My main question when planning my gap year was: how do I accomplish all the things I'm interested in... in just one year? Up with People was the only organization that combined so many of my passions and interests in one program!
The fact that I was able to travel each week to a different city gave me a true feeling of embarking on a world tour. And since I was surrounded by 100 people from 15-20 countries, it really felt like I was traveling around the world WITH the world.
The volunteering we did in each community provided a rich blend of experiences. Whether we were interacting with children whose only insight into the world outside of their home was our international presence in their classroom, or serving meals for the homeless and listening to their stories of hardship but also hope, or even providing the manual labor needed to clean/build/restore community areas... it was always a meaningful experience for all parties.
Music is another component that makes this program so unique, and the best way to bring the world together. I had no performing arts experience prior to traveling with Up with People, but the life skills I learned from standing on stage and projecting to audiences of 1000+ each week, combined with the feeling of togetherness that comes with performing with 100 young people from around the world, made this an invaluable experience.
But the most life-changing part of this program that can't be explained until you experience it, is the personal development component. Each day on tour, Up with People's experiential learning curriculum created a space like NO OTHER for us to share our opinions, challenge our world views, and see society through the lens of our group's vast diversity. I came away from this program with an unapologetic feeling of hope that young people have what it takes to take meaningful action around the world and change it for the better.
People say that without intention, a gap year abroad can be a waste of time. Up with People is at the top of the intention mountain!