I am absolutely LOVING this experience. It is EXACTLY what I wanted and more.

- Lizzie, Southeast Asia


The Carpe Diem Southeast Asia Semester lets you experience first-hand the warm hospitality that this intriguing part of the world offers intrepid travelers.

Our real-life curriculum combines cross-cultural exploration with outdoor adventure, hands-on community service, and downtime for contemplation—a routine totally unlike your own. Trek through villages and learn from the way of life of the hill tribe people. Study the principles of permaculture and sustainable living. Explore the fascinating temples of Angkor Wat. Immerse yourself in these ancient cultures and traditions.

While taking Thai language lessons, form meaningful relationships with welcoming homestay family hosts. You’ll learn about Southeast Asian culture through the lens of Theravada Buddhism, attending a mindfulness retreat in this ancient tradition.

Bringing your voyage full-circle, supplement your studies in sustainability and environmental conservation by giving back to many of the communities you visit—through service-learning projects and experiential learning, our philosophy of direct experience and reciprocity. These range from building a community center in a minority hill-tribe village to teaching English at an orphanage. Having practiced independent-travel skills that will serve you well in the future, conclude your three-month journey in Vietnam, and earn your PADI Scuba diving certification.

By discovering deeper truths about yourself and the national context in which you live, you’ll form a new, life-enriching perspective of your world and the planet. Return home feeling re-charged for the next leg of life’s amazing journey.

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Students will have about 4 days of orientation in which we’ll focus on group dynamics, the finer details of your program, and of course learning about relevant health and safety issues specific to our program. We’ll visit local sites, get a sense of Thai culture, and inevitably embark on a scavenger hunt to familiarize ourselves with local transportation. We’ll also launch you into a series of activities designed to familiarize yourself with the local customs and travel nuances of Southeast Asia.
Spend two weeks studying Thai with a teacher for 2 hours each morning while living with your own homestay family. Afternoons are free to spend with your new families, stumble and laugh your way through Thai, and to participate in optional cultural activities (traditional cooking, outdoor conservation work, etc.). On the weekends we’ll have time to organize and design trips outside of the village. Later, we’ll spend additional time studying Thai but this time in the city of Chiang Mai where we can learn Thai massage, study Thai music, or even take a class or two of Muay Thai boxing.
It’s time to put your newfound travel skills to work to explore the wonders of Vietnam. Beginning in Ho Chi Minh City, we’ll have the chance to plan the group’s adventures while immersing ourselves in an entirely distinctive culture from those we’ve previously experienced. Possibilities include trekking in the Central Highlands of Dalat, visiting the tunnels of Cu Chi, and staying with families in the Mekong Delta. Meanwhile, we’ll see the history and after-effects of a devastating war from an entirely different perspective from that which we’ve previously known.
In Battambang, a town about 6 hours by boat outside of Siem Reap, we’ll live in a community with a focus on integration and self-sustenance for the poorest families in Battambang and trafficked girls. During the days we’ll split into two groups and while one group is teaching at the on-site school our other group will be working on a construction project to benefit the community. The living here will be hard as the poverty is quite abundant, and the group will live collectively while sharing in the meals of the community.Volunteering with the Mirror Art Group: Near the Golden Triangle, in the province of Chiang Rai, we’ll trek through the lush forests into remote hill tribe villages, where we’ll volunteer with a well-established NGO that has been helping disempowered minority groups gain access to basic human rights.
Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

Siem Reap is a city of one of the oldest Hindu Temples in Southeast Asia: Angkor Wat. We’ll spend two days taking in Angkor Wat, studying their architecture, history, and generally getting a feel for how Hinduism and Angkor Wat played in the formation of modern Southeast Asian culture.


We’ll end our trip on the island of Phu Quoc, where we will achieve a PADI Basic Open Water SCUBA certification. Higher levels of certification are available for those with previous dive experience. When not diving, you’ll have time for relaxing on the beautiful beach as well as other activities

We’ll travel to a remote region near the Burmese border, where we’ll join a community of monastics. Here we’ll learn firsthand of the traditions of Theravada Buddhism, including sitting and walking meditation. We’ll learn about the history of the region, encompassing issues of human rights and political conflict. We’ll also have the chance volunteer with the Shan monks and novices in the peaceful environment of a Dharma Center.


Accepting Applications For:
Spring 2018


SPRING 2017 February 15 – May 10*
FALL 2017 September 13 – December 6*
SPRING 2018 February 14 – May 9*
*Dates may fluctuate depending on flight times and availability.

Not sure what to do after your semester? Check out our Latitudes program to do a focused volunteer placement for your second semester! CLICK HERE


A maximum of 12 Students & 2 Overseas Educators


Ages 17 and Up


Earn up to 18 credits through our partnership with Portland State University.
Learn more on our College Credit page.

Carpe Diem students can access Financial Aid.
Learn more on our Financial Aid page.





Program tuition includes all food, accommodations, scheduled program activities, and international travel insurance for the duration of the program. International airfare and spending money are extra. International airfare estimated at $1300 – $1500; internal Thai flight estimated at $300.