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Grow in your understanding of God, yourself, and the world on a 10-Month IMMERSION Gap Year to Cuba, Belize, South Africa, Namibia and more!
Begin your Christian Gap Year program with a 1-month trip to to Cuba, where you will discover entire communities of people who are living out their faith through tight-knit relationships, authentic worship and meeting the needs of their neighbors.
On the second leg, spend your Fall (late August - November) on a 3-month IMMERSION program in the Central American country of Belize, where you will live daily life with host families—farming, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, going to church—and will walk away with an understanding of what life and faith look like in a different part of the world. Commit to living the local way and being open to opportunities that arise (and brush up on your Spanish!), and this trip will forever change the way you view life and faith.
In the second half of your year, spend six months in southern Africa (January-June), serving alongside a team of young adults in South Africa, Lesotho, and Namibia. Work alongside local ministries and become a part of your host families, you'll be challenged to see the world through a new set of lenses. Experience a variety of ministry opportunities like teaching at schools in townships and squatter camps, working on the farm, connecting with host families across racial, social and language barriers, or sharing your faith with children and youth.
If you're not sure where life is taking you, this Gap Year program is an incredible opportunity to grow personally and find clarity and purpose, as you serve in simple yet profound ways and build real, authentic relationships with people around the world.
What are the benefits of joining an IMMERSION Gap Year?
Gap Years can be life-changing! IMMERSION Gap Year participants gain valuable life experience, serving in communities around the world, traveling to new places, and immersing in local culture. Through these activities, team members start to see the world, their life, and faith in Jesus in a whole new way. Participants also grow personally—in maturity, relational and leadership skills, and the knowledge of who God created them to be in the world. It is an incredible chance to find clarity and purpose as they live and serve alongside a team of young adults from across the U.S. and build real, authentic relationships with people around the world.
How do I join an IMMERSION Gap Year program?
Step 2: The IMMERSION staff will connect with you to set up an initial informational call to answer any questions you may have about the program. Once your application is complete, we set a video interview to get to know you and determine if the program is a good fit.
Step 3: You are invited to join the program! You accept your spot on the team by paying an initial deposit of $250 (or $500 for 9 and 10-month Gap Year programs). After joining the program, your personal IMMERSION contact will connect with you about fundraising, pre-trip details, and more.
What are the requirements for joining this program?
IMMERSION Gap Year participants must be between the ages of 18-23 at the start of the program. Outside of the age requirement, IMMERSION is a program for young adults with a desire to grow in their faith in God and their relationship with Jesus. We look for people who can embrace a rugged lifestyle, respect cultural differences, build healthy relationships with teammates and locals, thrive away from home, and are in good physical, mental, and emotional health. We ask all team members to commit to approaching their program with the right posture and attitude, as outlined in our IMMERSION Standards of Conduct.
What does it cost to go on this IMMERSION Gap Year?
The 2024-2025 10-Month Latin America-to-Africa program costs $18,000. Most participants pay for their experiences with a combination of fundraising, personal funds, and financial help from parents or family.
What is included in the cost of the trip? Are there extra costs?
IMMERSION Gap Year is meant to be as all-inclusive as possible, so you don&rsquot have to worry about any hidden fees or big, unexpected costs! Most essentials (airfare, food, housing, staffing, training) are covered—but team members do need to plan for a little extra for immunizations, travel to training and home from debrief, personal meals while traveling, or a new passport if you need one. We also recommend a small stash of spending money in case you need shampoo, snacks, or souvenirs along the way. But this amount is minimal and totally up to you. Experience Mission also requires all team members to travel with a Personal Emergency Fund—a debit or credit card with $1,500 available credit and $300 of reserve cash (on your person) in case you were to have a medical issue or reason to travel home unexpectedly. This amount is purely a precaution. Most team members do not spend any of their emergency funds while on the program.
What is Experience Mission's refund policy?
