Service Learning Semester in India, Nepal, and Thailand

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Program Accredited by the Gap Year Association

Youth International demonstrates excellence in the field of gap year education, having passed all required Standards which are approved by the US Department of Justice.

About

Get outside of your comfort zone and immerse yourself in the cultures of Nepal, India, and Thailand. Small teams aged 18 to 25 travel with two experienced leaders for a 13 week experiential learning semester in Asia.

Youth International programs combine volunteer service with outdoor expeditions, home stays, and cultural exchange. About a third of your time will involve volunteer work, including these service projects planned for this year: renovating a school in a Nepalese village, and teaching English to children in a village in India.

Dates for the upcoming spring 2019 program in Asia are: February 27 to May 28. A complete daily itinerary is available on the Youth International website.

Highlights
  • Challenge yourself with a 9-day trek in the Himalayas in Nepal.
  • Lend a hand and give back by volunteering.
  • Visit Bangkok, Delhi, and cultural wonders such as the Taj Mahal.
  • Explore Asian religions and philosophies, including a mediation retreat led by Tibetan Buddhist monks.
  • Learn about new cultures, foods, and languages by living in home stays.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

97%
based on 16 reviews
  • Impact 8.9
  • Support 9.2
  • Fun 9.3
  • Value 8.8
  • Safety 9.5
Showing 1 - 15 of 16
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Sophie
10/10

Sophie's Review

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.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Harper
10/10

This was honestly life changing

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!

Yes, I recommend this program
Paige
10/10

Best. Decision. Of. My. Life.

I took this gap tear program in the fall of 2012! My life has been forever changed. It provided me with experiences I never would have imagined. I was able to learn through experience, through workshops and lectures, and through practice. I feel that I was able to provide a meaningful impact to the communities we visited. My heart, soul and mind have been forever changed by this trip, and it has absolutely shaped me into the woman I am today! Since this trip, I have taken two solo trips: 5 weeks in Central America, and 9 months in SE Asia (even revisiting some of the communities I had visited through YI!). This program gave me the skills, confidence, and the passion to create this life of living my passion for this world and these other cultures! Hands down the best thing I could have done with my gap year.

Yes, I recommend this program
That's me on a boat in Thailand!
Sam
10/10

A trip that will last a life time

Youth International has given me opportunities that I would have never imaged was possible. It's been a few years since I was went on this journey and I'm still drawing upon these experiences. From hiking in the Himalayans in Nepal, to teaching English in India, and swimming with tropical fishes in Thailand. During my time I had no idea how much of an impact it would have on me. Youth International is a very unique program where, you get what you put in. Meaning if you fully dive into each culture and put yourself out there, the reward is even more than anything one could imagine. This trip has truly shaped who I am today. It has taught me so much about who I am and what I want to do with my life. For example: I am an Environmental and Stability major with a minor in Entrepreneurship. I am the director of social media for a nonprofit. Without my time spent with Youth International I would not been where I am today. From this program I have a better since of the world because I was able to experience so many different lifestyles and cultures.
One of many things Youth International has taught me is... Treat each day is an adventure, it doesn't matter what you are doing or where you are, it's an adventure. A little cheesy. But it's true, there is no better way to explore this life than to fully dive in and take charge. When I look back at my time with Youth International I smile and think of all the times I stepped out of my comfort zone, all the times I was faced with a challenge, all the times I was doing something for the first time. Those are the moments and memories I will hold on to for the rest of my life. To you the reader or someone thinking about traveling with Youth International. DO IT!

Yes, I recommend this program
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Allie
10/10

Trip of a lifetime

These 3 months were so incredible, it is hard to put into words. The greatest group of 16 young adults I have ever been surrounded with. From day one of orientation, I knew I was in the right place. Two fantastic, inspiring, and helpful leaders lead us through the craziest, scariest, most rewarding and exhausting times. Through sicknesses and new experiences, I never felt unsafe. We were educated before take off of the basic principles, but I quickly learned, there is only so much you can teach. I learned so much about myself and the world during these three months. Experiencing new cultures first hand by living with these families, emerged in all of the different cultures Asia has to offer. Words can't even describe my appreciation for these three months of my life, I would give so much to be back out there with those people. I faced some pretty interesting obstacles along the way, but never got completely lost, which could have been very easy to do out there. I recommend this trip to anyone from anywhere, any age, and any reason, as long as there is an open mind involved, this will undoubtably be a trip of a life time with a great program running it.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Janey Rose
10/10

