Frequently Asked Questions
Answers to your questions.
Over the years we’ve received many of the questions below from students and parents. We’ve divided the FAQs into the following categories:
Why do you run your programs in the way you do?
What's the benefit in having a program constantly in motion?
- We intentionally construct dynamic, fast-paced programs to keep students engaged and challenged as well as to provide a broad overview of all that a region has to offer. We provide students the opportunity to work with a new community and project in a slightly different region every 10 to 14 days – this allows students enough time to settle into meaningful relationships, but not enough time to become complacent. We incorporate mind, body, and spirit into every program: some weeks you may be studying language in a classroom environment, while other weeks you may be learning about conservation as you trek through mountains, or perhaps studying community housing needs as you nail boards into a future home. Another week will take you into the realm of personal reflection as you sit in meditation or embark on silent walks to reflect on your own spiritual journey. We believe that students are best able to make informed decisions about their own life paths when they have a broad range of experiences to draw on, from the environmental to the cultural, the intellectual to the spiritual, and everything in between.
- Why should I do a Carpe Diem program instead of something else?
The shortest, and most straightforward answer is, where else could you get the experience of a lifetime and call it a year or a semester of university? While we recognize that there are a lot of programs out there offering life-changing experience, we think Carpe Diem offers one of the best in the industry:
Experience: Carpe Diem has a long track record of running successful international programs. In 1998, while the semesters were under the ownership of LEAPNow, our first program to Central America went into the field. Since then, group programs have run throughout the world in a variety of forms to the following countries: Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Ghana, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, India, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, The Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Australia, and New Zealand and more…
Safety: Carpe Diem holds itself to the highest possible safety standards – the health and safety of our students and staff is always our biggest priority. Over the course of nearly two decades of experience, we have developed a wide range of skills and practices to keep our students as safe and healthy as possible. Please see the answer to “How does Carpe Diem best ensure the health and well-being of its students?” below for even more details on how we do it.
Leadership: Carpe Diem believes in the growth and inherent value of every student. To that end our Overseas Educators are selected and trained for a unique combination of soft and hard skills ranging from group facilitation, Wilderness Medicine, and regional experience. We consciously choose our leaders to serve as mentors rather than just guides. We hope that every student finishes a Carpe Diem program and returns to their home a changed and more aware individual – not only of the world and the way it works, but also of themselves.
Authenticity: Carpe Diem strives to make every program we offer as culturally authentic as possible. This means visiting a wide array of areas within a region, often away from the beaten tourist path. “Authentic” culture doesn’t necessarily mean just the traditional, rural ways of life, although we certainly provide students the opportunity to experience this as well. “Authentic” culture also means exploring the realities of the way globalization has affected a region, and students will find themselves in both incredibly remote areas and also fast-paced more “westernized” cities. We believe striking this balance is the best possible way to experience the richness and diversity of a region.
Program Directors: Carpe Diem’s Program Directors each have extensive experience in the region they work with. Each of the Program Directors has spent significant time as a leader in the field, so they are intimately familiar with the contacts, the needs of groups on the road, and the particular languages, history, and culture of each region we work in. This means they are well suited to support our Overseas Educators, our students, and the families we work with. Our Program Directors are passionate about transformational experiences through education. They are based at the headquarters in Portland and make regular trips to their specific regions in order to maintain close connections with regional contacts and construct our unique programs.
The American Gap Association (AGA) is a not for profit accreditation and standards-setting organization for Gap Years that is recognized as such by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Accreditation by AGA represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity. AGA objectively runs organizations through a rigorous set of 125 standards and backstops the information gathering with student alumni, program partners, and the staff of each organization. What does that mean to you? It means that a student can count on an experience with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, the best structure, and the highest standards of safety in the industry.
- Is Carpe Diem religiously affiliated?
- No, Carpe Diem Education is not religiously affiliated. As with all issues of diversity, we aim to be inclusive and welcoming of different perspectives. Religious traditions add vibrancy to the cultures we travel through, and we believe that staying curious to these traditions will enhance our students’ understanding of the world around them as well as their own personal worldview.
