Incredible Opportunity Past Review

By (University of Colorado - Boulder) - abroad from 09/14/2019 to 03/19/2020 with

Thinking Beyond Borders: Traveling - Global Gap Year

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned patience and acceptance. I learned a lot about who I am, how I operate, and how others operate. I learned a lot about what I'm looking for in a future spouse, and how to live full-time with another person for multiple months. I learned so much, I really can't put it all into words. All I can say is, you have to experience it for yourself.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Almost all the country directors were really fun, interactive, and educational. I really liked Boon in Cambodia and Yao in Ghana

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

We were living with host families, and so the living arrangements were meant to be a bit lacking in terms of conditions. However, I loved my host families, especially when we spoke the same language!

* Food:

I liked all the food, except for in Ghana. Again, you are just getting what the host family serves you, and so it's about as authentic as it gets, and sometimes, it kind of sucks! That's part of the adventure.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

We were living in host families and volunteering in farming fields, schools, and medical clinics. We learned the native language as best as one could hope in 45 days, and, especially in Thailand and Guatemala, had to use it if we wanted to interact with the locals. It would have been really easy to not put in the effort though, in which case the rating would drop accordingly, and a lot of other students didn't want to put in the effort, but I promise you, what you put in, you get out, especially when it comes to this category.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I needed to go to the hospital during my stay, and so we went to the local clinic. Everything was paid for, but the care I received was no better than the care any of the locals would have, and so my issue was taken care of, but it wasn't the standard of care you would receive in the US or Europe.

* Safety:

There is a risk management director who pays attention to what we did and how safe everything was. That being said, living in Guatemala or Ghana as a white person draws some unwanted attention, and the women on the trip with us didn't always feel safe; that's just part of the adventure. I would like to point out one example though. In our last month of the gap year, COVID-19 broke out. We flew home from Morocco the day after the first case occurred there, and we ended up leaving DC early because the CDC said any group of 10 or more is considered high risk. We had 11 people. We managed to get all 11 home within 2 days of CDC announcing this, and one of the students from Belgium flew home 2 days before the last possible flight. This was all the doing of risk management; he made sure everyone would get home safely without damaging our program experience to much. In total, we did lose 1 week of program time, but I would say that it was well worth it, if it means none of us caught the virus.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes

I experienced so much growth on the program, and learned so much about the world and different cultures. It was truly life changing.


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

There was an upfront cost to the program, so most of the time everything was paid for, but some weeks we had to pay for everything, from housing to food to cultural experiences, in which case we usually spent about $150/week.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100/week for 6 weeks out of the total of 6 months.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Most students had mommy and daddy paying for it, so if you're like me, and you were paying, just make sure you speak up for what you need, and make sure they don't pick the most expensive hotel.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

In Guatemala, everyone around us spoke Spanish, including our host families. In Thailand, only the English teachers at schools spoke English, so we spoke a lot of Thai. In Ghana, we still learned Twi, but most people spoke English, so it wasn't as big of a deal.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? Level 4 Spanish, but it was poorly taught.
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Just jump in head first!

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Living with host families
  • Having the same 10 people around for 6 months.
  • Visiting Central America, South East Asia, Western Africa, and Morocco
* What could be improved?
  • The program leaders
  • Learning topics
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Put effort into every relationship on the program; it was really easy to develop 2 or 3 good friends on the program and forget the rest, but by the end, having everyone as a friend pays out a lot more than just having 2 or 3. And there is no lack of time for spending time with everyone! YOU just need to put in the effort, because chances are, they may not.

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.