Program Guide:

The Explorer

September 8 - November 17, 2023


Note: This itinerary is subject to change due to availability and local conditions at the time of departure.

Days 1-16: Guided Exploration in Europe

Day 1: Friday, September 8
Fly to London
Say your goodbyes and hit the road for your first step in your journey! Depart from your home airport to fly to London. Be sure to get to the airport at least 2 hours early if you have a domestic connection, or at least 3 hours early if your first flight is international. 

Day 2: Saturday, September 9
Arrive in London
You’ll be greeted by an EF team member at or near baggage claim in the London airport, where you’ll gather with other EF students. Be on the lookout for an EF sign when you exit the security area! There are a few different EF semester programs starting in London on this day, so you may get to know students traveling on different itineraries. Your Tour Director will be in touch with you on WhatsApp to give you last minute details. Once your group is ready, you’ll head into London for a walking tour of the city. As your hotel rooms may not be ready yet, you might not be able to go to the hotel first. So be ready to hit the ground running! Your first day together will include a group dinner.
Meals included: Dinner 

Day 3: Sunday, September 10
Explore London & Scavenger Hunt
Over the next two weeks, you’ll explore 4 different European cities with your cohort. This is your chance to get to know the other people in your group, learn how to navigate new cities, and begin to explore the historical and cultural differences make places unique. Today, you’ll get an overview of London and how to use the “Tube”, London’s subway system. 

In the afternoon, you’ll embark on a scavenger hunt to help you get to know each other and the city even better! The beautiful neighbourhood of Mayfair is transformed into an exciting arena, filled with mysterious virtual flags. Your task is to capture more flags than your opponents. But there’s more than meets the eye…Splitting into 2 competing teams, you must each try to capture as many flags as you can find in the streets & alleys of Mayfair.  But alas! nothing comes for free: to make a flag yours, you must first solve a mind-scratching puzzle or succeed in a challenge. And the better you do it, the harder you make it for your opponents to snatch that flag away from you. Good team tactics & communication are essential to prevail in this game.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes and warm clothes this day as you’ll be outside for much of the day!
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 4: Monday, September 11
The Arts in London
Explore the Shoreditch neighborhood of London, known for its street art, and do a painting workshop with your cohort.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 5: Tuesday, September 12
Free day in London
There isn’t anything on the schedule today – it’s up to you to make the most of your time in London based on your own passions and interests! London has many free museums, and it’s a great place to try lots of international cuisine if you are more of a “foodie”. You’ll have a metro pass that works throughout your stay so its easy to get around. Your Tour Director may also suggest optional excursions that they can book for interested students.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 6: Wednesday, September 13
Travel to Amsterdam
Travel by train with your cohort to Amsterdam. Depending on the timing of the train, you may have some free time in the city to explore, before the group dinner this evening.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 7: Thursday, September 14
Guided tour and Anne Frank House
Meet with local guides to get to know the city of Amsterdam through the lens of WWII history and Anne Frank. You’ll visit the Old Jewish Quarter and important historic sites around the city, before ending at the Anne Frank House. 
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 8: Friday, September 15
Free day in Amsterdam
Today is free to explore Amsterdam on your own. The city is very walkable, or you can rent a bike to fit in with the locals. 
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 9: Saturday, September 16
Travel to Paris
Take a train with your cohort to Paris. Your Tour Director will walk you through the famous Montmartre neighborhood before going out to a group dinner. You’ll also get a transit card that you can use to navigate around Paris during your time there.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 10: Sunday, September 17
Versailles & Seine River Cruise
Travel to the Palace of Versailles, where you’ll get a guided tour of the palace itself and have time to explore the gardens. In the evening, take a cruise along the scenic Seine River!
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 11: Monday, September 18
Experience Paris
Explore Paris with a local guide, including the Louvre and going to the top of the Eiffel Tower. This is your day to get to know the city, see all the highlights, and begin to think about how you would want to spend free time in this amazing city.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 12: Tuesday, September 19
Free day in Paris
Explore Paris on your own today. You’ll have a metro pass to travel throughout the city on your own, or your Tour Director may suggest additional optional excursions that they could arrange. End the day together as a group for dinner to talk about what you were able to do!
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 13: Wednesday, September 20
Travel to Barcelona
Take the train to your final city: Barcelona! You’ll get a brief introduction to the city led by your Tour Director, followed by a free evening to have dinner and explore on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 14: Thursday, September 21
Sightseeing Barcelona
Your group will meet up with a local Barcelona guide for a tour of the city, ending at Parque Guell, where you can explore this beautiful example of Antoni Gaudi’s work and have a view over the city of Barcelona. The afternoon is free for you to explore Barcelona on your own.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 15: Friday, September 22
Food in Barcelona
Explore a local market in Barcelona and try new foods before participating in a cooking class, where you’ll learn to make a traditional Spanish dish. Tonight, enjoy a Farewell Dinner as some of the group will start traveling the next day to the Language and Culture destination.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 16: Saturday, September 23
Final day in Barcelona
Enjoy a final day to explore Barcelona with the rest of your cohort.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Days 17-43: Language & Culture Module