- Why are wifi-enabled devices and cellphones not permitted during your group semester?
Carpe Diem students are asked actively challenge themselves culturally, personally, and emotionally. In order to do so, we believe that students need to be engaged with their surroundings. Electronics can take away from that. For this reason, we do not allow wifi-enabled devices or cell phones on your group semester. "Unplugging" may seem difficult at first as we live in a culture that values and relies heavily upon electronics, social media, cell phones, etc, but most students report being being grateful for the opportunity to unplug.
Excerpt from: "Sacred 6: Program Expectations & Policies"
4. I will challenge myself culturally, personally, and emotionally.
This includes full participation in all aspects of the program and leaving Wi-Fi devices and cell-phones at home. If I do bring one of these devices to the airport, OEs may disable them for the duration of the program.
- I know Carpe Diem Education has a "No Cell Phone" policy during the semester, but what if a student wants to bring his or her cell phone to the airport on the day of departure?
Carpe Diem Education encourages all of our students to leave their cell phones at home. We understand that it can seem difficult for students not to 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.
Under extenuating circumstances, we understand that students may need to bring their cell phones to the departure airport. If this is the case there are two options available to these students:
1. Bring a “protective” pre-addressed envelope to ship the phone back home. This will either be sent by the student directly from the airport or given to one of our HQ staff members to drop off at a nearby post office. Carpe Diem Education assumes no responsibility for the phones’ condition upon arrival home.
2. Allow their Overseas Educators (OE) to put a passcode lock on the phone. Students will then be responsible for carrying the locked phone, with the understanding that it is not to be used for the duration of the semester. OEs will unlock the phones at the end of the program. If the phone does not have a passcode option, the OEs will remove and hold the battery for the duration of the program. Carpe Diem Education assumes no responsibility for batteries if they are lost, stolen, or damaged.
- How can students communicate with family and friends during their semester?
During a Carpe Diem semester program, students can expect to have Internet access at least once a week, sometime more frequently. With that, the most common forms of communication with home are e-mails, Skype, Gmail Video Chat, and regular international phone calls. In many countries where our groups travel, public phone booths are very common and students can buy phone cards locally to make calls to the US.
If there is an issue that comes up, the Overseas Educators will be able to get in contact with the Carpe Diem office, and we can contact families. Families can also contact the Carpe Diem office if urgent information needs to be passed on to the student in the field.
- What are the blogs, who writes them, and how frequently?
The blog is a student-written account of everything that is happening on current Carpe Diem program, as well as an archive of past programs and their adventures. While groups are traveling, students update the blog every week. Every student will have a chance to write a blog, so the flow and form and style of each entry will be different, allowing for the variety of experiences, interpretations, and personalities in the group to come out and paint a multi-faceted picture of what actually happens when a group of young adults starts to find its own character and flow. We encourage families, friends, and prospective students to read the blog, as it will give you an excellent window into the life of the group and the program.
- In case of an emergency, how do I get in touch with my son/daughter while they're overseas?
Many parents use e-mail to contact their children, and depending on where the group is at the time, students typically use phone calls or Skype to contact their parents.
In case of emergency that requires more immediate assistance, please call the Carpe Diem office and we will call our Overseas Educators, who will then talk to your son or daughter and have him or her contact you as soon as possible. In the event of a serious emergency during non-office hours that requires immediate support (such as a serious illness or death in the family), families can also reach our office in the evenings or on weekends by emailing email@example.com and we will contact group leaders as soon as possible.
Carpe Diem has an after-hours emergency phone number for our Overseas Educators and in the event of an emergency in the field, our groups can contact someone from our office 24 hours a day, every day that the groups are traveling.
- Can students receive packages during the semester?
If you would like to send a package to a student during the semester, consider the following:
Sometimes a package can take up to one month to reach its final destination, so it is important to confirm where the group will be (and when) in order for the package to arrive before they are actually there. Many times, letters or packages have taken too long to reach the final destination and our group had already left, making it almost impossible to connect the package and the student. Mail delivery usually takes much longer than it would here, so please plan ahead.