Once team members commit to a trip, we're counting on them. Due to the long-term logistics that are set in motion when team members join a team, we are not able to offer refunds for deposits or trip payments, but we do our best to be flexible and work with team members to transfer their funds to a different trip whenever possible. Check out the IMMERSION Gap Year Payment & Refund Policy.
What happens if an IMMERSION Gap Year program is canceled?
If a trip is canceled by Experience Mission because of the minimum team size not being met, safety concerns in the community, natural disaster, or another issue, we will provide the team member with other options during the same timeframe and transfer any available funds to the new trip. If a team member cannot find a location that interests them during the same timeframe, they will be offered a credit to be used toward a future IMMERSION trip within 24 months of the original start date.
Does EM provide any help with fundraising?
Yes! If the idea of fundraising that amount overwhelms you, we are here to help! Each team member is connected with an IMMERSION staff member who will help you develop a fundraising plan based on the extensive history of successful fundraising ideas from past participants. We've seen over and over again how God can provide or far exceed the amount people need to go.
EM provides helpful tools to support you in the process, including:
Can a team member get college credit for participating in the program?
We are happy to provide a letter to your academic advisor or sign off on paperwork for your professor. Every college and university has different requirements for obtaining course credit, so it is up to you to do the research and make sure the IMMERSION program fits your school's expectations. But it is definitely possible! We've seen team members get approved for foreign language, internships, study abroad, independent studies, or elective credits.
What do team members do during an IMMERSION Gap Year?
Each IMMERSION program is different in the exact daily rhythms, but every day brings something new and gives participants the chance to be a picture of the love of Christ through everyday life moments. Most ministries we partner with during IMMERSION are relationally focused, but there may also be opportunities for hands-on work projects such as painting schools or helping with agricultural projects. Our hope is that each participant finds opportunities to serve whether they are leading VBS with their teammates, tutoring at a local school, attending church, participating in a Bible study, working on a host family's farm, doing laundry in a river, going to the market, playing soccer with locals, carrying water from a spring, or preparing meals with their host parents. Check out each specific Gap Year program page to learn more!
What does a Gap Year team look like?
Experience Mission's IMMERSION Gap Year programs are either one 6-month IMMERSION “Term” or a combination of 2-3 terms which will take team members to a specific country or region for 1, 3 or 6 months. Each 1-6 month "Term" of the Gap Year will consist of Gap Year participants as well as team members who have signed up for just that specific term, and each of these teams is made up of 5-15 young adults (18-23) from across the U.S. and beyond. IMMERSION teams become like a second family for participants, creating life-long friendships as you serve and grow (and learn to deal with conflict, forgiveness, and grace) together.
How does EM equip Gap Year participants to succeed during the program?
Each IMMERSION term begins with 5 days of training, team building, and personal reflection in the US. EM's IMMERSION staff shares stories from the field, challenges team members to examine their faith in new ways, and helps teams start to learn how to build healthy cross-cultural relationships.
After traveling to their first community, teams engage in a short on-field orientation with EM's local staff or partners to learn more about local culture, safety, and the schedule for the weeks ahead. Local leaders are available throughout the trip to help navigate the complexities of a new community and understand the context of their experiences.
EM also equips each team member with a devotional journal that is part-personal reflection, part-group learning activities, to help teams learn and grow together throughout the duration of the program. All 3 and 6-Month IMMERSION Gap Year “terms” end with a 2-day debrief back in the U.S. which provides a valuable reflection and re-entry time as participants begin to ask “What's next?” after IMMERSION.
How does this program help participants grow spiritually?
We hope participants look back on their IMMERSION experience as a time of meaningful exploration and growth. In fact, we hope each person who goes is never the same after. We hope each team member's faith becomes more personal, deep, and bold as they seek to live their mission on the trip and return home. From personal experience, we know there is something incredibly powerful about leaving behind the familiar and serving others with your everyday lives.
What is the impact of IMMERSION? How do participants know they are part of something meaningful?
