How will you Carpe Diem?

Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam: a region accentuated by the colorful robes of Buddhist monks, the vivid greens of rice fields and jungle forests, and the cultural diversity of hill tribe communities. Each country offers a unique cultural experience unto itself; and each faces the challenge of reconciling massive urban expansion and industrialization as these relate to indigenous land rights, free movement of nomadic peoples, and equal access to resources.

From the peaceful temples and old walled city of Chiang Mai, to the motorcycle filled streets of Ho Chi Minh City; the mountainous jungles of northern Thailand to the ocean waters off the coast of Vietnam, Carpe Diem Education brings you to Southeast Asia to explore issues of human rights, engage in authentic cultural exchange, and to discover the warmth and hospitality of these unique cultures.

  • Discover Thai culture through rural village homestays, learning basic Thai language, local customs, and the importance of family structures within Thai society.
  • Trek in the mountainous jungle of Northern Thailand, and witness firsthand the realities of hill tribe communities.
  • Engage in service learning with a local NGO that promotes community empowerment projects in support of refugees, migrant workers, and children.
  • Partner with a non-profit university in Ho Chi Minh City, working alongside local university students and engaging in community-based service projects.
  • Explore the amazing underwater world of coral reefs while earning your PADI Open Water Scuba Certification off the coast of Vietnam.
Occupying the extreme southern edge of the massive Asian continent, Southeast Asia is a land of ancient tradition, distinctive cultural expression, and tremendous complexity.

Defying European colonization, Thailand provides a unique opportunity to witness a culture uninterrupted by external authority, yet deeply impacted by globalization and tourism. We explore various aspects of this culture, enjoying the warmth and hospitality of Thai people while uncovering layers of social complexity, economic disparities, and the endangered way of life of the nomadic hill tribe communities.

We’ll explore traditional village life through homestays north of Chiang Mai, living with and engaging in the daily life of locals. We’ll witness the emphasis on close family systems inherent in Thai culture, and the role that Theravada Buddhism plays in the everyday lives of the people.

Moving further north, we engage with a local NGO committed to social justice initiatives that bring livelihood and education to refugees, migrant workers, and children. We discover the complexities of political borders, the significance of gaining legal status, and the challenges faced by people leaving their homelands in pursuit of a better life.

Continuing our emphasis on community, we trek through the forested hills of Chiang Rai, walking from village to village. Through interactions with hill tribe communities, we witness how the pressures of modernity are influencing a way of life that is centuries old. Afterward, we continue connecting with land and people through living and working on an organic farm. Through hands-on work, we learn about sustainable living, achieving balance with nature, and the importance of reducing our consumptive footprint on planet Earth.

In Phnom Penh, we explore another aspect of human rights, as we study the brutal Khmer Rouge era that resulted in the deaths of millions of Cambodian citizens. Ending only in 1979, many Cambodian citizens have memories of these tragic events. Still, we see the incredible resilience of humanity, as Cambodia’s population reclaims its heritage and identity, and youth movements spur social change and provide hope for the future.

Before moving on to Vietnam, we spend a few days looking inward, learning ancient reflection practices as a means to reflect on our own personal journey. In Vietnam, we engage with students at a non-profit university, focusing on global citizenship and service. Projects and service always vary here, as the students participate in multiple efforts throughout the southern regions of Vietnam. Finally, taking a little time to celebrate our journey, we head into the waters of Nha Trang for scuba diving, enjoying the warm ocean waters and encountering incredible marine life.

What does the future hold for southeast Asia’s hill tribe communities? Why are people leaving their homes and families only to arrive in an unknown land, and to an uncertain future? What are the circumstances of neighboring countries, and how can they be improved? How can atrocities such as the Khmer Rouge be avoided now, and in the future?

Carpe Diem Education’s Southeast Asia semester brings you face to face with the beauty and challenge of these three distinctive nations. Through interactive engagement with local cultures, the journey provides an enhanced perspective on issues of human rights and cultural preservation.


Latitudes Year

Program Details

Accepting Applications For:
Fall 2019

February 13 – May 7*
FALL 2019
September 11 – December 4*
February 12 – May 4*

A maximum of 12 Students &
2 Overseas Educators

Ages 17 and Up


Learn more about:
College Credit
Financial Aid






These kinds of trips have the potential to change the way you see the world, and at the very least you'll have more than a few great stories to tell.

- Cole, Spain & Morocco Fall '18

There is no better way to learn about the world than by doing so while learning more about yourself. Grow, learn, experience, travel.