Packages are routinely checked at the border by customs officials, and some countries are notorious for "losing things," so it is not a great idea to send something of value in the mail. However, if you do send something valuable, we recommend that you use a reputable international carrier (DHL, FedEx, or UPS).
Frequently there is a customs duty or import tax applied to any package that comes into a country from the United States. This means that your students, the leaders, or a cultural contact must pay this tax in order to receive the package, sometimes amounting to more than what the package is actually worth.
We recommend that if you do want to mail something to student, that it be a letter or postcard, as these are the easiest and most likely to get to the destination on time. If you do need to send something of value, though, you can use one of the companies listed above and it is best to coordinate these efforts with the Carpe Diem office.
- How does Carpe Diem best ensure the health and well-being of its students?
Travel itself involves inherent risks, as do many bold acts in life! That said, the students’ health and safety is very important to us and here are the ways that we do our utmost to ensure the health and well-being of the students:
- IN-COUNTRY CONTACTS
Throughout the course of its existence, Carpe Diem has built a vast network of in-country contacts. These individuals are often leaders in their respective communities who have the most current information around safety matters, and provide guidance accordingly, both in the process of planning our itineraries, as well as to the group upon arrival. If deemed necessary, we will adjust itineraries to avoid any unsafe areas.
- SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM
We ensure that each student is enrolled in the US State Department, Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which provides the latest updates and information pertinent to the places the students are traveling, including travel warnings and alerts. This service is put together by consular officers around the world, and is a valuable resource in terms of information and added support.
- OVERSEAS EDUCATORS (OEs)
Carpe Diem has a talented and inspiring crew of OEs, each of whom has completed a Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder course, which, through many hours of instruction, provides the tools necessary to make critical medical and evacuation decisions in remote locations. Through extensive travel experience, our OEs are overall trusted sources of techniques to best ensure student health and safety. If a student ever requires a doctor visit, a leader will accompany him/her to make sure he/she asks all the relevant questions and gets the best medical care possible.
- BI-ANNUAL SAFETY REVIEWS
Our Portland staff keeps up on world/regional events through various news sources, including reports from Overseas Safety Advisory Council (OSAC). Twice per year, our Program Directors do a thorough review of safety reports and make recommendations and adjustments to itineraries as needed.
- STUDENT EDUCATION & TRAINING
The students, of course, also play a central role in maintaining their own health and safety. During orientation at the beginning of the group semester, OEs will conduct several workshops with students around health and safety matters to equip students with the information they need. OEs will also ensure students understand Carpe Diem’s policies, which are designed to best promote students’ health and well-being. It is also vital that students communicate open and honestly with OEs regarding any health needs and conditions, both upon beginning the semester as well as throughout travels.
- iNEXT TRAVEL INSURANCE
All students are enrolled in iNEXT insurance, which enables access to medical assistance 24-hours per day, 7 days a week. These health professionals provide consultations and advice in the case of medical emergencies.
- AMERICAN GAP ASSOCIATION
The American Gap Association (AGA) is a not for profit accreditation and standards-setting organization for Gap Years that is recognized as such by the US Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission. Accreditation by AGA represents a commitment to the highest standards in safety, quality, and integrity. AGA objectively runs organizations through a rigorous set of 125 standards and backstops the information gathering with student alumni, program partners, and the staff of each organization. What does that mean to you? It means that a student can count on an experience with the highest caliber of field leadership, the best degree of office support, the best structure, and the highest standards of safety in the industry. Carpe Diem Education was one of the first organizations to be accredited by the AGA.
- Does my son or daughter need international travel insurance?
Carpe Diem provides each student with travel insurance through our partnership with iNext Travel Insurance. Through iNext, Carpe Diem has 24-hour access to a team of U.S. doctors who provide consult and advice when medical situations arise. Providing each of our students with travel insurance through iNext enables Carpe Diem to facilitate a uniform emergency response should a situation warrant it.
