Over the years we’ve received many of the questions below from students and parents. Can’t find an answer to your question? Call us at 877-285-1808 or email us here. 

About Our Programs

What is a gap year?

A gap year provides an opportunity for students to step outside of the academic environment, gain hands-on experience, and to learn more about themselves. By stepping into the world, immersing oneself in different cultures and environments, and traveling as a community, students gain invaluable insights into their interests and passions, broaden global perspectives, and emerge with a greater degree of maturity and self-awareness. These attributes help to inform their decisions moving forward and can lead to a more confident, self-directed approach to future endeavors.

Can I get college credit?

Yes…you can explore the world and receive college credit during your gap year! Through our unique partnership with Portland State University (PSU), CDE students are able to earn up to 18 quarter credits during a gap semester, and up to 36 quarter credits for the Latitudes Year program.

Can I use my financial aid?

Students are not currently able to use federal financial aid for Carpe Diem programs. Information on need-based scholarships can be found here.

Are scholarships available?

CDE is committed to making the gap year experience available to as wide and diverse audience as possible. To the end, we offer gap year scholarships that reflect our commitment to inclusion and access.

What do universities think about taking a gap year before college?

Colleges and universities have recognized and acknowledged the value of the gap year experience. Many colleges allow deferrals for gap year students and will accept credits earned during a gap year experience. There are numerous articles on the internet that clearly demonstrate that gap year students oftentimes return to college with greater maturity, self-direction, and motivation. These qualities lead to a higher level of engagement in the academic process and support the student in having a successful university experience.

Do you offer a college gap year program?

Current college students can participate in our semester or Latitudes Year programs at any time. Our students range in age from 17-22.

Can I attend a CDE semester with a friend?

Our approach is one of encouraging students to expand comfort zones and dive into the unknown. While we are happy to discuss the possibility of friends participating in the same program, we very strongly encourage students to have their own experiences (on different programs). You can then reunite at home and share all of your amazing adventures with each other!

Carpe Diem does not allow students in relationships to travel together on our programs.

What are the expectations of students during a CDE program?

CDE believes in the responsible, culturally sensitive travel and engagement. We are the guests of our host countries, and we aspire to engage with respect, consideration, and gratitude for the people and places that we encounter. Each group member is expected to apply these same virtues in their relationships with Overseas Educators and fellow students. For this reason, we ask each student to adhere to our Carpe Diem Student Policies, as well as to meet our Essential Eligibility Criteria (EEC).

Is airfare covered in the tuition?

Program tuition covers accommodation, food stipends,  transportation, and program activities. Airfare is a separate expense, and the cost varies widely depending on the program that you choose. Each program page will give a general estimate of flight costs.

Are there “hidden” trip costs beyond tuition and airfare?

While on semester, students have the choice as to how much money they spend. For those who want to learn to travel on a budget, it is possible to spend little to no personal money while on a CDE semester. For those who want to purchase souvenirs, choose food options that are more expensive than typical local restaurants, or make simple purchases like books or clothes, a small amount of spending money is appropriate.

Who do you typically hire as Overseas Educators?

Our Overseas Educators (OE) are professionals with an extensive history and dedication for working with youth in ways that are inspiring and transformative. All of our OEs have extensive travel experience, are able to communicate in the local language where their group is traveling, are well-experienced in addressing group dynamics, and are certified Wilderness First Responders. Many of our program leaders have served with Americorps or Peace Corps, or have other professional experiences in an international context.

Before OEs depart on semester, they participate in a rigorous training designed to further prepare them for the holistic work this role entails. Our training is meant to ground them in program itineraries, health and safety matters, and continue building on their facilitation, group dynamics, and risk management skills. Our OEs embody our organizational philosophy and ethos of creating an environment in which every student is able to learn, grow, and discover more about him/herself/themself and his/her/their place in the world. For more information about our amazing program leaders, please visit Meet the OEs page

Can I speak with CDE alumni or parents?

CDE has an extensive community of alumni and parents who are happy to be a reference for incoming families. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource and to discover the various ways that taking a gap year has benefitted CDE students. Contact us here for more information. 


Do you allow wifi-enabled devices and cellphones during your group semester?

Carpe Diem students are asked to actively challenge themselves culturally, personally, and emotionally while abroad. We believe that in order to effectively do so, students need to be engaged with their surroundings. Electronics/wifi compatible devices can undermine a student’s ability to engage with their environment.

To that end, Carpe Diem takes a “minimalist approach” to technology. Students are allowed to bring cell phones on the semester, though will be required to refrain from ANY Wifi use for the first 3 weeks of the program. After this timeframe, cell phones are reintroduced in the group with a focus on minimalist use and very specific times when the use of a cell phone is permitted. To find out more about our Technology Policy, click here.

