Gap Year Semester in Latin America with Thinking Beyond Borders

Video and Photos

At the high school with students and other group members, watching a basketball game.
Latin America Semester Gap Year Map
Latin America Semester Gap Year Map
With my host family in Ecuador.
Thinking Beyond Borders Washington DC
Thinking Beyond Borders Washington DC
Sustainable Agriculture in Guatemala
Sustainable Agriculture in Guatemala

About

Explore solutions to critical global issues in communities throughout Latin America in this 13-week program.

Our gap year programs are exciting, supportive, and transformational. By combining language classes, extended home stays, working with inspiring local leaders, and engaging readings and discussions, we've created an opportunity for you to learn about things that matter to you and the world. With Master's level teachers as Program Leaders, you'll get mentorship and support to find the purpose and direction you'll need in the years to come.

Itinerary – 13 weeks:
Orientation in Costa Rica – 1 week
Unit 1: Costa Rica: Education that Empowers – 5 weeks
Enrichment: Peru: Machu Picchu and Cusco – 1 week
Unit 2: Guatemala: Food & Sustainability – 5 weeks
Culmination in Washington, D.C. – 1 week

Highlights
  • Living with Host Families
  • Fieldwork with Local Experts
  • Combine field work experiences, fascinating readings, and daily seminars to make learning meaningful
  • Daily Spanish Language Classes & Immersion
  • Guided Volcano Trek in Nicaragua

$9,999! Join the Asia Gap Semester before July 31st!

Apply now to receive an automatic tuition discount!

Questions & Answers

Reviews

97%
based on 21 reviews
  • Housing 9.1
  • Support 9.4
  • Fun 9.8
  • Value 9.1
  • Safety 9.3
Showing 1 - 15 of 21
Default avatar
Clare
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Forget Volun-tourism with TBB

The most important part of my TBB experience was a culturally valuable, understanding, immersive experience. I matured beyond my expectations during my time with TBB because the Program Leaders ensured we stayed away from insensitively taking advantage of our homestays and overall experience. I had more fun in those 3 months than I could have imagined while learning and immersing myself via education and work. Everyone starts at different levels of language, cultural understanding, and group dynamics, but everyone rapidly reaches the same competency in these areas. I’m beyond happy I chose TBB in favor of a program that focused more on fun and taking advantage of the beauties and riches host nations have to offer. Gap year students looking to prepare for college, TBB is for you.

What was your funniest moment?
One time we were having a group movie night after evening seminar at the Program Leaders’ homestay when one of the village dogs snuck in and essentially wreaked havoc while we tried to watch the movie. It was hilarious trying to shoo her out of the room.
Default avatar
Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TBB LAM

I participated in the fall of 2018 Latin America semester and absolutely loved it. No other program compares to TBB. Everything I saw in each country I was in, the connections I made with locals, and what we learned in seminars seriously can't be found in other programs. There were many challenging parts but in those moments I found that's where I grew the most. TBB teaches you to think critically and I am so grateful for the different perspectives I gained through my experience. I've been back from the program for about three months now and everyday I use what I learned from TBB. Additionally, my program leaders and the other students with me were by far one of the best parts of the program. They were, and still are, my second family. To be with a group of people that have the same mindset as you is indescribable, those bonds will last a lifetime. I really would recommend this program to anyone thinking about a gap year!

What was your funniest moment?
One of the funniest moments was around Thanksgiving when we were all craving some banana bread. So, one of the students decided to make it. We had pretty limited resources as the grocery stores are really different then in the states but we managed to get all the ingredients. The student who made it left it in for too long and put in way too much baking soda so it tasted just awful but looked pretty good if you haven't seen banana bread for a while. It kinda looked like chocolate banana bread. Since it looked decent we got everyone to try it, we told everyone it was the best banana bread ever and got them super excited. Seeing their reactions was the funniest thing I've ever seen. Some people tried to be nice and was like ohhh wow this is great! Others just immediately spit it out.
Default avatar
Mariah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TBB Rocks

Thinking Beyond Borders was a life changing way to start my college experience. I think a good indicator of the quality of the program is that my college advertised and encouraged me to take this gap semester. TBB is not a normal gap semester, it's not just traveling around for fun, it is immersing yourself in and learning about cultures in a way you probably never could without a program like this. You learn Spanish first hand (at least on the South America Semester) with classes and host families, you learn about education and agriculture through fist hand experience, as well as more in depth seminars, and you meet new people from all over the world that will become your friends for a lifetime. 10/10 would recommend.

Default avatar
Emma
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Wonderful Opportunity

This program was exactly what I wanted and needed out of a gap semester. It led me to think more critically about myself and the world around me and has given me the tools and motivation to do something with my ideas and dreams. Additionally, it pushed me out of my comfort zone in ways I didn't even know I needed to be pushed. I taught math in a foreign language, I hiked a 16,000 foot peak, I ate cuy, I made relationships that will undoubtedly last a lifetime, and so much more that I can't even attempt to put into words. It is sincerely the best decision I've ever made and I'm so grateful for the opportunity. It has shaped my future and how I see the world for the better, and has left me with skills and experiences that will only allow me to prosper. I highly recommend to anyone looking for something more than a tourist experience abroad and have only wonderful things to say about the program and all involved.

