Youth International Gap Semester: Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador

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About

Experience the South American way of life by traveling with a small group of peers and 2 experienced leaders on a 12 week experiential learning semester. With Youth International, you learn first-hand about diverse aspects of the cultures, through volunteer work, outdoor expeditions, living with host families, and a variety of workshops and activities.

About a third of the trip is dedicated to service work, including these projects planned for 2018-19: conservation work on a rainforest reserve in Ecuador, building a school in a village in Bolivia, and teaching English in an orphanage in Peru. Challenge your limits with Youth International!

Dates for the fall 2018 program are: September 12 to December 4. Visit the Youth International website for a daily itinerary.

Highlights
  • Improve your Spanish language skills by communicating with your home stay families and navigating your way around towns in real life situations.
  • Lend a hand and give back by volunteering in needy rural communities.
  • Explore lively cities and famous archaeological sites, including Machu Picchu.
  • Learn first-hand about diverse ecosystems, including the Galapagos Islands, the Salt Plains in Bolivia, the Andes Mountains, and the Ecuadorian Amazon.
  • Make lifelong memories and friends by traveling in a small team of like-minded peers.

Impact

Questions & Answers

The answer is BOTH! During the travel and sightseeing portions of the program, participants mostly socialize within the group. During the home stays and volunteer projects, when participants are living and working with locals who speak little or no English, there are great opportunities for language immersion.

Reviews

97%
based on 11 reviews
  • Impact 9.9
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 9.5
  • Value 9.4
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 11 of 11
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Olivia
10/10

Internal change

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.

How can this program be improved?
Give more information about the $spending the individuals will have to do so they can prepare better with a spending plan.
Yes, I recommend
Default avatar
Sydney
10/10

Beautiful Places, Beautiful People

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.

Yes, I recommend
Elena
10/10

Youth International South America

I traveled to Bolivia, Peru & Ecuador through Youth International's South America volunteer and exploration program Fall of 2016. My experience abroad has changed my life forever. When arriving at our first destination La, Paz Bolivia, I initially experienced some serious culture shock. With the support of my team leaders and fellow backpackers, I overcame all of the sudden changes and adjusted quickly. I allowed myself to become fully culturally immersed. By the end of the trip, I would have given anything to stay. I have too many "favorite memories" to just pick one. A few off of the top of my head would be hiking to the top of Mount Tunari in Bolivia, watching the sunrise from the Bolivian Amazon Jungle and swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands. I made many life-long friends through Youth International that I still keep in touch with to this day. The euphoric, beautiful, picturesque places we traveled to have never left my mind along with all of the locals I was fortunate enough to work with/meet. I honestly couldn't speak more highly of my time abroad with Youth International. It has changed my perception of the world as I see it and has truly given me a deeper appreciation for the Earth we live on. It has also introduced me to my extreme love for backpacking! To any future participants thinking about traveling through YI, I could not recommend it more! And please don't hesitate to reach out to me for more information/useful tips :) I feel extremely blessed and grateful to have been able to be a part of such an accredited and well developed youth organization that gives you a real experience in another country. Thank you!!!

Yes, I recommend
Stephen
10/10

South America exploration- Youth International

Deciding to take this once in a lifetime opportunity was the best decision i’ve made in my life. I am 20 now, I was 18 while I was on the trip, I had just graduated high school. I live in Manchester, NH and I attended public high school in the inner city. I was no rich kid on an expensive vacation, i had to work for this. I learned more in these months than I have in any classroom or any other period of my life. I learned how other people around the world live, and how you don’t need money or any material items to make you happy. How a good effort and attitude will take you really far in life. I learned about what hard labor does to a mans/woman’s body, and how in North America we are blessed to have greater opportunity to to go school and become something. I saw a lot of nature’s beauty and i really enjoyed those experiences, however what I took home with me was a whole new outlook on life, a completely different mindset of what’s important in life and what makes one truly happy. I recommend this trip to anyone who is in atleast semi- decent shape to be able to conquer the hiking.

How can this program be improved?
I honestly this Brad has improved this program for years before I got there, so by the time I was in one of his programs it was pretty much perfect!
Yes, I recommend
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Gwyneth
10/10

Best choice in the world!

