Frequently Asked Questions
Is Colombia dangerous?
While Colombia’s reputation in the past was one of danger, in recent years since the end of its civil war, the country has turned around to become a tourist hotspot known for beautiful landscapes and incredible culture. The peace process has resulted in many positive outcomes for Colombia. Threats still exist, the most common being petty crime and pickpocketing. Just like in any large U.S. city, common sense and being aware of your surroundings can mitigate many risks. YMCA Frost Valley, as well as the YMCA’s of Colombia, hold safety in the highest regard and will take proactive steps to reduce risks and hazards. The group will stay in safe 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 for safety while in Colombia:
- Don’t travel alone
- 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 (ex: use the formal “usted” when talking to police officers, etc.)
Safeguarding valuables, traveling in groups, being aware of your surroundings and avoiding sketchy parts of the city can nearly assure a safe and fun trip to Colombia. Check out this article written by a gap year student about Colombia in 2016
As of June 16, 2017, Colombia is under a travel warning from the U.S. government.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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)
- 8 shirts (at least 1 YMCA top)
- 4 shorts
- 4 pants/leggings
- 2 sweaters or jackets
- underwear and socks
- 1 extra set of clothes to get dirty
- 1-2 sneakers
- 1 pair of flip flops, crocs, or sandals
- 1-2 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?
Colleges look highly upon students who pursue a gap year. You can apply to college during your senior year of high school, and upon acceptance, contact your university’s acceptance office and request a deferral for a semester. Most universities comply and may request a statement or short paper about your experiences during your gap time. Contact the school that you plan to attend for their policy on gap semesters. Harvard College encourages accepted students to take a gap year. Feel free to read this article by the Dean of Admissions at Harvard about the benefits of 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.
(According to the American Gap Association)
What if I have more questions?
We would love to talk with you about our program! Please contact Zach Eigenbrodt at (845) 985-2291 ext. 265 or email email@example.com.
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 experience working with children.