Live, Work, Learn and Explore

Experience the Greatest
Classrooms on Earth

Each ARCC Gap Semester provides 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. 

We Go 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.

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 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, 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 8-13 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 projects that are going to be impactful, both for our students and for the communities in which we work.

On an ARCC Gap Semester students experience and immerse themselves in cultures they are unfamiliar with through homestays, group community 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 helps students gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for what these communities and organizations are trying to accomplish

See What Our Students Have to Say!

Keagan O
West Hartford, CT, Fordham University ’25
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“This ARCC Semester was the best experience of my life. For anyone looking to step out of their comfort zones, learn, meet amazing people and have a blast this is the semester for you. Going into the semester I was expecting to be pushed out of my comfort zone, but it was so much more than that. I grew as a leader through working with other members of the group, learned an abundance of new knowledge about our country and the environment, and fell in love with camping, hiking, and the great outdoors. The entire semester was eye-opening and provided a change that was much needed and desired.”
Parent of Hayes N
San Rafael, CA, College of Marin ’23
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“Hayes has nothing but positive reviews for his experience on his trip. Besides the tremendous opportunity to see new countries and experience those cultures, the leadership and direction he received from his instructors were second to none. He was also lucky enough to be with a cohort of peers that bonded really well and whom he enjoyed traveling with. I speak for all of us when I say that the program was a tremendous success and will provide a lifetime of memories for Hayes. From top to bottom we appreciate everyone in the ARCC organization.”
Parent of Alana A.
Framingham, MA
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“What can I say… she had a blast; a highlight of her life. She loved the intellectual aspects, the food, and the people.”
Laurel E.D
South Burlington, VT, Boston University ’26
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“The best part of the semester for me was the self-growth I had in terms of self-reflection and improved self-awareness. My instructor helped a ton with this and I can not put into words how much I appreciated that.”
Parent of Hannah F
Fairfield, CT, Keene State College ’23
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“Hannah came home exuberant and so delighted that she has another “family” of friends around the country. It opened her eyes to see beyond what she had previously.”
Parent of Frances M
Greenville, SC, George Washington University ’24
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“Frances’ experience was life-changing and life-affirming. She came home more confident in her decision making, has a new understanding that a test at school doesn’t define her, has a better understanding of the world, shows interest in the bigger world around her, has no regrets deferring to college for a year to have had this experience, and lastly has a bigger appreciation for her family.”
Parent of Aaron T
New Rochelle, NY, University of Miami ’24
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“This semester has been overwhelmingly positive. Our boy has grown. It’s a good value. And it will enhance his college studies and life tremendously. One of the most impactful things for Aaron was the deep focus on building community in the ARCC program. His instructors were simply amazing and Aaron particularly was touched by Ethan’s mentorship and leadership in the program. Aaron also mentioned that all participants became real friends with each other and there was a total absence of cliques. The variety of activities the group engaged in throughout the program was also commendable – from service to cultural to historical to conservation work, etc. There was also a solid level of communication and attentiveness to safety so we felt confident in Aaron’s wellness and safety throughout.”
Parent of Preston P
Spring Lake, NJ, George Washington ’23
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“Being in this environment, away from college, he was clear-headed and focused and he has brought that home with him. He has said that he knows he doesn’t need to impress anyone to be friends and that people like him for who he is.”
Ava C
Bloomington, IN, Colorado State University ’23
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“I, like many, was very impacted by this semester. There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about all the adventures I experienced through the ARCC Program. I was so inspired by my gap year that I am currently studying ecotourism with a concentration in natural resource tourism at Colorado State.”
Parent of Drew B
Wheaton, IL, Chapman ’23
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“Drew needed this. This experience helped reground him. He has his enthusiasm and zest back and an intellectual curiosity toward things.”
Parent of Lindsey G
Armonk, NY, Elon ’24
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“Lindsey had a wonderful gap experience! It was everything she wanted and more. By her third week, she was already saying that she learned more in her three weeks with the program than she learned in all her years of formal schooling. She loved each experience, made some wonderful lifetime friends, and had experiences that helped her grow and experience things that will be forever a part of her.”
Parent of Hayden S
Corte Madera, CA
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“This experience for Hayden was life-changing. My observation is that Hayden is a more communicative and responsible person than when he left. He has always had a sense of adventure and this experience fulfilled that for sure. This experience outside of a normal classroom was perfect for where he was in his life. This semester had a perfect blend of work, education, collaboration, and fun. Thanks for the experience!”
Parent of Harrison R
Atlanta, GA, Purdue ’25
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“Harrison LOVED this gap experience. It embodied so many of his passions…Nature, water, wildlife, the great outdoors…coupled with good and like-minded people at the same point in life’s journey. It allowed him to flourish and grow and most importantly, LIVE FULLY during these times. Taking a gap year was not part of Harrison’s original plan. Covid caused him to rethink this and we are so incredibly grateful that he had the opportunity to be part of this amazing program. He loved the balance between service work and adventure. And we all loved Spanish School. He’s also made lifelong connections with peers in his group. You all are fantastic.”
Parent of Zoe R
Los Angeles, CA, Stanford University ’26
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“Zoe will never forget this semester: the laughter, the breathtaking landscapes, the music, the dancing by the side of the road, the new sense of stewardship for our environment, the goofy inside jokes, and the way she and the others came to trust each other enough to share so much about their lives with each other.”
Willow V
Lake Bluff, IL, Georgetown ’25
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“ARCC is truly what a gap year is all about. Through highs and lows, friendships and fights, you find yourself. You discover your preferences, passions, and desires for the future.”
Elliot C
Larchmont, NY, University of Vermont ’25
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“If you have any feeling of interest, just do it. My ARCC trip was one of the best experiences of my life and I truly believe I’ve found lifelong friends in a short, unbelievable, special time. Get outside your comfort zone and go for it!”