Day 17: Sunday, September 24
Travel to Language & Culture Module
For those haven’t begun their journey the previous day, travel to your Language & Culture module destination. You’ll be met at the airport by an EF staff member, who will take you to either the EF Residence or direct you to your homestay, depending on what accommodations you will be in.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 18: Monday, September 25
Begin language classes
After two weeks of traveling as a group, this morning you’ll make your way independently to your destination: the local EF language school. Depending on where you are, this could mean taking a subway, a bus, walking, or likely a combination. Using local transportation on your own to commute is a big part of building the independence you’ll get out of this module. When you arrive at the EF school, you’ll get a tour of the campus and take a language test to determine what section you’ll be in. There will be other students from your cohort there, other EF Gap students from other programs, and EF students from around the world who have come to this city to take language classes. As you go through the next 4 weeks of language, you’ll have the chance to make new friends from all over the world!
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 19 – 22: Tuesday, September 26 – Friday, September 29
Begin language study
This first week will be the most challenging – you are getting to learn a new city, traveling around independently, and taking classes in a foreign language. And unlike what you may have done in high school, these classes will be fully in the local language with no English spoken. This is because EF is an experiential learning company, and we believe in the power of learning by immersion. Leaning in and doing your best this first week will set you up for success for the remainder of your time in this module, and will go a long way towards improving your language skills and confidence. You’ll have about 3 hours of class per day, and the rest of the day is up to you to decide how you want to experience living in this new city. Your EF school will also have an activities calendar where you can see events that you can sign up for. Some will be free, some will be fairly cheap like a local cooking class or sports game, and others will be more expensive as they can include full weekend trips. Whatever you choose to do, it’s a great way to make friends and get to know the area.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

 Days 23 – 24: Saturday, September 30 – Sunday, October 1
Free weekend
This is your first free weekend in the city, and its up to you what you do with it. Many Gap students decide to travel to nearby cities for the weekend, as you should know have good knowledge of how to use the train system, or you can book an internal flight on your own. We just ask that if you are leaving the city, you let your Gap Advisor know so that we always know where you are. If you are doing a homestay, be sure to talk to your host as well to let them know.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 25 – 29: Monday, October 2 – Friday, October 6
Second week of language
Your second week will continue to build your language skills, and is also an opportunity to switch to a different level if you feel the one you were placed into did not fit your skill level. You’ll have around 3 hours of class per day, typically on an A/B schedule. 
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 30 – 31: Saturday, October 7 – Sunday, October 8
Free weekend
Another free weekend to explore your city, or travel to another one nearby. Just be sure to tell your Advisor and your host about your plans.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 32 – 36: Monday, October 9 – Friday, October 13
Third week of language
Continue to build your language skills as you become more at home in your new city. Visit your favorite café, walk through your favorite neighborhood, and go to dinner with the new friends you’ve made.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 37 – 38: Saturday, October 14 – Sunday, October 15
Free weekend
This is your final free weekend to explore your city, or travel to another one nearby. Just be sure to tell your Advisor and your host about your plans.
Meals included: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 39 – 43: Monday, October 16 – Friday, October 20
Final week of language
Take classes for the final week of your Language & Culture module, and participate in a graduation ceremony on Friday celebrating all you’ve learned and how you’ve grown during your time here!
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner for those doing a homestay, no meals for those at the Residence. 

Days 44-71: Service & Sustainability in Thailand

Day 44: Saturday, October 21
Fly to Bangkok
Be sure to get to your departure airport 3 hours early to have plenty of time to check in and go through security, where you’ll likely see some other travelers from your cohort on your way to Thailand!
Meals included: Depending on the timing today, you may not have any meals included. 