Ellie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Formative Experience

Initially, I was looking for a gap year that would give me an a greater depth of the Spanish language. But when I came across TBB it offered something a little more. Now that I say that, it wasn't just a little more, it was A LOT more. Not only did I get to further my understanding of Spanish culture and language, but I got to expand my understanding of the complex development issues in regard education and sustainability. While there was a lot of learning about the world, I think my most important learning was the active self-discovery. TBB really made us question our values and assumptions which is something I never had to critically do in the traditional classroom setting. I can't express my gratitude towards my parents and TBB for making this experience possible. 10/10 recommend to anyone looking to challenge his or her self but still maintaining a safe environment and strong support network to fall back on.

Default avatar
Noelle
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TBB Review SAM Semester

I would recommend this program to every person looking for a gap semester. I learned so much about other cultures, myself, and the specific units. We were able to have useful work projects while still being able to learn in seminars or Spanish classes. Most importantly, I always felt supported by the program. Living in host families was a new experience for me, but I can't have imagined it any other way. We were able to learn the language much more than we would have, and become really close with our families.

Default avatar
Philip
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My TBB experience

When we were staying in Ecuador for 5 weeks, we taught english in a local high school in a small village called San Jose de Minas. I taught with another girl and a teacher from the school, and we always had the same classes. The students were between 11 and 15. We taught about five classes per day, sometimes even maths, which was really fun. One of my best memories about it is, how the students would get super excited when we would enter their classroom, and wouldn't stop asking us for help when they had to do individual work. Seeing their progress of learning was amazing. During the breaks they would ask us to play football or volleyball with them, and they would always greet us. It was an amzing experience. In the afternnons we had seminars where we learned about education and challenged our assumptions. One of my favorite seminar was called "Are students and teachers equal?". Beforehand, we had to do readings in shape of articles or books, and afterwards, at the seminars, we would al discuss it. It is more than just travelling and volunteering, but learning/studying abroad. I can highly recommend this program.

Default avatar
Sophie
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Best experience of my life

TBB was the coolest experience of my life. It was so much fun and my group, including my program leaders, became a second family to me. Still TBB is definitely not a vacation, the program is very challenging and only the right fit to people who are willing to invest a lot of learning effort. If that is the case though, you will experience much personal growth through your trip, many of your assumptions will be challenged and you will come out of the experience very inspired and motivated.

Zachary
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

South America Gap semester

In general I felt that I have learnt a lot from TBB even though there were ups and downs throughout the course of the program. Yes, people got caught drinking alcohol and yes people were caught doing marijuana which led to their expulsion, but overall I think for those of us that remained we were all honest and truthful and just plain love one another.

I guess I will start with Ecuador and how I felt in Ecuador. I felt the time in San Jose de minas was really good and allowed us to understand the local Ecuadorian culture, but I did not really like Mindo all that much because there were so many insects and so many little things that really irritated me. I also felt like the San Jose de Minas was a good place to begin our journey, and thinking back on San Jose de Minas now seems like it was a long time ago and even though I was not implicated in the drinking events at Pataqui, I think that it was just important to acknowledge the wrongdoings that we had on the trip. I really enjoyed our time in Ecuador because I felt we really connected with our host families and being able to understand that really was a highlight for me.

I also really enjoyed going up Macchu Picchu, even though the hike was really tough at times and having to bear the cold in the tent, I felt like it was so rewarding once we arrived at Macchu Picchu or like the township of Aguas Caliente was really nice.

I also really enjoyed Cochabamba and all the Cochabambinos that we met . I really enjoyed everything in Cochabamba probably because it was a modern city I guess maybe because I really enjoy being in a city. I felt like the Mizque trip could have been shortened to just like a couple of days not going for the whole week, and also the Jardin Botanico Daniella didn't really give us something really solid to work on for the entire week really and we were just mostly shovelling dirt and stuff like this which was really meaningless. I mean yes we want to help but we want to feel like things we are doing are important and meaningful. Thats the way I feel.

What would you improve about this program?
I would feel that perhaps that Ecuador was really good and I really enjoyed everything about Ecuador. I also really enjoyed everything about Peru but I felt like we could have maybe spent one or two more days in Cuzco.