life changing

I have tried many times, and there is no way to describe how amazing my experience was. I highly recommend this program. Every day we learned so much; culture, religion, society, and so much more. I could not have asked for better leaders. I truly felt like we were in control, not being led around by a tour guide. my confidence grew immensely and I feel highly capable of traveling solo. One of my favorite parts was staying in a village in northern India. I learned how to communicate without language and felt like I was truly making an impact on the lives of the students. The trek taught me so much about myself and I am extremely thankful. Now that I am in my first semester of college I am finding that the time I spent studying traditional Tibetan Buddhism and meditation in silence was extremely worthwhile. This trip is priceless and worth every second of your time.

How can this program be improved?
The communications with the program founder while abroad could be improved upon. I feel as if the interviewing process should be more thorough because this trip is not a vacation. The packing list could be revised.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Regina
10/10

Highly Recommended!

When looking at gap year programs post-graduating high school, I wanted to travel and be with a group of people my age to learn and experience new parts of the world together. Youth International was promising due to its constantly moving schedule and even though we were never settled in one place for weeks on end, the variety of cities and villages we visited has left a permanent footprint on myself and the future I want to make for myself.

How can this program be improved?
Personally, I would appreciate a female group leader as well as a male leader. For the Asia 2016 Fall Trip, I had the pleasure of travelling with and getting to know two ambitious, experienced, and extremely thoughtful men who led our group through Nepal, India, and Thailand; I could not have asked for better role models/team leaders. However, there were a number of times where I would have felt more comfortable to discuss certain topics of conversation or safety with a female group leader. That said, I am very grateful I got to know the leaders who traveled with us.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Evan
10/10

The Greatest Educational Experience Ever

I am now CEO and Co-Founder of an tourism company. But 10 years ago when I went on Youth International to Asia, I was a very different person. Youth International changed my life for the better, even though I thought I was already on the right path. It opened my eyes, mind, and soul to experiences and a way of life I had never walked in, and I am forever grateful for the positive impact this has had on me since. The program is extremely professionally executed, and while I have traveled to over 60 countries in the past 20 years, Youth International has been by far the best-run program I have been involved in. I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to have found, and gone on, the Asia trip with Youth International, and I enjoy sharing details of the experience, even to this day, 10 years later, about this trip of a lifetime, this learning experience I am forever grateful for.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Frances
9/10

A program you can trust, with great contacts and years of success

YI was instrumental in shaping my priorities and worldview by giving me the opportunity to challenge myself and my ideas about the world and my place in it.

A few key features drew me to this program over other programs:
- homestays: I lived with a teacher for part of this program and assisted in her classroom
- educational opportunities: I took Indian cooking and music classes
- physical component: I took yoga classes and we did a several day meditation retreat (no talking!)
- community service component: I liked that this program doesn't advertise that you'll 'change the world' because Brad and the program staff know that what you learn is so much more than the otherwise feeble work we can offer (besides lots of awesome cross-cultural understanding and some lifelong friends... made all the easier now in a tech world!)
- small group that is responsible for itself: this program is great if you can't find buddies to travel with, but don't yet want to travel on your own
- program coordinator Brad has longstanding relationships with country organizers and logistics folks which allows for greater impact and learning
- that we traveled to many places, but spend a few days to a week (or more) in each place (at this point in my life I didn't want to stay in one place for a long time but sample lots of new things)
- ecotourism: halfway through we took a week 'holiday' in Thailand and went scuba diving and relaxed... it was a welcomed break before India

The couple that led our semester were wonderful leaders who had worked for the Peace Corps and other organizations, as well as traveled extensively on their own. We had much independence on the program, this being a program for youth who want something more than traveling on their own, but don't expect people to do all the travel work for them (eg. we'd know where we need to get our train tickets, but we'd have to get there and get the tickets as a group... so awesome to have this support and team atmosphere when traveling in Asia for the first time).

One strength of this program is that they're small, but have also been around for awhile. I went on the 2002 program (I think it was that year... it was definitely awhile ago)! In the decade-plus since I've completed my undergraduate degree, thesis-based masters program, teachers college and worked for several years around the world, but with focused work in remote fly-in communities in the Arctic.

This program is a great stepping stone to independence, exploration, and adventure...

Yes, I recommend this program
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Kate
10/10

My thoughts!