Minimizing the use of cell phones may seem difficult at first, as we live in a culture that values and relies heavily upon technology, social media, cell phones, etc. We can honestly say that most students report a sense of relief and gratitude for the opportunity to decrease their exposure to and use of technology. Our hope is that our students are able to cultivate a more mindful relationship with technology that they are able to carry well beyond their time with Carpe Diem.

Do you allow cell phones at the airport?

We recommend leaving your cell phone at home. We understand, however, that it can seem difficult for students to not have a phone for direct communication or support while they are in transit to their international departure airports. For this reason, Carpe Diem Education operates our office phone number 24 hours a day while the groups are in transit, to facilitate students getting to where they need to be and to assist students who may encounter any issue en route.

We advise all of our students to write down our toll-free number – 877 285 1808 – before leaving home. This number can be dialed free of charge from any pay phone or other airline passengers’ cell phones.

How often can students communicate with family and friends while abroad?

For the first 3 weeks of program, students will have internet access once per week. They will use computers at local libraries, internet cafes, or one provided at a local hostel or by the Overseas Educators. Students will be able to use this time to email parents and friends, update social media, etc.

For the remainder of the program, students will have ample opportunities to contact friends and families. There are clear boundaries regarding when a student may engage with their cell phone, though these still allow for consistent check-ins. Please note that, as some placements are in remote regions without Wifi access, there may be extended periods of time (maximum of 7-10 days) when students will not be able to directly contact friends and family.

All of our groups will keep a blog that will be updated every seven to ten days with photos and reflections from the field. The blogs are written by students and are a great place for family and friends to follow along with the student experience.

If any issues arise while students are abroad, the Overseas Educators will contact families via the Carpe Diem Portland office. Families can also contact the Carpe Diem Portland office if urgent information needs to be passed on to their student in the field..  

In case of an emergency, how do I get in touch with my son/daughter while they’re abroad?

In case of an emergency that requires immediate assistance, please call the Carpe Diem Portland office (877-285-1808) and we will call our Overseas Educators, who will then talk to your son or daughter and have him/her/them contact you as soon as possible.

In the event of a serious emergency during non-office hours (evenings and weekends) that requires immediate support (such as a serious illness or death in the family), please email afterhours@carpediemeducation.org. We will then contact group leaders as soon as possible.

Carpe Diem also has an after-hours emergency phone number for our Overseas Educators. In the event of an emergency in the field, our groups can contact someone from our office 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, throughout the duration of the program.

Can students receive packages during the semester?

Due to unpredictable postal services overseas, and itinerary logistics, we strongly advise you not to send packages to students.


What is the admissions process?

  1. Apply Online
  2. Complete a phone or Skype interview with a member of our enrollment team
  3. Receive your acceptance or information about next steps
  4. Send in your deposit to confirm your space on the program
  5. Set up / log into your Student Account
  6. Complete the required Student Paperwork

Once you click on the “Apply Now” button, you will be guided through the necessary steps to submit your application. Within two business days of receiving your application, our Director of Enrollment will send an email to arrange for a Skype/phone interview. This interview is designed to ensure that you are a good fit for the program, and also to answer any questions you may have. Upon notification of acceptance, you’ll receive an Acceptance Packet via email and information on how to access your Student Account.

Within your Student Account, you’ll be able to download required student paperwork, view the packing list, see the most updated program itinerary, view a list of your fellow travelers, read bios of your Overseas Educators, make tuition payments, view full course syllabi, etc. Refer to your Student Account often!

We hold your space in the program upon receipt of the $2,000 confirmation fee for semester programs ($6,000 if you are participating our Latitudes Year program). Payment may be made by check, VISA, MasterCard, or Discover. Credit card payments can be made over the phone, or online, within your Student Account.

When is the application deadline?

We accept applications on a rolling basis until three weeks prior to program start date. Our Fall programs tend to reach capacity by the middle of June and Spring programs by mid December. Once programs have reached capacity, students have the option of being placed on a waiting list or, if desired, offered a space on a different program pending enrollment.

Please Note: Southeast Asia & India programs – applications are accepted until 5 weeks prior to start date due to Visa requirements.

Who gets accepted to the program? Do you take whoever applies?

We do not accept every student who applies. Students must meet all Essential Eligibility Criteria, which we require all applicants to read before beginning the application, and which is important for us to verify before offering acceptance. Our group semesters also have limited capacity, in order to maintain an effective leader to student ratio, so if you apply late you may find that a program is already full.

Do I need to be fluent in the language of my chosen program before I apply?

No. Carpe Diem programs do not require any previous language study.


What’s it like traveling in a group? What if we don’t get along?