Day 45: Sunday, October 22
Arrive in Bangkok
You’ll meet your local EF Field Director near baggage claim at the airport in Bangkok. Depending on the size of your group, you may be divided into two smaller groups for your time in Thailand. We always make sure that no single group is so large that it would overwhelm the local communities and partners you’ll be working with. For the next 4 weeks, you will be working on projects and exploring Thailand together with your cohort and EF Field Director. While you were able to be very independent in the previous module and make your own weekend travel plans, while in Thailand you’ll be staying as a group the whole time. 
Meals included: Breakfast  

Day 46: Monday, October 23
Explore Bangkok
Explore Bangkok on a guided tour, including the iconic Buddhist temples of Wat Arun and Wat Pho, and enjoy a welcome dinner with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast and Dinner 

Day 47: Tuesday, October 24
Thai Cooking Class & Night Train to Chiang Mai
Enjoy an authentic Thai cooking class with your group, and take a walking tour of Chinatown and Talad Noi. In the evening, board a night train to Chiang Mai, in the northern part of Thailand.
Meals included: Breakfast & Lunch

Day 48: Wednesday, October 25
Northern Thai Culture in Chiang Mai
Explore the beautiful Northern Thai city of Chiang Mai and experience its unique culture and cuisine. Visit the Buddhist temple of Wat Doi Suthep, enjoy a welcome dinner as a group.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Days 49 – 53: Thursday, October 26 – Monday, October 30
Service Learning with SEEC
Spend 5 days working with SEEC, the Sanpatong Experiential Education Center, located in a rural farming village outside Chiang Mai. While there, you’ll work with one of SEEC’s partner schools that is building small-scale infrastructure for its garden beds and mushroom house. You’ll do art workshops, learn about local Lanna culture, and get to try rock climbing and archery on SEEC’s campus. 
Meals included: All

Day 54: Tuesday, October 31
Fly to the southern Thai city of Krabi. Board a longboat to take a trip around the local islands.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Days 55 – 59: Wednesday, November 1 – Sunday, November 5
Service project at NatureMind-ED
Participate in a service project with NatureMind-ED, an organization focused on sustainability and environmental conservation. While there, you’ll participate in activities like a permaculture and sustainable living workshop, work on a coral reef restoration project, and work on mangrove conservation and caring for the dugong population. Explore the area through hikes and a visit to a bat cave. 
Meals included: All

Day 60: Monday, November 6
Enjoy a free day of rest in Krabi to enjoy the town and the beaches; after all the work you’ve done you’ll appreciate it!
Meals included: Breakfast 

Day 61: Tuesday, November 7
Travel to Koh Lanta
Travel by bus to Koh Lanta with your group.
Meals included: Breakfast 

Days 62 – 66: Wednesday, November 8 – Sunday, November 12
Service project with Following Giants
Participate in your final service project with Following Giants, an organization dedicated to improving the habitat and welfare of elephants. Both EF and Following Giants are partnered with the World Animal Protection, ensuring that any activity you are doing is safe and providing a healthy environment for animals. There are unfortunately many tourist organizations that exploit these animals, and you’ll learn the difference as you work side by side with Following Giants to care for the elephants.
Meals included: All

Day 67: Monday, November 13
Free Day in Koh Lanta
Enjoy a free day to relax and explore the island of Koh Lanta.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Day 68: Tuesday, November 14
Transfer to Hua Hin
Fly from Koh Lanta back through Bangkok and to the nearby beach town of Hua Hin.
Meals included: Breakfast & Dinner

Days 69 – 70: Wednesday, November 15 – Thursday, November 16
Wrap-Up in Hua Hin
Spend two days in Hua Hin to rest and reflect on your experience over the course of the semester. Do some guided workshops and reflections with your group, and enjoy some time on the beach.
Meals included: Breakfast both days, and one Dinner 

Day 71: Friday, November 17
Fly home from Thailand to the US.

Tips to make the most of your trip


Pack two weeks’ worth of what you will need. You’ll have the opportunity to do laundry and you’ll want to leave room for souvenirs. Neutral colors and accessories make mixing and matching easy.

During your service projects, you will be working hard outdoors, so bring clothes with you that you do not mind getting dirty. Out of respect for the local culture, we ask that you also please dress conservatively during your service project; this means packing items that will cover your knees and shoulders, and no tight or revealing clothing. Longer clothing also helps to prevent sun exposure and bug bites.

Whatever your personal spending habits are, it’s important to anticipate your expenses and budget accordingly so that you can travel care-free with more time to enjoy participating in your program. While many meals and activities are included during your EF Gap program, we want to help you build a realistic budget for additional expenses so that you can fully enjoy trying the local cuisine, participating in activities in your free time, and, of course, shopping for souvenirs to bring back home.