EM typically works alongside churches, missionaries, schools, or non-profits in each local community with the goal of cheering them on in their long-term work. Throughout the program, team members will have the opportunity to connect with a variety of local partners who already have a vision to reach out and support their community. Our hope is that IMMERSION program participants provide much-needed encouragement and support to our local partners in the work they are already doing. In this way, we honor and dignify our host communities and avoid bringing our own agenda or unintentionally hurting local communities. Learn more about EM's Approach to Healthy Service.
Do team members share the Gospel?
EM strives to share the message of Jesus in a way that is highly relational and respects each person's story and journey. Delivering this message of hope drives everything we do, but we think it is especially important to partner with local people who can continue the process of growth and encouragement to those considering Jesus anew or for the first time. Often, we have found the best moments to share faith don't happen in a scheduled program but in the midst of a real, person-to-person conversation. These are the kinds of meaningful moments of mutual respect and trust we try to facilitate on the trip. If you would like to know more, check out How We Engage the Gospel.
How often will IMMERSION team members be able to communicate with home?
We encourage team members to pack their phone or other small, Wifi-enabled device. As a general rule, we typically tell team members to expect to have access to the internet every other week. However, it could be more or less often depending on the exact location. Team members should ask about this during the application and interview process in order to set good expectations for their specific trip.
What if team members have a personal emergency and need to talk with someone at home?
EM staff, team leaders, and local partners are there to support team members! If a participant has a personal emergency, they will be allowed to use the official EM phone with an international calling or data plan. In most locations, communication is fast and easy, but in some locations, it can be slow or very expensive to make a call back to the U.S. During your interview, ask our staff more about communication limitations or how we get in touch when there is an emergency.
What happens if there is an emergency at home and a team member's family can't communicate with a team member directly?
Many communities have Wifi or available cell service, depending on the device and plan a team member has purchased. If this is not an available communication channel, the Experience Mission office has a 24-hour line that is available to parents if they have an emergency at home and are unable to communicate with team members directly. In this case, our staff would help relay a message and support the team member in whatever way possible. 30 days before your trip, we will send assigned emergency contacts more information about how and when to use this line! We hope it gives them some peace of mind to know our staff is here to help if an emergency arises.
Will parents or family receive updates from EM throughout the trip?
In regards to travel, we encourage family members to go by the mantra that "no news is good news," and it is the responsibility of the team member to provide updates to family as they are able. Please know that in some locations their updates to you may not be immediate or frequent. The EM staff will be in communication with the team and inform you if there is an emergency, but otherwise, you will not receive official updates about delays, flight changes, arrival times, etc.
Can anyone visit team members while they serving on an IMMERSION Gap Year?
Over the years, we've seen how visits from family members in the middle of IMMERSION can create distractions (or extra homesickness) for both team members and teammates. Additionally, it can be a logistical challenge for families to arrange transportation or housing in remote communities, creating a burden for our partners or host families. For this reason, we ask parents and other family members to refrain from planning to visit team members during the trip unless Experience Mission staff has given special permission ahead of time.
Does EM provide a detailed packing list?
Definitely! We help team members fit their entire lives inside a backpack. It can be one of the most freeing, humbling experiences to realize you can live with so little. Applicants can access a country-specific packing list after starting the application process.
Do I need a passport or visa?
International travel 101: You will definitely need a passport! If a visa is needed for your trip, the EM staff will guide you through the process of applying for one after you join the team. Regarding visa costs, you can count on us to cover any visa fees as part of the trip! But if you don't have a passport yet, you will want to start applying for one now. The good news is, it will not expire for 10 years so you can plan lots of trips after IMMERSION!
When do team members get a detailed trip itinerary?
We provide team members with an itinerary, including all flight information, approximately one month before the start of each trip. Team members also receive a lot of details during pre-trip Zoom calls or by interacting with teammates and our staff through online groups formed 3-4 months before the beginning of each trip.
How long has EM been working in IMMERSION communities? Does EM connect participants with trusted partners?