While traveling overseas, most U.S. insurance companies (including iNext), require the patient to pay out of pocket and then submit a claim for reimbursement upon their return. In order to help ensure that all receipts for medical care received while on semester make it safely home, our Overseas Educators will hold onto them and return them to the student at the end of the semester. Please visit the iNext website for more information.
* Note: Semester students receive the "Basic" plan through iNext; latitudes students are enrolled in their "Premium" Plan.
Carpe Diem's Student Emergency Fund
Included in the program fee is a $100 medical emergency fund for each student. This will be held by the trip leaders and be disbursed accordingly for any medically related issue. In the case that this medical funding be used up, we will contact parents to request that it be replenished.
- Which immunizations should I get?
The following list of required immunizations derives from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) as well as from the travel experience of our staff. As these vaccinations are important for the well-being of the students, you are required to submit proof of the following required immunizations in order to participate on your semester program. For more detailed information about the CDC's recommendations, please visit their website at www.cdc.gov.
NOTE: Vaccination and Immunization costs vary widely. We recommend that you shop around. Most health insurance plans won't cover nontraditional or travel-related vaccinations, so expect to pay full price on some of these. State Travel Health and Immunization Clinics, found in larger cities, tend to have the lowest costs. Each year we have a few students who opt out of these vaccinations and choose to work with a naturopath or alternative specialist. We definitely encourage out-of-the-box thinking and historically haven't noticed too much of a difference between those who opt out of the vaccinations and those who take them all. If, however, you don't want to take any of the required vaccinations, you will still need to sign and return the Insurance & Immunization form.
- Booster for Tetanus-diphtheria: Even though you should have been vaccinated as a child, make sure you check with your family physician and get the necessary boosters. This booster needs to be taken at least 2 weeks before travel.
- MMR: This is an adult booster for Measles, Mumps, and Rubella; these three boosters are given together. This is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant or planning to become so within a year of receiving the booster.
- Typhoid: Typhoid is a water-borne disease, and one of the most prolific causes of traveler's diarrhea. A single injectable vaccination is good for 2 years, while oral Typhoid tablets are good for 5 years. You must complete the shot or last tablet at least 2 weeks prior to travel. The oral vaccine tends to be less expensive, but requires refrigeration and accurate timing of doses in order to maximize its effectiveness.
- Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a food-borne illness that affects many travelers. A single vaccination is good for one year with 80% immunity, and increased immunity is gained with a follow-up booster within 6-12 months after the first shot.
- Malaria: Malaria is a preventable disease that can be fatal if left untreated. Carpe Diem requires that you consult a travel physician about the appropriate malaria prophylaxis needed for the semester as it varies by region and is not recommended for all regions that Carpe Diem travels to. There are 3 main drug regimens available: Mefloquine, Malarone, & Doxycycline. Mefloquine [Larium] can have several emotional/psychological side effects; Doxycycline [an antibiotic] causes sun sensitivity and can potentially contribute to antibiotic resistance; Malarone is the broadest-spectrum drug available on the market, but is by far the most expensive. Be aware of potential side effects and discuss with your healthcare provider which one is the best choice for you. Malaria is NOT a concern for the Fiji/New Zealand/Australia or Indigenous America semester.
- Yellow Fever: Yellow Fever is a serious mosquito-borne illness, so serious that some countries require proof of vaccination on entry and exit. There is a special region on the World Health Organization [WHO] card that your travel clinic will use to document all of your immunizations for this vaccination, and it's a good idea to make and email copies of this card to yourself for backup. Currently Yellow Fever immunization is a requirement for the South America and East Africa semesters only.
- Polio Vaccination
- Rabies vaccination: This is a vaccination that is given before exposure and is an extensive series of injections that do not necessarily make post-exposure injections un-needed, but may reduce the number of post-exposure injections needed should a bite from a questionable animal occur. Carpe Diem does not recommend this series because it is very expensive, our groups will not be intentionally or overly exposed to wild/potentially rabid animals, and the series doesn't prevent rabies, it just makes the post-exposure series potentially shorter.