My semester with Youth International in South America was the best decision I ever made. My friends can all tell you even over a year later I'm always talking about it. I was lucky enough to make life long friends, experience completely different cultures and push myself out of my comfort zone. I would highly recommend this program to anyone that wants to go abroad, but isn't confident enough to go it alone. I learned how to travel on a budget and keep myself safe. Youth International doesn't just do everything for you; they teach you smart ways to travel so that you can eventually feel comfortable traveling solo. In addition to this they packed so many awesome experiences into the trip, giving me a taste of different ways of life. The home stays really helped deepen my experience by letting me bond with people from the countries and the families were always super nice. I'm so lucky to call some of my travel buddies life long friends and now I have fellow globe-trotters that are always eager to explore different parts of the world with me. It is hard to say which part was my favorite because it was all so awesome!

Yes, I recommend
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Stephen
10/10

Unbelievable experience

I came into this program looking to involve myself into different cultures of the world, to open my mind to new places and people, and furthermore I wanted to become more thankful for what I have back at home. During my Youth International trip I was able to be a part of different cultures while seeing different places around the world. The leaders and other group members were great. I've had a great life so far, but doing this 3 month adventure was by far the best decision in my life.

Yes, I recommend
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Hugh
8/10

Overall Great

Overall it was a great mix of different things. We had language and cultural immersion with homestays, volunteering, a lot of traveling to different places and countries (Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands), and some adventuring. It was not as "hardcore" as I had initially imagined. We were sleeping in nice hostels, nice homes in homestays and for the most part taking the nicest busses when possible. We only camped for a few nights total. If you are looking for an amazing experience while not necessarily roughing it, this program is for you. For me it was a nice stepping stone to something more.

Yes, I recommend
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Geoff
10/10

Breathtaking

I had an incredible time on this trip.

It all started with the dedicated staff that put in a lot of work behind the scenes and before the program started to make everything run so well. The itinerary was very well crafted. There was a great balance between home-stays, service work, and adventure.

The main reason though why I liked this program and why I would recommend it to others is because it constantly challenged me and ultimately made me a more confident and mature person.

Yes, I recommend
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Emma
10/10

A Great Experience

If I hadn't taken this chance of a gap year, I would never have had this amazing opportunity with an amazing group of people. The three months we were abroad was incredible and I wouldn't trade Youth International with any other program. I had the time of my life getting to know new people and experiencing new cultures!

Yes, I recommend
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Evaline
9/10

Amazing

Youth International was awesome. They were organized, and the trip leaders knew the itinerary inside out and backwards. They had a perfect balance between free-days and planned days.

My goals were to experience a foreign culture, to gain insight into my own person, and to see things that I would never be able to see otherwise (like Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands). My hopes were all met. The leaders were incredible, the places were breathtaking, and the excursions were challenging.

One of my favourite activities daily excursions was a hike up Tunari mountain in Bolivia. It was hard work, seeing as we were hiking a mountain, but it was one of the best days of the three months. Euphoric doesn't begin to describe it. And they kept us working out, and we hiked up to various landmarks, in nearly every town/city we visited (Christos and Condor's like noone's business). And when it came to hiking Machu Picchu, we were almost totally acclimatized. Experiences like that are so much easier to enjoy when you're not begging and heaving for a break.

As for the leaders, they had our back. Every step of the way. Our health and safety was so important.

And as for the volunteering, it wasn't us putting up a house and then the workers coming back later that night to tear it down and rebuild it. The construction supervisors made sure that we were doing it right. And if we weren't doing it right, they made us redo it. I am now very skilled at laying concrete.

This was two years ago for me now. I grew more than I realized over the three months. I wish I could go again. I saw so many things, encountered so many different people, learned so much. Learned about the world, learned about myself.

Yes, I recommend
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Dashiell
10/10

Life Changing

I participated in Youth International's South America Volunteer trip directly after I graduated from high school. My fellow participants were mostly around my age, 18-24, and were from parts of the USA, Canada, and Europe. It is because of Youth International that I fell in love with the world, learned to work with every type of person, and developed a compassion for disadvantaged communities. Although I have studied, worked, and volunteered with many other programs, Youth International was the most profound. I am still best friends with some of the participants and I have visited them and other travelers I met during the program all over the world. I will always recommend people to participate with Youth International. If you have never stepped foot out of your country or are an experienced traveller, it makes no difference. You will love your months with Youth Internationals and leave wishing you could stay.

How can this program be improved?
The progam begins with an intensive language course which alone enabled me to test out of 100 level college Spanish courses. That being said, I think the program and its participants would benefit if language training was continued after the first few weeks. Perhaps a course book with exercises to practice while on long bus rides through the jungle.
Yes, I recommend

About Youth International

Youth International offers 3-month semester programs in South America and Asia, with start dates in September and February each year. The South America program allows volunteers to explore Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador, including the Galapagos Islands....