- Emily, Spain & Morocco Fall '18

I know that the skills I learned and the experiences I had will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I feel better equipped to take on the scary and uncertain world knowing that I have a strong grasp on myself, my passions, and my values.

- Leighton, Spain & Morocco Fall '18

Taking a Gap Year was one of the best decisions I could have made. Before coming on this trip I thought I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do in the future, but this trip has introduced newfound interests that I want to pursue. I have also learned so much about myself and it has made me such a stronger person; I would highly recommend a Carpe Diem semester to anyone thinking about doing a Gap Year.

- Kaitlyn, Southeast Asia Fall '16

This was a totally life-changing experience. I got everything that I sought out of this trip and more. I had some of the coolest experiences of my life and made very close friends. I learned so much about myself and about the world and have gained the inspiration that I craved to continue my education. I have learned how I can make an impact in the world and am determined to follow through. I have realized that the most important thing in life is happiness and finding what makes me happiest. I have gained such a great appreciation for my upbringing and being an American that has filled me with the utmost of gratitude. Leaving this trip, I am not the same person that walked in and am so much happier, more confident, and passionate.

- Katherine, Southeast Asia Fall '17

This program allows you to gain independence, a better perspective on life, and first-hand knowledge of the world. We are 18 years old and expected to know what we want to do for the rest of our lives, but what's the rush? My motto is yes, a higher education is very important, but it will always be there. But, being a traveler and not a tourist in a developing country will teach you life skills that school doesn't have the ability to.

- Kyla, Southeast Asia Fall '17

I learned more in the past three months than I have in 18 years of school. It is a new type of learning that most people just aren't accustomed to. We are used to sitting in classrooms and learning by memorizing, but nothing compares to going out into the field and experiencing it for yourself. I would highly recommend a Gap Year to anyone that is unsure of what they want to do, anyone who feels like they need a break from school or anyone who just wants to explore our beautiful world and create as many meaningful connections as possible.

- Anna, South Pacific Fall '16

I've learned more about myself and my personal values in the past three months than I had in my whole life. By being on my own and having to speak my mind, I reassured myself of everything I believed in. I stood up for what I believed in because people were asking. By saying what you want out of life and what you believe in to people who just met you, you are embedding your values. Being in a new country makes you feel invincible and as if all the possibilities you've imagined for yourself are obtainable realities.

- Katherine, South Pacific Fall '16

This is the best decision I could've made. Carpe Diem became part of my life at a time when I wasn't confident in my ability to achieve because I was tied to an outdated timeline for my education. Through Carpe Diem, I was able to grasp the true meaning of lifelong learning; everything is a process, and if the only objective is the end goal, what happens to the focus on the lifetime in between? Life should be lived moment to moment, each day as an individual goal, else we'd lose the little experiences that enhance us as people.

- Miranda, South Pacific Spring '17

My Carpe Diem trip in India was perhaps the most amazing three months of my life. I experienced things that I never thought were possible and learned more about myself and the world than I ever expected. India really blows expectations out of the water and challenged so much of what I thought I was sure of. I'm heading home with more questions than answers but that's a great thing and I feel so inspired by all the different ways I can choose to direct my life. In India anything is possible and I know now in life that's the case too.

- Zoe, India Fall '17

Seize Your Journey

Students will have about four 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 also launch you into a series of activities designed to familiarize yourself with the local customs and travel nuances of Southeast Asia.
Spend ten days studying Thai with a teacher for two 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.).
It’s time to put your newfound travel skills to work to explore the wonders of Vietnam. Possibilities include trekking in the Central Highlands of Dalat, visiting the tunnels of Cu Chi, cruising Halong Bay, and staying with families in the Mekong Delta.
Near the Golden Triangle—in the province of Chiang Rai—we’ll volunteer with a well-established NGO that has been helping disempowered minority groups gain access to basic human rights.

The group will end the 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.


We’ll trek through the lush forests of Northern Thailand into remote hill tribe villages, as well as ride a bamboo raft down the Mae Taeng River.

The group will travel to a Kep, a beachtown in the south of Cambodia. Here we’ll spend a week practicing yoga and meditating.

The Student Experience

Explore the following links to learn about the Carpe Diem Southeast Asia student experience.

Carpe Diem blog: “Elephant Sanctuary & Trekking: A Photo Story”

Carpe Diem blog: “Thankful for Community in Ban Adu”

Carpe Diem blog: “Splitting Up for Our Separate Homestays” Southeast Asia student reviews Southeast Asia student reviews