I would feel that if we had another week or like 2 weeks in Cochabamba it would have been so much better and I guess shortening the Mizque trip would have been good because while I learnt about sustainability and other things I felt we didn't really do very much in Mizque so which is the rationale behind why I feel like we should shorten Mizque but instead spend more time in CBBA. I also think that it would have been good to lengthen the program just slightly.
Default avatar
JJDCS
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Fun with Thinking Beyond Borders in South America

The South America Gap Semester with Thinking Beyond Borders was the best time of my life. For those who do not know what it is, it is an educational gap year program that involves traveling to four countries: Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and the US. In Ecuador, the focus of the program is Education. I worked with the rest of my group in a school in San José de Minas, Ecuador, teaching the children English. We stayed with host families in San José de Minas and the people there are genuinely some of the nicest people I have ever met. I improved my Spanish massively and had some fantastic times with my host family and the group. After, Ecuador, you go to Peru to hike Machu Picchu. We did the Salkantay Trek which was fantastic. It is truly incredible seeing Machu Picchu. Surreal. After Peru, you go to Bolivia. We stayed in Cochabamba, Bolivia with host families and during our weeks there we worked on three different projects. My favourite project was one focused on permaculture. Cochabamba is awesome. It is a proper city, so there are plenty of things to do. I went to the gym regularly and went out to eat often. It's great in Bolivia because everything is super cheap. Towards the end of Bolivia, we travelled to Salar de Uyuni. The salt flats were the most beautiful natural phenomenon I have ever seen. Being with some great people and watching the sun set on the Salar was an experience I will never forget. Finally, after Bolivia, we went to Washington DC to speak to several organizations such as the World Bank, the Peace Corps and NRDC about how they see development and what they do to tackle some of the issues we saw during our trip. The program is just fantastic and the people that sign up for this sort of stuff are super interesting. You make great friends, learn a lot about yourself and the world and have great fun while doing it. Do not think twice about signing up. It is legit.

What would you improve about this program?
The only thing was maybe removing one project in Bolivia.
Default avatar
Anna
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Thinking beyond borders re Krisztina Gabot

My daughter just returned from the south America semester and I was impressed at how the program was handled and what the participates accomplished. I am so glad my daughter had this opportunity. Everyone she met has helped her grow in so many ways. I know she plans to keep in touch with members of TBB and hopes to do more with them. We were able to maintain some contact as well as read a blog she established. The program really expands a student's outlook of the world.

Default avatar
Vanessa
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome Experience!

I chose Thinking Beyond Borders because I wanted to be challenged in a new way intellectually, physically and emotionally. All of these aspects were met and I had an amazing time. I was challenged to think about development and global issues in new ways and was pushed beyond my comfort zone in many circumstances. TBB offered amazing support from the program leaders and from our on site resources. Although at times I felt that our projects were not giving to the community as much as I hoped, I gained a lot from all of my experiences. I would definitely recommend this program to anyone searching to learn about development and the global world and about yourself.

Default avatar
Leah
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Broadened My Perspective

I just came back and miss it already. I learned so much about development, made great friends in and out of our group, and reexamined myself in the process. The great thing about this program is that it isn't a gap year semester where go to South America and pretend to "save the world." TBB acknowledged that we would gain more than we gave and really looked at volunteering through a critical lens. I would not have gained the same knowledge if I had just gone to a school to teach English. We all asked ourselves why they needed to learn English in the first place. It was also just so fun! My host families were amazing and everyone should do the program!

What would you improve about this program?
I wish there wasn't a rule against drinking alcohol- although I understand the need for it. Sometimes it created a barrier in relationships. However I also understand the safety aspect and the fact that we were there to learn not party.
Default avatar
Krisz
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Learned so much

At first, the main reason for me going on the program was to fill my free time for the Fall. My impression was that I would be part of a group of students that would just travel around, live with families and be involved in weekly seminars discussing readings and local issues. The program was far more than that. I came out of it with a greater understanding of what it means to be an agent of change and how much more incentive I have to pursue my goals for college. I've never been able to say that I 100% fully appreciate every experience I went through, every person I met, and all of my volunteer work that made an impact. I'm walking away from this program with much greater knowledge on what goes on outside of my world. Thinking Beyond Borders is a very special program that opened up my eyes to reality and the developing world.

What would you improve about this program?
I wish there were more accurate schedules. There were times we were told something, but didn't follow through.
Default avatar
Sarah
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

TBB is Experiential Learning at its Best

Putting our barely 18 year old daughter on a plane to South America, knowing we'd not see her for 13 weeks and knowing she was going to encounter some very challenging situations, was nerve-wracking. Yet TBB exceeded expectations, providing her with a transformative educational experience. No college course could compare. The program is experiential learning at its best. The home-stays were safe and supportive; the service projects were compelling; the seminars were challenging; the program director and leaders were always communicative. Our child has grown immeasurably. We will always be grateful to TBB, and look forward to having our younger children share in the TBB experience when they are ready to graduate from high school.

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About Thinking Beyond Borders

A gap year is your time to get outside of the classroom and learn in the real world. It’s a time to find the direction you need to make college meaningful. Take a gap year with purpose. Go beyond just travel or service. Our global community faces...
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