Service & Leadership

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Build the Skills You Need to Make the Change You Want to See

It’s amazing to devote time to people in need and causes that matter. It’s even better to embed yourself in a place where you can see change happen step by step, internalizing key skills as you go. Suddenly, you’ve gained so much more than memories of a new place and culture. You’ve adopted valuable skills you can use to make life better – over and over again – anywhere in the world.

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3 Keys to Global Citizenship

So much more than logging service hours, our programs provide perspective, tools, and strategies that will stay with you forever. Because when you understand how and why your actions ripple through a community, long-term change becomes a reality you can replicate over and over, anywhere in the world.


Working within a nonprofit organization (NGO) whose people and mission is woven through the local community helps you learn the skills and components that enable success. To ensure a meaningful experience, our local staff scout and team up with organizations that build deep connections in their  communities.

We build these relationships slowly, so our partners are as committed to empowering you as we are. And while helping you learn is our priority, we value our long-term links with the NGOs we partner with, and choose partners that are dedicated to ethical, sustainable service.


CIEE understands all Gap Year Abroad students decide in part to travel with us because of the opportunity to experience the local culture of a foreign destination. CIEE staff plans fun cultural activities and outings designed to give students an insider’s view of your program location. Let CIEE be your local expert! These activities and outings are a great way to get immersed in the local culture while having fun with fellow Americans and share about your experience. Gap experiences strike that awesome balance between group and solo time.


Prompts make it easy to think and write about what you see and do. This powerful exercise not only makes learning stick, it gives you space and time to distill all you’re learning – about your host community – and yourself. Beyond journaling, reflective work also includes discussions with peers and program leaders, hands-on activities, and skill-based games.

What Will You Bring Home?


    Before your adventure ends, you get a chance to process all you’ve learned and make an action plan for applying it when you return home by addressing an issue that matters to you in your own community. Let your creative energy flow as you create a speech, slideshow, or news article to share with your group, and maybe the larger host community, too.


    Strengthen your resume with proof of the 60+ hours you devoted to international service learning.


    After their gap experience, two-thirds of the Global Navigator alumni we surveyed were motivated to roll up their sleeves and keep making a difference in a variety of ways, including: founding nonprofits, starting new service projects back home, launching cultural and study abroad clubs in their schools.

Woven Into Every CIEE Adventure

Whether you head to South Africa or the D.R., your adventure will include three essential ingredients.


Functional language classes allow you to communicate, so you can more fully connect with and appreciate the culture you’re experiencing and serving.


Ready to jump in a jeep with new friends to discover the African savanna? Walk where dinosaurs once roamed? Swim in an underground lake? Built-in adventures and activities like these are essential parts of every CIEE Service & Leadership program.


Before and after your program, we ask you to respond to a series of “can-do” statements, such as “I can listen to others in my program and identify areas they want me to understand,” “I can make creative contributions to a group discussion,” and  “I directly engage with a member of my host community for five continuous minutes.”

Your answers provides a reliable gauge of the personal growth you achieve during your CIEE Gap experience in areas like leadership, intercultural competence, group membership, ambassadorship, and more. Expect a dramatic change from before to after!


CIEE Gap Year Abroad programs are focused on supporting participants in acquiring knowledge and developing skills to live in a globally interdependent and culturally diverse world. In addition to career exploration activities and experiences and gaining a better understanding of the local culture, you will take part in our Global Competence Course. This online course will allow you to connect and collaborate in real-time with our entire cohort of Gap participants worldwide, through interactive workshops and discussions. Reflect on your own cultural biases, share insights about your experience and learn about topics ranging from cultural identity and leadership styles to how to work and live sustainably or develop communication skills.

Take an optional 6-week online course to ramp up your skills before you go!

If you are at a beginner or intermediate level and interested in gaining some solid foundations in your host country’s language before you travel, follow one of our college-level class online for block 1 (August 17 to September 26). This option is offered for an additional $150 fee at the beginner level for French, German, and Italian, and at the beginner and intermediate level for Spanish.

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What People are Saying

  • “I will never forget the children I met in Cape Town. Those little boys taught me more in three days than I’ve learned from any service work I’ve done in the U.S. The interactions we had were far more important than the work we did and that realization is one that will impact me forever.”

    —Elizabeth I., Leadership through Mandela’s Example, Cape Town, South Africa