Whether you’re a traveler who wants to begin leading international programs or an educator who wants to bring your classroom abroad, this instructor course will put you on a fast-track to meaningful work in the field.

This is an intense and comprehensive training course for future international program leaders, educators, expedition guides, and service-learning coordinators. You will learn to teach, guide, instruct, facilitate, and collaborate through an overland journey in a developing world setting.

This course suits recent college graduates, current graduate students, and people seeking a career-shift. It has a balance of theory, practical experience, skill-building, and reflection, along with individual mentoring and career coaching for each course participant.

Why this course?

Several thousand student groups head overseas on programs every year. This number is increasing with the growing interest in global engagement, gap years, study abroad, voluntourism, and experiential education. Organizations, schools, and universities are constantly looking for qualified and experienced field staff to lead these programs. Yet, how do you gain experience and qualifications to get these jobs? This first-of-a-kind course offers the theoretical foundations and practical experience to get you there.


Pacific Discovery is a global leader in experiential education. We've offered challenging and inspiring semester and summer gap year and study abroad programs since 2001.

On this course, you will glean knowledge from the combined 25 years of field experience of the course creators, Director and Founder of Pacific Discovery, Scott Burnett, and Director of Education, Stacey Williams.

Scott has led an excess of 35 programs for Pacific Discovery and serves on both the Standards and Ethics Committees of the American Gap Association (AGA). His passion and skill for experiential education is evidenced in Pacific Discovery's quality programs. With an immaculate safety record and consistent five-star reviews, this course is an opportunity to learn from a true pioneer in the field.

With an MA in Higher Education Leadership, Stacey brings research experience in student affairs and social justice education. She has facilitated programs for four study abroad organizations and currently co-directs AGA's Inclusion and Access Committee.

What will you learn?

This course will equip you to:

  • Pursue a career in international education with an understanding of the industry, potential employers, and necessary prerequisite experience.
  • Work in diverse and challenging environments  including the developing world, international cities, rural homesteads, and wilderness contexts.
  • Coordinate travel logistics, research, bookings, budgets and accounts in an international setting.
  • Develop safety plans, exercise appropriate risk assessment, manage emergency response and evacuations, and liaise with insurers in an international expedition and developing world context.
  • Liaise with community partners, local operators, and guides in a way that supports meaningful cultural exchange.
  • Facilitate curriculum that addresses identity, ethics, sustainability, social justice, and leadership.
  • Support student development through multicultural and environmental experiences inviting students to practice intercultural competency, higher order empathy, and consideration of multiple worldviews.
  • Support students who are struggling with mental health, homesickness, and behavioral issues and define your scope of practice so that you can identify when these issues are beyond your ability to manage from the field.
  • Deepen your interpersonal skills and nonviolent communication to support co-instructing and collaborative leadership teams.
  • Learn the Tao of travel - gaining practical skills in: navigation, cross-cultural communication, bargaining, minimum impact practices, travel health, illness, vaccinations and disease vectors, keeping safe, use of technology, and awareness of cultural norms and expectations.
  • Understand the implications for liability and duty of care in your role as an international educator.
  • Design and facilitate re-entry programming and transfer.
  • Gain exposure to fields related to international education (i.e. tourism, international development, and higher education sectors).

Course Objectives

We provide you with all of the training content that Pacific Discovery instructors go through, combined with hands-on experience of all the elements of our programs (wilderness expedition, cultural immersion, overland travel, and service-learning) and individual mentorship and career coaching from Scott and Stacey.

You will leave the course with:

    • The confidence, knowledge, skills, and experience necessary to gain employment leading groups internationally or to take your own students abroad if you are already an educator or higher education professional.
    • Firsthand experience in cultural immersion and environmental education.
    • A personal philosophy of service.
    • Thorough training in safety management.
    • A detailed evaluation of you as an instructor, which you could share with future employers.
    • A course graduation certificate.

Course structure

The course is rooted in triple-loop learning cycles (Torbert, 2005). During the course you will be paired with various participants as co-instructing teams. Each co-instructing team will be assigned a portion of the course to lead. As a co-instructing team, you will lead the rest of your group to engage in diverse experiences from home-stays to service projects to field-based activities (single loop). Utilizing different development models and pedagogies, you will facilitate reflection for your group-mates on these experiences (double loop). The group as a whole will then pull out the themes, lessons, and insights of that process for the purpose of facilitating similar learning with students (triple loop). Using this model, the course’s primary objective is to deepen your own reflective practice while equipping you to support similar development in students.

