, intelligent, and hilarious people. I have learned so much from them and I am so grateful to have met and befriended them. We all came from diverse and separate walks of life but will forever be connected by this crazy, life-changing, three-month adventure. Back in September, during orientation, I remember reflecting on how long it had been since I had met nine total strangers. I certainly had never met nine total strangers who I knew I would be stuck with 24/7 for the next three months. It is such a unique opportunity to be whoever and all that you want to be. It felt so good to just relax and be my truest self. I made nine best friends on this program who know me at my truest and best self. That is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.

There are so many unforgettable moments and experiences I will bring with me. Something I did with my friend when I came home was to share a visual, emotional, and experiential highlight from each country of the trip. Here’s what I came up with:

Nepal-
Visual highlight: the 360-degree panoramic view of the glowing, snow-capped Himalayan Mountains at Annapurna Base Camp.

Emotional highlight: finishing digging a 6-4-5ft deep hole that would become a septic tank for a rural village in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountain.

Experience highlight: Hiking for ten days in the Himalayan Mountains.

India-
Visual highlight: the brilliant sunsets in Dharamsala, India behind the mountains.

Emotional highlight: completing the ten-day Silent Buddhist Meditation Retreat at Tushita Meditation Centre in Dharamsala.

Experience highlight: staking out under a flimsy tarp all night long during a Camel Safari while it (torrentially) rained in Jaisalmer for the first time in seven years.

Thailand-
VIsual highlight: the rainbow sunrise over the coconut trees and ocean.

Emotional highlight: sharing an end-of-the-trip reflection activity with the group.

Experience highlight: snorkeling in the ocean off the shores of the Southern Thai Islands.

Coming home from the trip, I have a very empowered sense of self. I feel so capable and independent. I am excited to continue and deepen my exploration of the world. This is a stark contrast to the excitement, yes, but also the anxiety and nervousness I felt anticipating the Asia program. On the one hand, this is thrilling because I know that adventure awaits me. However, it has been hard coming home too. I am no longer satisfied just being at home. I feel slightly restless and thirsty to keep experiencing new things.

My gap year has pulled me away from a lot of what I previously thought was important to me. I say this in the most positive light. I am beyond grateful for this as I feel a grander sense of clarity on my life path and my values than ever before. I sense in myself the power to craft the kind of life I have always hoped to live. It makes me truly happy. I am so grateful for my experience with Youth International. I have truly grown so far beyond what I thought was possible.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
Well! Buffalo milk, chicken heart, squid, fish eyes, cod roe, LOTS of funky snacks!
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Cory
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My time with youth international felt personal. The org leader Brad is truly dedicated to the work of helping gap year students along during their journey before college. I felt seen and heard through the program which is a shout to the leaders Luke and Mara. But with most things in life it is what you make it. There were days that weren't great but that was because of the way I treated it. If you have a mindset for growth and learning thats exactly what will happen. YI gives you all the opportunities to succeed you must push yourself in order to make actual progress.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Have an open mind at ALL times and try to interact with as many people as possible. The more you get to know these people that have such different lives from you, the more you'll learn and take home with you.
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Mia
10/10
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.
Charlotte
10/10
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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Olivia
10/10
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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Sophie
10/10
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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Sydney
10/10
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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Harper
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It has been nearly 10 years since I completed my trip with Youth International, and while I've written reviews in the past I wanted to give a long term review.
I went on the Gap Semester to Asia in the fall of 2009, right after graduating high school. My international travel experience was limited at the time and I had never been to a developing country before. Spending that 3 months backpacking throughout Thailand, India, and (as of then) Vietnam was the perfect way to learn how to travel and backpack. During the whole trip I felt immensely supported by my two team leaders, who by the end of the trip were letting us do most of the day-to-day planning, ticket purchasing, and hostel bookings. I'm still in contact with some of the people I traveled with, although during the time of the trip we all grew immensely close and leaving them at the end of our 3 months was heart wrenching.
Since finishing my experience with Youth International I continued on to college, where I studied abroad for a year in India and eventually graduated with a degree in Asian Studies. Living in India helped to open my eyes about the disparities in Women's Health around the world.
After college I did a quick stint in Mongolia with the Peace Corps, but for the past two and a half years I have been working with Planned Parenthood in both Family Planning and Abortion Services and plan to pursue nursing school in the near future.
I don't know if I would have had the courage to study abroad for an entire year or join the Peace Corps without my experience with Youth International.
I was recently reading through the journal I kept during my travels, which Brad encouraged us to do, and while the trip was at times difficult and brutal there is no doubt in my mind that it was monumental in shaping myself into the person I am today. I am so, so grateful for that.
I would shout it from the rooftops if I could, JOIN YOUTH INTERNATIONAL!!! I promise you won't regret it!