ARCC Gap Wins 2018 “Most Fun” Gap Year Award!
By Sophia Weeks
Executive Director of Gap Programs
“The official definition of fun is ‘enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure,’ but we think there’s way more to fun than that!”
What an honor to receive this award, especially considering that ARCC’s Gap Year programs are educational and community service based. We’ve always believed that giving back can be fun and we are so pleased to see that our alumni students agree!
The official definition of fun is “enjoyment, amusement or lighthearted pleasure,” but we think there’s way more to it. Below we have highlighted the different types of fun our students have on their ARCC Gap Year!
Meaningful Fun: Community Service
One of the most common themes we hear from our students during their application interviews is their desire to give back during their Gap Year. In an increasingly competitive educational system where students are encouraged to pack their schedules with rigorous classes, sports, and extracurriculars, it is so easy to get caught up in our own needs and wishes, that we forget about the world beyond our own bubbles. We believe that this is why students come to ARCC Gap with the hopes of giving back, getting their hands dirty, and thinking about the world beyond themselves. And, not only does this help instill a feeling of place and perspective in our students, but it’s a lot of fun to work alongside local hosts and leaders on projects that are meaningful and sustainable.
Educational Fun: Experiential Education
A typical learning environment these days is primarily confined to a classroom, and while there certainly is value to this type of learning, we know that people learn in many different ways, with experiential education being one of the most fun and invigorating. For this reason, the ARCC Gap Year has a curriculum in place to expose students to five important global themes through hands-on projects, in-person interviews, place-based learning, and community observation.
On an ARCC Gap Year students can learn about environmental issues such as coral reef degradation by joining a Fijian organization working to rehabilitate the marine ecosystem on the Pacific Islands Gap Year, explore conservation efforts by shadowing mahouts at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand on the Asia Gap Year or by homestaying in a rural Amazonian mining village on the Latin America Gap Year, they can dabble in engineering while building and installing clean water filters in Cambodia on the Asia Gap Year or solar panels in Kenya on the East Africa Gap Year, or they can get a feel for education while delivering English lessons in primary schools in Patagonia on the New Frontiers Gap Year, in Peru on the Latin America Gap Year, or in India on the Himalaya Gap Year. For those interested in public health, they can shadow nurses and learn about traditional medical practices in Tanzania on the East Africa Gap Year or in Fiji on the Pacific Islands Gap Year; for those intrigued by economics, what better way to learn than by observing Cuba’s dual economies first-hand on the New Frontiers Gap Year; and for those exploring urbanization and the movement of people, the opportunity to work with a migrant organization in Delhi on the Himalaya Gap Year provides insightful first-hand perspectives. Not only does this type of learning engage different learning styles and inspire new passions, but it gives a better sense of direction for our students as they embark on their post-Gap lives.
Pushing One’s Comfort Zone Fun: Cultural Immersion
Easily one of the most fun aspects of international travel is the opportunity to stretch oneself by diving headfirst into new cultures. Anyone who has traveled has surely experienced the jokes that lose themselves in translation, the creative, laughter-filled sign language, the cautious sampling of foreign and exotic foods, the local customs and practices so different from one’s own, and the incredible experiences shared by living with welcoming homestay families. Every day of the ARCC Gap Year incorporates some sort of cultural immersion that has plentiful opportunities to have fun with new friends in environments that are new and beyond our typical comfort zones.
Personal Growth Fun: Leadership Development
ARCC has a thorough leadership development curriculum throughout each Gap Year program. One of the highlights of this is the Student Planned Module that challenges every member of the group to utilize the leadership skills they’ve learned on their semester to plan a multi-day trip as a group without the leadership of their instructors. Working within a budget, students plan transportation, activities, accommodation, and food, and then set off as a group to live out their shared vision in some previously unimagined part of the world. Whether this means learning about eco-tourism in a remote village, taking Kung Fu or Muay Thai boxing lessons, uncovering hidden hot springs, relaxing on white sand beaches, or exploring remote caves, engaging in all day cooking classes, or incorporating zip-lining, surfing or trekking, this Module is a highlight for our students. During this time they utilize their new skills to learn to set goals, navigate the inevitable challenges associated with international travel, give and receive feedback, and then, at long last, achieve success, adventure and fun while exploring new places.
Good Old-Fashioned Fun: Adventure
Last but not least we have good old-fashioned fun. Whether this entails getting SCUBA certified or snorkeling in Fiji, Thailand, Zanzibar, or the Galapagos, learning to surf in Bali, India or Costa Rica, white water rafting in Chile, Uganda, or Sumatra, trekking in Nepal, China, Peru or Patagonia, or participating in a cooking class in Ecuador, Kenya or Vietnam, this sort of fun is exhilarating and blood rushing and leaves our students grinning from ear-to-ear.
All in all, there’s not only a lot of fun to be had on an ARCC Gap Year, but a lot to learn while having fun. We’re honored to receive this Community Choice award for 2018 and are committed to continuing our delivery of fun and meaningful Gap Year programs abroad in 2019 and beyond!