The course is a mix of theory, assignments, presentations, learning drawn from experiences, leadership practice, and individual mentoring from the course instructors.

Specialized tracks

Participants elect a specialized track that they will study and have greater facilitation and coordination responsibilities for throughout the course. You can choose 1-2 of the following tracks:

  • Student development (teaching & mentoring)
  • Travel management (tour guiding & interpretation)
  • Global leadership (sustainability, travel ethics, development, and social justice)
  • Wilderness/developing world/remote expedition leadership
  • Cultural immersion
  • Service-learning
  • Safety management

Section one: Theoretical foundations & urban exploration

The course starts in Chiang Mai, Thailand, everyone’s favorite Thai city. The first days are spent at a jungle campsite near a rural village. Our time is spent outlining the framework of the program, the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of the course content, and setting the group up to succeed on the remainder of the course.

Then we return to the city for a number of urban experiences: visiting temples and taking classes in Thai cooking and Muay Thai while considering tourism management within international programs.

From the outset, you will lead, instruct, and facilitate the group’s experience - taking responsibility for researching, guiding, presenting, and delivering content, teaching, and managing the budgeting and accounts.

Section two: Cultural immersion & wilderness expedition

We will head out on an expedition into remote Karen mountain communities, exploring this amazing culture while home-staying and backpacking between villages.

The expedition offers a case study in: the difficulties ethnic minorities face within a larger nation state;  the way conservation and human rights come into conflict in this context;  community development initiatives, good and bad;  traditional farming practices and indigenous peoples’ connection with the land;  the benefits of community-based tourism;  and examine the global phenomena where the bulk of the able-bodied workforce leave the village to seek education and work in the city.

In addition to these themes, students will experience how to facilitate cultural immersion and wilderness expeditions in partnership with local translators and guides.

Section three: Designing, teaching & guiding [student-led]

The program then transitions to nearly two-weeks of student-led programming with an itinerary the group will develop and implement — Will we travel by boat to Laos? Fly to Vietnam? The sights, experiences, and methods of transportation are up to you.

Working with a list of parameters around content and costs, you will research, plan, and facilitate this section of the program. Gaining experience in arranging accommodation, transport, meals, and activities. You will also be responsible for scheduling, briefings, logistics, program budgets, local/group interactions, border crossings,  group processing and reflection, and delivering interpretation and educational content relevant to the group experience.

Section four: Service-learning

We travel to Kampot, Cambodia for time focused on service learning.

You will gain hands-on experience facilitating the most common service project types, including house-building and volunteer teaching. We will explore service-learning pitfalls and best practices using the fair trade service-learning framework.

Section five: Re-entry & transfer

Based from a friendly rural homestay in Takeo Province, we wrap-up the course before returning to Phnom Penh to depart.

We will: review learning from the course;  prepare and present final presentations of learning;  consider how to support student’s re-entry process;  examine the different job opportunities and potential career paths available in the field; and workshop how to best present yourself to a future employer.


This course is suitable for educators wishing to gain the skills, confidence and experience to take their groups abroad, and suitable for anyone wishing to pursue a career as an international program leader, expedition instructor, or international educator.  Course applicants need to be physically healthy and very self-motivated. Course learning is aimed at a post graduate level but entry to the course is not restricted to university grads. All applicants need to complete an interview after submitting their application, before they are accepted onto the course.


Our accommodation will vary from simple guesthouses and community homestays with shared facilities, to modern hotels with private bathrooms. Laundry and WiFi will be available often, except while on expeditions or at community stay. Accommodation is diverse, and carefully chosen to fit our needs.


Food is undoubtedly a highlight when travelling in Asia and throughout there will be the opportunity to eat authentic Asian or Western style food. Special dietary requirements and vegetarians are catered for. All meals are included in the program cost. We recommend you budget $5-10 per day for snacks and drinks (approximately $300 for the program).

Program Tuition Includes

Visas for all countries; all in-country travel and transport; all accommodation; all meals; all activities, excursions, entry fees and adventure travel as described in the itinerary; service learning projects; course instruction, syllabus and readings, resources for your own professional development, informal lectures from resident experts on history, culture, development issues; online image library for your program; course completion certificate and thorough written evaluation.

Duration 34 days
Program Tuition $5,950 USD Estimated Flight Cost $1,200 USD
Availability Closed
Group Size Max 12 students + 2 instructors Ages Open to ages 21-35
Optional College Credit Yes Start/Finish Chiang Mai, Thailand/Phnom Penh, Cambodia