A large part of any Carpe Diem trip is focused on group dynamics. In addition to the many people, places, and experiences you will encounter over the course of three months, the people you are spending the most amount of time with– your fellow travelers– will inevitably play a huge role in your overall experience abroad. While working, living, and traveling for three months with a small group of people is extremely rewarding, it also provides some very unique challenges that many students have not experienced before. Naturally, there will be times when the group seems to be meshing well, and other moments of discord and disagreements. All of the Overseas Educators hired by Carpe Diem are highly qualified and experienced in working with students, and are skilled in building healthy and respectful group dynamics. Through mindful facilitation and using a collaborative problem-solving model, we transform the occasional group tensions into opportunities for growth and learning.

What is Carpe Diem Education’s policy on romantic relationships?

Carpe Diem Education asks students to refrain from romantic relationships with other group members for the first two weeks of the program. After the first two weeks, romantic relationships are allowed, though still discouraged, as they can create tension in the group dynamic. Students in romantic relationships are asked to be considerate of other group members and conscious of group dynamics. This includes remaining fully engaged in all group and program activities, being socially inclusive towards other group members, and adhering to rooming/accommodation guidelines as set forth by Carpe Diem policies and guidance from Overseas Educators. Romantic relationships outside the group, while not prohibited, are highly discouraged. Romantic relationships with local partners or within homestay settings are strictly prohibited.

Do people ever leave the program prematurely? If so, what happens?

It is very rare that students do not complete the semester. The most common situation in which this happens is when a student violates one of the Carpe Diem Student Policies, particularly Level One policies, resulting in Overseas Educators feeling that they can no longer ensure the student’s safety. In this case, arrangements will be made for the student to return home. Due to the high cost involved in removing a student from the program, there will be no refund for students who depart early.  On other rare occasions, students leave the program prematurely for personal reasons.

Is there a way to ask present/past students and/or parents for a REAL description of the CDE experience?

Carpe Diem is happy to provide you with the names and emails of former students and their parents who have participated in one of our programs. Not only are they able to give you the REAL skinny, they are a great resource for questions specific to the program you are interested in. Email us here for more information.

I don’t live in the Portland area, but I’d love to talk to someone from Carpe Diem in person. Do you ever travel to other parts of the country?

Occasionally we travel around the country to present at Gap Year Fairs and national conferences, and we also have alumni, students, and staff who live throughout the country. We would be happy to arrange an in-person meeting whenever possible; otherwise, we are able to connect through phone or Skype calls.

I have friends/family in ______ country, can I visit them?

This is a question we get fairly regularly, and the simple answer is that yes, you can meet with them. However, we have a rule that students must stay in Carpe Diem housing as it’s the only way we can interact with you and gauge your well-being. What works really well is to arrange for your friend or family member to share a meal with the entire group, which allows for everyone to feel a part of your connection, and opens a dialogue about what it’s like to live locally and/or do the type of work they do.

Are smoking and vaping tobacco products allowed on semester?

Students who come on program who currently smoke will be asked to adhere to Carpe Diem’s “Smoking Policy”:

  • Students are not permitted to use tobacco products during Carpe Diem-sponsored activities (volunteering, group meetings, engaging with local partners/communities, etc.).
  • If a student uses tobacco products, it is only done on his/her/their own: not in front of the group, a homestay family, or any other situation it could be deemed inappropriate.
  • If using tobacco products becomes a problem (while in group settings, being late due to tobacco use, etc.), OEs will initiate the collaborative problem-solving process, potentially resulting in more serious consequences.
  • Vaping is not permitted on ANY Carpe Diem program.

*** Students under the age of 18 are not permitted to use tobacco unless approval is given to them by their parents. Oregon Law states: “No person under 18 years of age shall purchase, attempt to purchase or acquire tobacco products. Except when such minor is in a private residence accompanied by the parent or guardian of the minor and with the consent of such parent or guardian, no person under 18 years of age shall have personal possession of tobacco products.” ***


How is the Focused Volunteer Placement (FVP) chosen?

The Focused Volunteer Placement selection process happens over several months and includes many steps:

During the months prior to the start of a Latitudes Year, students will be assigned a Latitudes Advisor, who will be their individual mentor for the entirety of the year.

Students will fill out a preference form and have a Skype call with their Latitudes Advisor. At this time they will discuss the student’s goals and big picture dreams for the year, down to the nitty-gritty such as regions/cultures that the student is drawn to, languages, type of work, etc, so the Advisor has a better idea about what type of FVP will be right for the student.

Over the summer leading up to the Latitudes Year, students will begin to dive deeper into some of their own intentions and priorities in choosing an FVP.