- Hepatitis B: This vaccination is a series of shots given over 9 months' time to completion. Hepatitis B is a blood-borne pathogen that is more virulent in its transmission than HIV, so for that reason most schools are now requiring the series for attendance. If you might be exposed to blood, have sexual contact with the local population, stay longer than 6 months, or plan on being a healthcare worker in the future, Hep B vaccination is a good idea. Again, speak with your healthcare provider and travel physician.
- Japanese Encephalitis: This disease is a potentially lethal, though rare, disease that consists of a series of 3 vaccinations. You may read about Japanese Encephalitis on the CDC site and decide whether you want this optional immunization.
- EPI PENS: If you have any history of anaphylactic reaction(s), please consult your healthcare provider and follow their advice. Usually we will recommend students bring THREE epinephrine pens: one for you to carry at all times, another for the OEs to carry in their medical kit, and another to remain in your bag for backup purposes.
- REQUIRED IMMUNIZATIONS
- Who do you typically hire as Overseas Educators? How are your Overseas Educators qualified for this experience?
The quality of a student’s experience is directly related to the quality of his/her leaders. For this reason, we are very conscious and intentional about hiring the individuals best prepared for this work through their leadership, educational and travel experience. Our Overseas Educators (OE) are typically 28 – 32 years old and are coming to us out of a passion and long history working with youth in ways that are inspiring and transforming, i.e. not a lecture hall! All have extensive travel experience, are able to communicate in the local language spoken, are well-experienced in group dynamics, and are certified Wilderness First Responders. In many instances our leaders have served with Americorps or Peace Corps, or have had a variety of professional experiences to share about with students!
Before OEs depart on semester, they participate in a rigorous training process designed to further prepare them for the holistic work this role entails. The training is meant to ground them in program itineraries, health and safety matters, and also to continue to build on their skills related to group dynamics, mediation, and conflict resolution, safety and risk management. We are also able to strongly convey our organization philosophy and ethos, in which we emphasize the creation of an environment in which each student is able to learn, grow and discover more about him/herself. For more information about our amazing field staff, please visit our staff page.
- What is the admissions process?
Once you click on the “Apply Now” button, you will be taken through the necessary steps to submit your application. Within approximately two business days of receiving the application, our Director of Enrollment will send an email in order to arrange for a skype/phone interview. The interview is designed to ensure you are a good fit for the program, and also to answer any questions you may have. On average we will notify you whether you have been accepted into the program within two business days of the interview, unless further time is needed to follow up with professional contacts.
Upon notification of acceptance, you will receive an Acceptance Packet via email and information on how to access your student account.
Within your Student Account, you will be able to download required student paperwork, view the packing list, see the most updated 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 confirmation fee of $2,000 for semester programs, or $6,000 if you are participating our Latitudes Year. 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.
The required student paperwork can be submitted by fax, email, uploading, or through regular mail.
- Apply Online
- Read your acceptance packet
- Set up / log into your Student Account
- Send in your Deposit
- Complete the required Student Paperwork:
- When is the application deadline?
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis until three weeks prior to program start date. Our Fall programs tend to reach capacity in mid June and Spring programs reach capacity in mid December. Once we have reached our capacity students will either be 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 the 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 enrollment 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. All our programs (with the exception of FANZ and IAM) involve language study during the program, so you will have a chance to learn and practice that language of your chosen program during the semester.
WHAT'S IT LIKE ON SEMESTER?
- What are the accommodations like on a group semester?
Accommodations on a group semester fall along a spectrum from extremely simple to very comfortable. While safety is always paramount, you may be expected to use a bucket shower at times, hand-wash your own clothes, or go without electricity for some days. We always try and balance these deep cultural experiences, however, with the occasional stay in more comfortable settings. Over time we've learned at what point students typically are needing the comforts of home versus when they're better able to challenge their sense of comfort .
- 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. Students in romantic relationships are asked to be considerate of other group members and conscious of group dynamics. Romantic relationships outside the group, while not prohibited, are highly discouraged.
- What’s it like traveling in a group? What if we don’t get along?
