Pacific Discovery offers experiential gap year semester and summer programs abroad to some of the most amazing places on earth. Our programs are deliberate overland journeys, blending authentic immersion in diverse cultures, meaningful service-learning projects, rewarding adventures, wilderness exploration, and personal development.
Students challenge themselves in a supportive small group environment, developing empathy for other cultures; furthering understanding of international issues; heightening appreciation for the earth’s wild places; deepening global perspectives; and discovering their own passion and purpose.
Pacific Discovery Gap Year Semester Programs are epic! They combine rugged journeys to beautiful places, with authentic immersion, and inspiring adventure. You’ll be in a supportive group environment and learn more than you ever dreamed. Our semester programs are a 10 week journey with an optional 3-week independent extension. Programs are offered Fall, Winter and Spring, and can be taken consecutively for an in-depth and transformative gap year experience. Optional transferable academic credit options are available on all programs.
Pacific Discovery Summer Programs are 4-week journeys designed to be an intense and immersive insight into a country or region. You’ll be inspired by new perspectives, forge wonderful friendships, and gain experience and skills that will be with you for life. They provide opportunities for meaningful connections with local people, pushing personal boundaries, and gaining knowledge of a country or region’s history, culture and environments, facilitated by our knowledgeable and supportive Program Instructors. All can be combined with another summer program in the same region or elsewhere for an incredible 8-week summer experience.
Pacific Discovery Program Instructors are exceptional and innovative educators, facilitators and mentors. They are inspiring people with extensive experience in the countries in which they lead, who share a deep respect for the people and cultures, a fascination with local history, and an in-depth understanding of contemporary issues and politics. Our Program Instructors are people you can trust, and who take a genuine interest in your well-being and safety. They understand the importance of balancing the needs of individuals with group objectives, facilitating group dynamics, inspiring a genuine appreciation for the areas visited and a commitment to minimum impact travel ethics.
Discover what goes into a Pacific Discovery program. Learn about the goals for the program, tease out the various program components, and understand our educational philosophy.
We take safety seriously and running safe programs is our primary focus. Pacific Discovery has been taking students and faculty-led groups on experiential journeys since 2001 and detailed safety planning is an integral part of our programming and instructor training. We have more than 100,000 participant days in the field, and we have an exemplary record. Our safety management systems are assessed and accredited by the Gap Year Association (GYA), the Year Out Group (UK) and OutdoorsMark (New Zealand). Assessors have commented that our systems are among the best they have encountered.
“While traveling the Western United States, I saw the scenery change from the warm desert to beautiful mountains. As the scenery changed, my perspective on the world around me grew and my connections with those around me grew as well.”
Ilana Scheer, 2021
Western US Semester Program
“I went on the NZ and Fiji program in July and it was amazing. It was super varied from relaxing on the beach in Fiji to going to Hobbition in NZ. We also did scuba diving, rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, we even went to castaway island. It was only 4 weeks long and I wish it was longer! ”
We had a smaller group which made the trip really feel like a family and for me, made the trip even better. I learnt so much about myself and think the others on the program did too. We really became so close in such a short time, i feel like I've known everyone for years. I recommend this trip to anyone that wants to see NZ and Fiji and travel with others the same age as you, you will make lifelong friends and memory’s you will never forget. I will never forget this trip.”
Sam Hayward, 2019
New Zealand & Fiji Summer Program
“I had such a great experience growing and learning about myself. I got an in-depth view of what it’s like to live in Thailand and be apart of a new culture, especially during home stays and visiting rural villages.”
Not only did I get to travel for almost 3 months and see all the beautiful things that Thailand has to offer, I have also seen the hard truth of a developing country and was able to deepen my global perspective. I was challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone and I’m so grateful I got to experience everything I did.
I would say this program was life-changing and exciting. Not only did I grow as a person, I made lifelong friendships and learned how to deal with situations in group settings. I’ve learned how to be a leader and how to adapt in a new setting, as well as how to be a global citizen and accept new cultures and values. This was a life changing experience not many people will get to have in their lives, and I’m so happy I got to be a part of the lucky few.” Read more Tanner Barnes, 2021
Thailand Semester Program
“I would recommend the program to others to challenge yourself, make new friends, do amazing activities and to immerse yourself in a new culture! You really get to learn more about yourself and who you are as a person on this program! I learned to let go, and live in the moment. ”
My trip to Costa Rica was truly life-changing. I made deep connections, did amazing activities, and I really gained clarity as to what I want out of life. I came out of this experience with more confidence and a greater appreciation for life! Ready to face any challenge and to just stay calm like the waves!”
Mia LaFayette, 2021
Costa Rica Mini Semester
“I cannot say enough nice things about my semester with Pacific Discovery. I overcame challenges of all varieties this semester: physical, mental and emotional. I am a better version of myself now and I have learned so much about myself and who I am.”
I would recommend this program to anyone needing a break from school, a change in perspective, or an eye-opening experience. Pacific Discovery is an exceptional program that will provide you with the skills, experiences, and opportunities to challenge yourself, grow as a person, and open up your world. I can say with confidence that I feel ready and excited to travel independently. Taking a gap year has been the best decision of my life thus far. I only wish I could do it over and over again.”
Abigail Hasselbrink, 2021
Central America Semester Program
“Visiting Australia and New Zealand had always been on my bucket list, and I couldn't be happier that I got the opportunity to experience it with Pacific Discovery. You can tell how much meticulous planning they put into curating each program's itinerary and making sure that you'll see as much of Australia and New Zealand as possible in your 70 days there.”
On the program, you'll embody the traveler's spirit, always on the move and never staying in any one place for more than a couple of days. Looking back, the breadth and depth of activities you get to partake in on this program are amazing. From surfing on Australia's pristine beaches to taking in New Zealand's most famous glacier, your experience with PD will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.
I am really so grateful to Pacific Discovery for giving me the ideal start to my gap year. I can't think of a better way to have spent the last 3 months. I want everyone to be able to have the same life-changing experience I did, so I highly recommend Pacific Discovery if you are taking a gap year! You'll learn about sustainability, culture, and the unique environment on these islands, but more importantly, you'll learn so much about yourself. If you're like me and haven't made up your mind about what you want your future to look like, this program will help give you clarity on what truly drives you to be who you are.
Once again, thanks to Pacific Discovery for this incredible experience!!” Read more Emily Simons, 2019
New Zealand & Australia Semester Program