The Latitudes Advisors then mentor each student during the group semester via email and Skype, sending students placement ideas and options. As students start to dial in their placement, their Latitudes Advisor may connect the student with former Latitudes students who have done a specific placement, share blogs from past students, and share some of the successes and challenges that former students have faced. While most students choose to work with existing partners, sometimes a student’s goals indicate that a new partnership needs to be developed. In that case, a student’s Advisor will talk them through the implications of working with a new partner.

By November 1st (early decision) or December 1st (late decision), students make a final decision about where they will go for their second semester.

During the Winter Break, students continue to dialogue with their Latitudes Advisor as logistics are solidified.

In late January, CDE conducts a 3-day Latitudes Orientation in Portland, Oregon. Each student meets with their Latitudes Advisor to confirm final details and intentions before students head off to their placement.

How is the FVP structured?

The FVP is designed to be a structured immersion experience, and as such, students are placed with organizations doing social service, educational, environmental, conservation, medical, outdoor recreation, and public health work.

The primary support for each student is their in-country contact, who is responsible for picking them up at the airport, getting them oriented, providing further training as needed, and looking out for their well-being during the three-month FVP. Each student is also required to communicate with their Latitudes Advisor every two (2) weeks for a general check-in.

How long will my FVP be? Can I do multiple FVPs?

We encourage students to stay a minimum of 3 months at their FVP. This allows the student to contribute to a lasting project, create sustainable relationships, and exhibit commitment to your host organization (and to yourself!). If you need to shorten the duration of your placement for any reason, please communicate this with both your Latitudes Advisor and your local contact. If you wish to stay longer at your placement, check with your local contact to make sure they can still accommodate you.

Many students have decided to continue their travel experience once they have completed the FVP. Some travel in the region, others find another meaningful volunteer placement. CDE supports students in doing this and we believe that after completing a Carpe Diem year, students have the skills to make further international engagement happen. While you would no longer be a Carpe Diem student, as an alumni we are always excited to hear what you’re up to!

What if I don’t like my FVP? Can I switch?

Carpe Diem highly discourages students from changing their FVPs. The first few weeks of a volunteer placement might be challenging, you might feel homesick, or feel that you made the wrong decision. We encourage you to communicate with both your local contact and the Latitudes Advisor if this is the case, so that we can help you through the settling-in process and advise you on how to advocate for yourself and make your placement what you hoped it would be.

In rare cases, it is appropriate for students to change their volunteer placement. This is decided on an individual basis, and the details would be worked out with the Latitudes Advisor.

Can I have the same FVP as another Latitudes student?

It depends! There are a number of placements that we offer where we typically send two to three Latitudes students each season. We also have placements where we usually send just one student – it depends on the organizations need for volunteers as well as student interest. This is something that we will talk about with you during the placement process and it is very unlikely that you’ll be completing your FVP with another student from your group semester. You will always know in advance if there will be other Latitudes students at your placement.

Can I bring a cell phone/Wifi device/laptop on my FVP?

While not allowed during your group semester, cellphones are permitted during your volunteer placement. In fact, often times we encourage it. In addition, we’ve found that purchasing an in-country phone and re-loadable SIM card are very affordable and convenient.

You are allowed to bring a laptop or other wifi capable device, if you wish. As with anything you bring on your travels, be prepared to have it broken, lost, or stolen. In deciding whether you will need to bring a laptop, you might want to consider where you are going to be (Urban? Rural?), how you are going to be using it (email, photos, blogging), and how much you will be traveling before, during, or after your volunteer placement. As a general rule, the more you are moving around, the less you will want to have to carry!

How are the policies enforced for the second semester if my OEs aren’t around?

During your group semester, you learned about responsible travel, assessing risk,  and the potential problems and dangers that can come from breaking one of the Carpe Diem Student Policies (like drinking alcohol, doing drugs, disrespecting locals, etc). This is why we decided to create a separate set of Policies for the second semester (click here to review them)!

We communicate our policies and expectations with our in-country contacts and host organizations that you will be working with for your FVP. In addition, many host organizations will have their own set of policies, which they expect you to adhere to. You may be asked to leave your FVP either by the hosts or by Carpe Diem if these policies are not followed.  We ask that you will make smart choices, stay safe, travel responsibly, and respect Carpe Diem, the host organization and local culture.

Can I travel during my FVP?

You are welcome and encouraged to travel and explore the region surrounding your volunteer placement! Oftentimes volunteers will have weekends free and use that time to take short trips. Please communicate with your in-country contact and your Latitudes advisor about your travel plans during your FVP. Volunteers are discouraged from taking long trips during their placements, and are instead encouraged to travel either before or after their FVP starts. We advise you to consider whether or not you will want to travel after your volunteer placement when scheduling your flights, as rebooking can be costly.