Frequently Asked Questions
How will students contact friends and family during the semester?
The YMCA offices, all of the hotels, and most of the homestays have wifi. There also are internet cafes available. The app ‘WhatsApp’ is efficient for texting and calling internationally for free. While snail mail isn’t the most reliable, participants can send letter home through the YMCA offices.
What if I don’t speak Spanish?
Spanish is not required for this program. There is the potential for optional Spanish lessons while in Colombia.
What about passports, visas and vaccinations?
Students should have a passport with validity through at least June 2019 and should have at least two blank pages. All students should also register online for the U.S. governments Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). Visas and vaccinations are the responsibility of the student.
Are there risks to visiting Colombia?
Yes, certain risks do exist. For a Gap Year to be optimally beneficial to both the participants and the communities involved, traveling outside of traditional comfort zones is required. That being said, since the end of its civil war, Colombian political and civil unrest have decreased and the country is increasingly known as a destination for its beautiful landscapes and welcoming communities. The peace process has resulted in many positive outcomes for Colombia. However, risks do still exist, the most common being petty crime and pickpocketing. As of June 16, 2017, Colombia is under a travel warning from the U.S. government. Frost Valley YMCA, as well as YMCA Colombia, hold safety in the highest regard and will partner with participants to take proactive steps to reduce risks and hazards. All participants will receive a comprehensive training on guidelines and rules for minimizing risk. The group will stay in designated areas in each city they visit and when visiting vulnerable populations at YMCA sites, they will always be accompanied by YMCA staff. Our orientation will cover safety and precautions in detail, but here are some general guidelines.
Tips to prevent risk while in Colombia:
- Never travel alone or leave your group
- Don’t flash jewelry, money or valuables
- Use legal and trusted taxis and buses when traveling
- Safeguard valuables
- Learn and be aware of Colombia’s culture and what is acceptable
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at 845-985-2291 ext. 265.
I’m vegetarian/vegan/gluten free/etc. Will my food needs be met during this program?
Yes. Please alert us ahead of time of any allergies/food specifications and we will work with you to ensure that they are met during the program.
How are prescription medications handled?
Frost Valley requires that students handle their own prescription medications, and arrives at the program with enough medication to last the entirety of the program. Before traveling to Colombia, check with Colombian government policies to ensure that your medication is legal in Colombia. Always carry your prescription medication in its original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
What should I pack?
- Warm jacket or coat
- Scarf and hat
- Clothes for all types of weather (Bogota, pack for cold weather; Ibague and Santander, pack for hot weather)
- shirts (at least 1 YMCA top)
- sweaters or jackets
- underwear and socks
- extra set of clothes to get dirty
- pair of flip flops, crocs, or sandals
- bathing suits (bodysuit for women and shorts for men)
- Cell phone and charger
- Personal hygiene items
- Rain jacket
- Personal medicines (if needed)
- Spanish-English dictionary (Optional)
- Souvenirs from your region or country (Optional)
- Water bottle
- Small backpack
- Sunscreen and bug repellent
- 1 cap or hat
- Costume for party
- Bags for dirty and wet clothes
- Flashlight with batteries
- Musical instrument (Optional)
What if I can’t afford the program?
While Frost Valley’s gap year program is on the less expensive end of the spectrum (really!) it still can be a financial burden. Financial aid is available, please contact Zach Eigenbrodt at (845) 985-2291 ext. 265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on financial assistance.
In addition, scholarships are excellent resources for funding a gap program. Check out the American Gap Associations website for links to scholarships.
What about college?
Feeling secure in what awaits you when your gap year is over is important! If you’re a high school senior, you can still apply to college! Upon acceptance, contact your university’s admissions office and request a deferral for a semester. Many universities happily comply and may request a statement or short paper about your experiences during your gap time. Colleges and universities are more and more eager to accept students who have experienced more of the world and they welcome students who will bring their broadened sense of the world into the lecture hall. Contact the school that you plan to attend for their policy on gap semesters.
Here are some stats from the American Gap Association about the benefits of taking a Gap Year:
- 90% of gap year students return to college the following year
- On average, students are taking 6 years to complete their undergraduate degree. Gap year students have a median graduation time of 3.75 years.
- 62% of gap year students surveyed had a high school GPA of 3.7 or higher
- Gap year students overwhelmingly report job satisfaction post-college.
How do I apply for the Gap Year Program?
Applying for the Gap Year Program is easy and free! When you fill out our online application, you’ll be asked several basic questions as well as some essay questions to make sure the gap year program is right for you. The questions are about the skills and experiences you hope to gain from the program, what you hope to contribute to the program, prior experiences working with children, and three examples from your past that highlight independence and resilience. We’re looking for open-minded, enthusiastic, and energetic men and women between the ages of 18 and 22, preferably with an interest to work with children.
Or contact Zach for more information.
Phone: 845-985-2291 ext. 265