United Planet Gap Year Volunteer Programs

It's not just a gap -- It's an opportunity to do great things!
A gap in your life – between jobs, between semesters, between cities – offers an exciting opportunity. Seize the chance to give of yourself and gain back so much more. Live and work in another country, hone your skills, learn a language, immerse in another culture, forge lasting bonds, and provide vital services to a local community.

You can spend 6 months or one year in Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, or the Pacific. You will emerge from this experience with a new understanding of the world and of yourself.

  • “Living and working in the community of Putubiw truly broadened every idea and value that I hold in the most positive of ways. My time in Ghana changed my outlook of the world, and I believe that my presence there also enriched the lives of the people with whom I was able to meet. The experience was overwhelming and challenging at moments, which was exactly what allowed the cultural exchange that occurred to affect me in such a deep way.”  --Margaret Adams, Ghana 
Gap Year Abroad in Ecuador

Why Volunteer Abroad on a Gap Year?

In a few weeks or months, you will learn more about the world and yourself than you ever thought possible. Many volunteers find that they return more mature and independent, and with greater drive, focus, and appreciation of the world and our neighbors abroad.

A long-term volunteer experience is vastly different from a structured study abroad program or a backpackers’ tour of distant continents. During a longterm volunteer program, you become deeply involved in a host community, immersed in a new culture and a different way of life. Volunteers come to understand the host environment on a deeper level, including the values and identity of the culture and how they differ from American or Western perspectives.

Life Lessons

You will find yourself in unfamiliar situations nearly every day. While this may be unsettling at first, it will prompt you to make decisions independently and think and act within the framework of a different set of values.

Gap year volunteers abroad

Learning to make decisions without the comfort of falling back on your usual support network can be empowering, building strong leadership skills. This process allows for real, personal growth. Returned volunteers often find that they no longer take what they have for granted now that they have gained a new outlook on life.

International Experience

A volunteer abroad experience affords great lessons in humility, empathy, and interpersonal conflict resolution. Learning how to debate cultural differences is a positive lesson in tolerance, compassion and appreciating different perspectives. The experience opens volunteers’ eyes to a different way of thinking—one that is not influenced by American values or identity. Seeing the United States through the lens of a foreign culture is important for Americans to better understand how their country is perceived abroad.

United Planet and the ICYE Federation

international cultural youth exchange

For six months or one year, you can experience a life-changing program in one of over 30 countries across the globe. United Planet is the U.S. and Canadian member of the International Cultural Youth Exchange (ICYE) Federation, founded in 1949. Through their vast network and 60 years of experience, United Planet and ICYE offer a wide range programs for volunteers from around the world.

Gap Year Finances: A Wise Investment

Fees for United Planet programs cover nearly all your expenses abroad.

Long-term program fees include:

  • Extensive pre-departure preparation, including a training weekend
  • Food and lodging in your host country (host family or residence)
  • Airport transfers in country
  • Emergency medical insurance
  • In-country orientation, language training, mid-year camp, final camp
  • On-going support and supervision
  • Monthly stipend for incidental expenses

Given that one third of all U.S. students now take more than four years to finish college—after changing majors, making up credits missed while abroad, etc.—the investment in a gap year appears to be financially rewarding as well. Click here  to read the New York Times article on gap year programs.

Gap year volunteer programs prepare students to be responsible global citizens. Moreover, volunteers often find this kind of overseas experience enlightening—many have found their life’s passion, hidden talents and skills, and the path to future vocations during a gap program.