Gap Year Program Profile: Global Routes

Organization offers overseas volunteer service for students taking time off before college.

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You've decided to take a gap year after graduating high school and before attending college, but how do you choose a program? Price is one important factor that can help narrow down the options for gap year students. For those interested in pursuing international work without spending a year's worth of college tuition, an option is Global Routes, which runs programs in South and Central America, Asia, and Africa. 

[Other Gap Year Program Profiles: Conservation Corps | City Year.] 

Global Routes offers 12-week programs that provide an international volunteer experience teaching English in rural villages, specifically tailored to gap year students to volunteer in one of the following countries: Costa Rica, Ecuador, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and India. Each group includes 12 participants, known as interns, and two program leaders. The interns are sent in pairs to live in separate homestays in villages outside of a central city hub, where the program leaders reside. The group leaders will visit the interns once a week, and the entire group reconvenes in the city hub every other week to debrief and have different travel experiences, such as taking safaris while in Tanzania. 

The programs are broken into three parts. The first part includes a week of orientation in the host country where the interns learn classroom teaching and lesson planning tips, basic words in the native language, cultural traditions, and health and safety protocol, explains Jane Goldstone Sarouhan, the program's director of admissions. The cornerstone of the program includes 10 weeks in a rural village teaching English, or another subject language, such as math or physics, to students in the village's school. The interns also have the opportunity to complete their own independent projects in the village, such as organizing the local school's library, or starting an after-school English club. The final week of the program includes time for the interns to discuss their overall experiences, and embark on a five day in-country travel excursion, Sarouhan says. 

Costs: The costs of the 12-week programs range from $6,650 to $6,950, and include all in-country expenses, which is less than a typical semester's tuition in college. The only expense not included is the airfare to and from the country. Sarouhan says there is also financial aid available to applicants based on student merit and financial need. 

[Read 7 Questions to Ask When Considering a Gap Year.] 

Benefits: One major benefit to the Global Routes program is the cultural immersion and language skills that can be learned, Sarouhan says. While most students stay with homestay families that have at least one member who speaks English, some students to choose to fully embrace the new language. Allison Sever, 20, a sophomore at the University of Vermont who traveled to Tanzania in 2008 during her gap year, specifically requested to live with a family who only spoke Swahili. Sever, who's majoring in linguistics, says the language barrier was frustrating at times, but she made Swahili flashcards to study nightly, and tried to speak with her host family as frequently as possible in Swahili. Gradually, her language skills improved. Sever taught biology and math in a secondary school in her village, about 20 miles from Arusha, Tanzania. She only had one copy of the textbook for her classroom of 60 students and says the experience gave her greater appreciation for her own education. Sebastian Lasaosa Rogers, 20, a sophomore at Vanderbilt University, who was on the same trip to Tanzania, but interned in a different village, gained greater respect for teachers. "Being on the other side of the classroom as a teacher is a really interesting experience," he says. "Having that perspective makes me appreciate the teachers I had growing up and made me realize how big of an impact they had on my life." Rogers, a triple major in film, anthropology, and English, says he'd like to be a leader in an organization like Global Routes one day. "I think it'd be quite ideal to lead trips to other countries, travel, teach leadership skills to other students, and facilitate volunteering programs."