Depending on the specific location, EM has been working in a community anywhere from 1 to 15 years. We partner with local people who are often pastors, non-profit managers, missionaries, school teachers, or indigenous leaders. These local leaders work closely with our full-time staff and the IMMERSION team leader to identify host families, select ministry sites, place volunteers in classrooms, navigate cross-cultural barriers, and determine safety guidelines. We couldn't and wouldn't do ministry without our local partners!
How does EM choose host families?
Our local partners help us identify trusted host families in each community. Host families are eager to have team members in their homes, but they are usually just as nervous as you are! Remember that this is a cross-cultural experience for them, too. Typically, we divide team members into pairs for homestays and families are within a short distance of one another, giving you the chance to see teammates around the community and serve together in a variety of ways.
What happens if there is an emergency—is there a hospital or clinic nearby?
If there is an emergency, EM staff members will support team members by helping them communicate with home and getting them to a safe location. Often, local clinics are a short distance from where team members are staying, however, large hospitals can often be several hours away by vehicle. Experience Mission requires all team members to travel with a Personal Emergency Fund—a debit or credit card with $1,000-$1,500 available and $300 of reserve cash in case they were to have a medical issue or reason to travel home unexpectedly. This amount may seem high, but it's purely a precaution. Most team members never touch their emergency fund while on the trip.
What precautions does EM take for international travelers?
EM registers all teams with STEP (Safe Traveler Enrollment Program) through the U.S. State Department. This allows our staff team to receive official travel alerts if there is an issue in the region including political protests, civil unrest, increased crime, weather alerts, natural disasters, terrorism, or specific threats for foreign travelers. You can read more about the precautions we take here: Traveling and Serving Internationally
Should I purchase Travelers Insurance?
Experience Mission requires all team members to travel with “Personal Emergency Fund”—a debit or credit card with $1,500 available and $300 of reserve cash in case you were to have a medical issue or reason to travel home unexpectedly. This amount may seem high, but it is purely a precaution. Most team members never spend a penny of their emergency fund while on the trip. Although travel insurance is not currently required, we highly recommend it because it may help you recoup some costs if you have an issue. We make a recommendation for one provider in your Mission Center who offers rates as low as 40 cents per day, so the cost is minimal.
What is the core mission of Experience Mission?
In an ever-changing world, EM exists to help people love God and love their neighbors. We believe God is at work in all people and cultures. We desire to be creative connectors across diverse and historical divides, participating in God's work of reconciliation, justice, affirmation, and hope.
What are EM trips all about?
We firmly believe the people we serve on mission trips are not our “mission project.” They are valuable creations of God with so much to offer. While it may be obvious that change needs to happen in certain communities, we believe change needs to happen in each of us as well. EM's approach to missions seeks to enter into these service and learning experiences in a healthy way. We believe there is a better way than forcing change or imposing our thinking, values, and beliefs on others.
What denomination is EM a part of?
Experience Mission is an inter-denominational Christian organization and is not directly affiliated with any specific denomination. Participants from all denominations and backgrounds are welcome on our service-learning mission trips. Our statement of faith, how we share the gospel, and how we engage people of different faiths can be found HERE.
No commitment necessary! We'll answer your questions and help you determine if IMMERSION is right for you.
Complete a Video Interview
Application complete, the next step is a Zoom video interview so we can learn more about you. If IMMERSION seems like a good fit, we will offer you a spot on the team!
Serve & learn on IMMERSION!
Your team of 6-12 young adults will live life alongside people in different circumstances as you learn more about who God is, his heart for people across the globe, and your place in this world.
Take our 10-question quiz to find out if you’re ready for an experience like IMMERSION!
Take our 10-question quiz to find out if you’re ready for an experience like IMMERSION!
You must have a group size of at least 6 members to join this trip. Please view the Small Team trips or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.
For most trips, you must have a group size of at least 6 members. Please view the Small Teams tab on each Community page or call our Servicing Department for more options at 888-475-6414.