A large part of any Carpe Diem trip is group dynamics. In addition to the many people, places, and experiences you will have 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. Working, living, and traveling for three months with a small group of people, albeit extremely rewarding, 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 use this occasional tension as opportunities for growth and learning.
- 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 Sacred Six policies, particularly Level One, 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 minimal to no refund disbursed. On other rare occasions students leave the program prematurely for personal reasons, most often resulting in that student’s return home.
- Is there a way to ask present/past students and/or parents for the REAL skinny?
Carpe Diem is happy to provide you with the names and emails of former students and their parents who have participated on one of our programs. Not only are they able to give you the REAL skinny, but they are a great resource for specific questions in regards to the program you are interested in, any concerns you have, and in general is a great place to begin interacting with the ever-growing Carpe Diem family. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org 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? Do you have representatives on the East Coast? Midwest?
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 video Skype. Of course, Portland's one of the coolest darn cities in the country, and so if you'd like to make the trek out here, we can pretty much guarantee that you'll be glad you did!
- 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 have available to make sure you're safe. 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 opening a dialogue about what it's like to live locally and/or do the type of work they do.
- Is it ok if I smoke cigarettes on semester?
Students who come on program who currently smoke will be asked to adhere to Carpe Diem “Smoking Etiquette”.
Carpe Diem “Smoking Etiquette” –
- Students are not permitted to smoke during Carpe Diem sponsored activities (volunteering, group meetings, etc.).
- If a student smokes, it is only done on his/her own: not in front of the group, a home stay, or any other situation it could be deemed inappropriate.
- If smoking becomes a problem (smoking in group settings, being late due to smoking, etc.), OEs will issue a verbal B Plan, potentially resulting in more serious consequences.
*** Students under the age of 18 are not permitted to smoke, 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 your Latitudes Year, students are assigned a Latitudes Advisor who will be their individual mentor for the entirety of the year.
Students will fill out a preference form and also have a Skype call with their Latitudes Advisor. This is the time they discuss the student goals for the year and your big picture dreams, down to the nitty gritty such as places you are drawn to, languages, type of work etc… We will go over a few specific ideas at this point to get a better idea about what type of FVP will be right for you.
Over the summer leading up to the Latitudes Year the students will begin to dive deeper into some of their own intentions and priorities in choosing an FVP.
The Latitudes Advisors then dialogue with each student during the group semester via email and Skype, in which you will receive placement ideas and options, as well as mentorship as your own preferences change and develop.
By November 15th (early decision) or December 15th (late decision), the student makes 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.
We follow up during the Pre-FVP Orientation on a one-on-one basis to ground in the final details and intentions before heading off.
- What is the structure like during the FVP?
Carpe Diem Education has been running our Latitudes Year program since 2007, and has sent hundreds of students abroad independently.
The Focused Volunteer Placement 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 their three-month FVP. Each student is also required to communicate bi-monthly with their Latitudes Advisor to give updates and check in.
- How long does my FVP have to be? Can I do multiple FVPs?
We encourage students to stay a minimum of 3 months at their FVP in order 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 – we support you in doing this and believe you have the skills to make it happen now that you’ve completed a Carpe Diem year. 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?
Typically, we try and place each student in an FVP on their own in order to continue building off of the independence they will have acquired as they move through the Latitudes Year. This does not mean that there won’t be other volunteers from all over the world in the same placement, as this is often the case, but just not friends from Carpe Diem. That being said, on some occasions we will send two people to the same FVP, but usually they would have been on different group semesters.
- 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 leaders aren’t around?
During your group semester, you learned about safe, responsible travel, and the potential problems and dangers that can come from breaking one of the Sacred Six Policies (like drinking alcohol, doing drugs, disrespecting locals, etc). This is precisely why we decided to create a separate set of Policies for the second semester (click here to review them)! Since you are traveling on your own for the second semester, we obviously don’t have the capacity to be looking over your shoulder at all times. However, we do 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. That being said, while we cannot control your actions, we hope that you will make smart choices, stay safe, travel responsibly, and respect 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, though are 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.