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GAP Programs

ARCC Gap Year Programs offer an educational and cultural bridge between high school and college. The ARCC Gap Year programs are an opportunity to live, work, learn and explore in some of the greatest classrooms on earth.

Global Themes

Each ARCC Gap Semester provides unparalleled access to some of the most incredible people, places, and experiences the world has to offer. Our contacts and relationships allow us to immerse ourselves in the communities and cultures we visit through homestays, hands-on projects, and exchange. Going beyond the weekend visit, we take the time to plant our feet in each location, becoming part of the community at large. Eating, sleeping, and living amongst our host communities, we are welcomed in as friends. Working in partnership with area leaders and organizations, we participate in meaningful projects while collaborating with community members to achieve a common goal. Lending our hands to coral reef restoration work, building clean water filters, planting saplings, or working alongside local NGOs, our hard work supplements our education organized around ARCC Gap’s Global Themes:

Environment & Conservation:

Investigates critical environmental issues communities face and the ways they are managing or overcoming the associated challenges. From climate change and habitat degradation to food insecurity and wildlife conservation, students explore the fine line between conservation, preservation, and the economic needs of a community.

Literacy & Education:

Compares education across communities and countries, placing specific focus on access to education, in particular for girls, the impact of education on achieving food security and economic opportunity, and the ways that education is being diversified.

Public Health:

Explores the often wide gulf between public health care in different countries and communities, with particular focus on access to healthcare for rural communities and minority groups, traditional versus contemporary ideologies, and the diversity of practices across the globe.

The Movement of Peoples:

Examines the issues of immigration, emigration, and refugee resettlement, often motivated by political, ethnic, racial, or environmental concerns. Students study regional and global trends and their effects on food security, economic development, and the environmental landscape. Students look at the issue of urbanization in these various regions, understanding what is often referred to as the “brain drain” and the impact that this movement has on rural communities.

Indigenous Rights & Histories:

Explores the culture, history, and stories of indigenous peoples as well as the struggles they have faced throughout history. Using concepts from anthropology, sociology, and history, students investigate issues around land rights, examine the imbalanced historical narratives, and discuss how communities are making their voice and contributions known.

Social Justice:

Underlying all that we learn throughout our semester is the core theme of social justice. Our projects, personal interactions, cultural observations, and educational explorations allow us to think critically about the real-life successes and failures of social justice, honing in on equitable distribution of wealth, opportunities, security and safety, and privileges within a society.


The six global themes comprise the structure around which the ARCC Gap Year curriculum is built. Interwoven between these pillars is a mixture of journaling, interviews with local experts and officials, as well as group and community discussions. In addition, students address one or more of these themes in every geographic area they visit through service projects and community engagement.

At the end of the gap semester, we organize our thoughts and actions into a final Capstone Passion Project. Students choose a topic and draw upon the rich experiences of the last months to examine it from a particular angle. They may choose to explore access to disability services in public schools, drawing upon their experience visiting primary schools across South America, interview women to explore income-earning opportunities across Southeast Asia, or compare the success of conservation efforts in the population of Kenya’s lions, Tanzania’s elephants, and Uganda’s Rhinos. Whether creating an ethnographic study, documentary short, or independent service project, this Passion Project encapsulates the students’ experiences and sends them home with not only memories that will last a lifetime but also with skills and experience that will be invaluable in their future educational goals.

Leadership Development

ARCC’s Leadership Development is designed to foster growth and encourage students to play an active role in the group’s overall gap year experience. Find your voice and build your confidence by undertaking leadership opportunities and increased responsibility as the semester progresses. Through student-led lessons, activities, and excursions, students are empowered to become leaders.

Students start the semester in an instructor-student role and gradually progress towards a peer relationship where students are expected to take on challenges, assist in responsible group decision making, and facilitate constructive and relevant discussions. Students receive both positive and constructive feedback from their instructors and peers throughout the semester to assist in boosting their confidence and strengthening their effectiveness as leaders.

The Group

There are typically 8-14 students per group, which provides an intimate group environment. This is important to ensure that the group is not so large that students get lost in the shuffle. This is your opportunity to have a significant experience, and when you get to know each other on a family level it is instrumental to your overall experience and learning.

Students on an ARCC Gap Semester want to be here and are excited to be a part of the gap experience. These are not gap year programs for students that are coming out of youth-at-risk or therapeutic programs. Being that this is such a long period of time, we need to make sure that students are coming for the right reasons. We determine this through our application process, which requires students to complete a detailed application, provide two – three outside references, one based on academics, another on character, and, if applicable, a third from a mental health specialist, and interview with a Gap Director.

Field Partners

ARCC has developed, nurtured, and maintained relationships with in-country field partners over the years. We trust our partners to work with us to create dynamic itineraries that are flexible, and to uncover service projects that are going to be impactful, both for our students and for the communities in which we work.

On the ARCC Gap Year students experience and immerse themselves in cultures they are unfamiliar with and slowly watch them become their own. We do this through homestays, village stays, and participating in the daily activities that keep these communities going. As we immerse ourselves in these cultures and learn about different projects and fledgling organizations, we are given the opportunity to also be a part of the process by working alongside community members. Living and volunteering in these communities help students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what these communities and organizations are trying to accomplish.