This program launches you into new situations and cultures-- I got to understand and make bonds with locals. I now feel that I could go anywhere in the world (and have since travelled throughout many countries, including South America and Europe). My favorite part of the program was the silent meditation retreat in Dharamsala. This was over three years ago and I have yet to encounter a more expanding and enlightening experience, as cliche as that may sound.
My leaders were incredible, I still have occasional contact with both of them.
The greatest aspect of this program is that it is truly authentic. It is a small organization, and therefore each of us got the chance to meet the head honcho, Brad Gillings. He is a great guy and an incredible facilitator. He has travelled to each of the locations and has set up healthy and constructive relationships with small communities in each of the countries. I appreciate this more and more as I learn more about the way that other programs are set up.

How can this program be improved?
I'm really not sure what to say here. I had SUCH an incredible experience and continue to draw from things I learned on this journey. I wish I could have been longer, I suppose, and that we had spent more time doing outdoor activities.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Giovanni
9/10

Great Gap year experience - YI Asia Fall 2012

I personally wanted to experience life outside of North America and Europe--see things I'd never seen and do things I'd never done. Most importantly, I wanted to challenge myself and the way I thought about the world. I had the most incredible experience of my life with YI. I'm not going to lie here: there are some really hard times--struggles adjusting. struggles with culture shock, struggles with the physical aspects (the treks, the hiking)--, but it is, without a doubt, all worth it. I learned so much about myself through the hardest times. Also, some of the best food in the world, easily.
YI also is so fairly priced! When I went in fall 2012, the cost of the program included the cost of flights, which was just unheard of, but we realized that there wasn't enough money set aside for all meals all the time--and we had a big screw up with a delayed flight that ended up costing YI a lot of money--, so they stopped covering flights and lowered the price a bit, adjusting for an increased food budget (which they handed out to us on the days when we didn't have group activities). Even considering that, the program is still very well priced. Many programs cost upwards of 12 or 13 thousand without flights and certainly without all of the incredible activities and experiences of YI.

Yes, I recommend this program
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John
10/10

Best Investment Ever!

I can't even begin to express how amazing this program is. It is a perfect combination of seeing a whole lot and also being embedded deep into the culture. Some of the fondest memories of my life are being in a remote village in India with no electricity and no one who spoke English. And yet, somehow, we were able to communicate through lingual and cultural boundaries and bond so much that we all cried when leaving a week later. This program also does an amazing job of stretching your money to see a whole lot. I highly recommend it.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Harper
10/10

YI was Amazing and Absolutely LifeChanging

I went on the Asia Trip in the fall of 2009 just after I graduated from high school. I knew I wasn't quite ready for college but I wanted to do something exciting and worth while. YI was exactly what I wanted. Just hours after getting off the plane in Bangkok we were walking around Thai open-air markets and century old palaces. Our first home stay was the perfect introduction to set the feel of the trip. We stayed and learned a lot about the indigenous people of the South Asian areas, which I'm now able to connect to nearly all of my college classroom topics. The time we spent with the Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala has stayed close to my heart ever since we left.
The entire trip was life changing and definitely shaped my future. I'm currently an International Studies Major with an Asian Studies focus and I'm leaving in about a month to study abroad for an entire year at the University of Hyderabad in India! Had it not been for YI I never would've had the courage and confidence to do this. I am so grateful for my experience and I wouldn't change it for anything.
I wish Brad would spend more money on advertising so everyone would know what a fabulous program he's made, but he truly gives everything he has into the experience.

Yes, I recommend this program
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PeruOutlaw
8/10

One of the Most Formative Experiences of My Life

I did this trip in 2004 when I was 19. I had never left the country before, didn't speak any foreign languages, and was a year into a philosophy degree. My life has never been the same.

Within a week of getting on the plane in LA, I was living alongside Akha hill-tribesman in northern Thailand, eating dinner with the family, learning local words from the children, and participating in a village-wide plumbing project. Over the next three months, I lived with four host families; experienced how remarkably similar people are, regardless of context; and learned enough about development projects to know how much more I needed to know. Most of all, I found a calling.

Today I speak three languages, have traveled to ten countries, lived through a government revolution while in the Peace Corps, and work evaluating human experiences.

This is the path Youth International started me on. Where will it lead you?

Yes, I recommend this program
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sseif
9/10

Life changing experience

I went on a Youth International program during a year off before college in 2005 and it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It has a great balance of volunteer work, homestays, tourism, and treking. I recommend the program to anyone I know who is interested in international volunteering on a year or semester off.

Yes, I recommend this program

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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....