Yucatan, Mexico

Youth Mentorship and Intro to Social Work

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Mentor children and see what makes an NGO tick

Learn the ropes of successful Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) operation as you discover how supporting disadvantaged children can lift an entire community. During six weeks you’ll brighten the way for some special youngsters as you build valuable social work skills.

The scenic Yucatán is home to dazzling beaches, awe-inspiring Mayan ruins, and the cosmopolitan city of Mérida. It’s an incredible place to work with a well-established NGO, dedicated to supporting disadvantaged youth. Get a firsthand look at the various key staff roles and skillsets required to make an international NGO hum smoothly, as you pitch in with different aspects of day to day operations. Support and play with children as they learn critical life skills, from effective communication to self-care to sportsmanship. It all adds up to a valuable experience you can transfer to any community or professional role you pursue.

In addition to community work you’ll take functional Spanish classes to help you communicate with the locals and have ample time to practice your language skills in the cafes, shops and markets of this beautiful city. Your actual service experience will be enhanced by the service-learning workshop that you and your peers will participate in over the course of each block. CIEE recognizes the importance of framing the service experience and the value of increasing participants' leadership skills, ability to problem-solve, build community relations and initiate change. Spend a few hours per week focused on these complementary skills to make your service experience even more impactful for you and the community! 

You will also 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.

On a typical day, you’ll wake up and enjoy breakfast at your homestay, then head to your service site! Partake in activities with youngsters your NGO benefits. Round up your experience at our study center with service learning workshops and an online global competence course where you'll connect with our entire cohort of gap students to share insights and reflect on your experience. Each week features special cultural highlights too – you might learn traditional Yucatán dance or explore Mérida’s historical center – so there’s never a dull moment!
 During your free weekends you will have time for fun and adventure! Within a short distance you'll find beaches, tropical forest, cenotes and more. Explore awesome architectural achievments left by the Ancient Mayans. The Yucatan has wonders everywhere!

The Take-Aways


    CIEE is committed to developing young leaders through our Gap Year Abroad programs. Return home with a new-found confidence and the ability to work across cultural lines.


    Develop an appreciation for the role NGOs play in Mexico to support local youth and community. Come home with the motivation and skills to drive meaningful change in your own community.


    A Certificate of International Service Learning

  • of alumni said their skills improved

  • said they learned to interact with different cultural backgrounds

  • said their level of independence increased


Location & Culture

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In the heart of the Yucatán peninsula, Mérida is a small city known for its Spanish colonial architecture and archeological treasures.

Yucatán is known not only for its Mayan cultural heritage, Spanish colonial architecture and accessibility to some of the most amazing pyramids in the Americas, but it also boasts unique geology and biodiversity. You can swim in cenotes (underground freshwater lakes), and learn about the Chicxulub crater, which Merida sits in the middle of, formed by the impact of a large asteroid that fell to earth 66 million years ago, causing the fifth great extinction – including the dinosaurs!
Merida is also a lovely city to just stroll around in, sampling exotic regional foods like marquesita (a hard crepe filled with cheese or chocolate) or a champola (ice-cream made with coconut milk), or listening to local street musicians and hanging out in the zocalo or its numerous plazas full of shady trees and gazebos. You can practice your Spanish with friendly locals, and in so doing, learn to appreciate the different customs and social mores of Mexico’s largest indigenously-populated city. All of this will help you in your work with the children’s healthcare project as you immerse yourself and come to appreciate this unique society that has its own way of doing things.

Daily Life

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Daily Life

A succesful Gap service experience achieves the right balance between hands-on learning opportunities, structured moments of instruction that can put your experience in context, and cultural activties or excursions that fully immerse you in the local culture.

Here's how a typical week goes on a CIEE Gap Service & Leadership program:

  • 15-20 hours of service project and/or service learning discussion with your CIEE facilitator and peers
  • 1 hour of the CIEE Global Competence Course (online with global community)
  • 2 cultural activities
  • Free time to explore and have fun!

Weekends are for group excursions (two per 6-week block) or personal travel and exploration.

*If Covid-19 homestay requirements cannot be met participants will be placed in a CIEE-vetted dormitory or apartment. Confirmation will be communicated to participants in advance.

  • Carefully Screened Homestay*

  • Local Support

    Local CIEE Center staff available 24/7


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Sample Activities

  • View the brightly colored colonial buildings along Paseo Montejo, the tree-lined street known as Mérida’s “Champs Elysees.”
  • Learn about the ancient art and history of the Yucatan at the Mayan World Museum. (You’ll be well prepped for group excursions to archaeological sites!)
  • Tour the Museum of Contemporary Art and city art galleries.
  • Enjoy all the the city has to offer. Treat yourself to the world famous Yucatecan gastronomy.
  • Shop for exotic fruits and tasty snacks at the bountiful Mercado Lucas De Galvéz marketplace.

Sample Day Trips

Visit one of the UNESCO's seven wonders of the world, tha ancient mayan city of Chichen Itzá and witness yourself the magic of its ruins.

​​Please note this list of activities is based on past programs and subject to change at CIEE's discretion to both adapt to local circumstances and participant feedback. Our goal when revising itineraries is always to enhance your experience. Every activity is designed to provide you with a deep immersion in your topic, local culture and sights. Get ready for maximum fun!

Eligibility & Fees

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Eligibility & Fees


  • High school graduates in good academic standing.
  • Students must demonstrate, through the application and interview process, flexibility and maturity.
  • Students must be 18 years or older at the time of their departure.



Apply for one or two 6-week blocks. Combining blocks in two different locations is not yet available.

Program fee includes iNext travel insurance. Full inclusions are found online.

Ready to change your life?