Packing list

-T-shirts (4)
-Nicer shirts/blouses (3)
-Shorts/pants/jeans/skirts/dresses (4–5)
-Socks and underwear (pack for 2 weeks)
-Warmer layers in case of chilly nights (2)
-Bathing suits (1–2)
-Comfortable walking shoes/sneakers
-Warm jacket
-Quick-dry/lightweight short sleeve
and long sleeve shirts (2-3)
-Quick-dry/lightweight work pants
and long shorts (2-3)
-Sturdy shoes or hiking boots


-Reusable water bottle
-2 hats: 1 for sun coverage and for warmth (like a beanie)
-Packing cubes (optional)
-Cross-body bag or travel/money belt
-Travel umbrella
-Laptop/tablet if enrolled in SNHU courses
-Not required, but recommended!
-Camera, memory card, charging cables
-Universal plug adapter
-Portable charger
-Travel lock for luggage and belongings
-Laundry bag
-Work gloves
-Head lamp or mini flashlight


-Toothbrush and toothpaste
-Body wash/soap
-Shampoo and conditioner
-Sunscreen (reef-safe is encouraged!)
-Bug spray and anti-itch cream
-Stomach soothing medication
-Motion sickness medication
-Wet wipes
-Stain Remover stick and detergent packs
-Contact lenses, solution, eyeglasses
-Menstrual products (you may want to bring enough to last you for the duration of your program, as options may be different from what is available in the US)


– Passport
Pro tip: bring a photo copy as well

– Copy of your flight itinerary
Found in your EF Gap Year portal

– Copy of your itinerary and accommodations
Found in your EF Gap Year portal

– COVID-19 documents:
CDC vaccination card  and Negative COVID-19 test result

– Copy of any prescriptions

– Primary Health Insurance card from the U.S.


– Backpack
This is your carry-on! It can also double as your daily bag while abroad.

– Wallet
Bring your debit or ATM card so you can withdraw cash, as well as your credit card, ID, and student ID if you have one (discounts!)

For prescriptions, make sure it is in original container and bring enough of a supply to last your program.

– COVID-19 CDC vaccination card
Or, a negative COVID test result if applicable.

– Entertainment!
Books, downloaded Netflix streams and Spotify playlists, magazines, travel journal, deck of cards, etc.

– Passport
– Airline ticket
– Reusable water bottle
– Neck pillow / eye mask / ear plugs
– Toothbrush / toothpaste
– Contact lenses / solution / eyeglasses

Budgeting guide
Guided Exploration in Europe

Breakfast is included daily as well as 1 dinner in each city. Lunch occurs
during free time so students will have the flexibility to purchase their own
lunch and explore the local cuisine. There may be some optional activities
you can participate in during your free time, so we have included this in
the suggested budget. Your Tour Director will inform you of these options
as they come up. Students have felt this suggested budget is comfortable
for lunches, dinners, any free time activities they want to participate in or
shopping they would like to do. Be mindful of how much you spend here
since it is the first international destination. It is easy to get excited by it all
and spend more than anticipated, so keep that firm budget in mind.

-Budget $200–$400 per week (2 weeks total)
-Breakfast: All included
-Lunch: None included
-Dinner: One included in each city (4 total)

Language & Culture Module

During this module, host families will provide most meals. However, many
alumni still ate out on the weekends so make sure to factor that into your
budget if you plan to do that. It is important to remember that meals abroad
are very different from the standard American meal. Specifically, portions
are smaller than what we are used to in the United States. You know your
appetite best, so if you feel you will want snacks, please be sure to budget
accordingly. You will be able to store your snacks in a designated area in
your host family’s kitchen.

Transportation to/from school is included, aside from just the first day
when the student will need to purchase a one-way metro pass to get to the
language campus where they will pick up their metro card.

It is typical to be charged for Wi-Fi and laundry use from your host, so we have considered this in the suggested budget.

If you decided to stay in the residence, no meals are included at the residence hall so please factor that into your budget.

-Budget $100–$200 per week (4 weeks total)
-Breakfast: All included by host family
-Lunch: None included on weekdays, all included on weekends
-Dinner: All included by host family

Service & Sustainability in Thailand

There are two parts to the Service & Sustainability module: projects and touring. When you’re working on projects, all meals are included. When you’re on the tour-based parts of the module, some of your meals are included.

Thai currency is the Thai baht. It is helpful to have some baht in cash throughout your travels in Thailand, as many places will not take card.

-Budget $50–$100 per week (4 week total)
-Breakfast: All included
-Lunch: Included during service project days only
-Dinner: All included


We recommend budgeting up to $50 a week for extra costs. This could mean putting money aside for things like:

– Checked bag airline fee (usually around $30-50 per bag for every flight)
– Additional items of clothing
– Emergencies
– Extra toiletries
– Souvenirs
– Laundry (This can vary in cost based on where you are. To save money, we suggest bringing a small bottle of condensed soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s, that you can use to wash your clothes in the sink.)

Optional activities or excursions
Throughout your trip, your Tour Director may find opportunities for additional excursions and activities; typically, these experiences can cost anywhere from $10-$50, and there may be one or two opportunities like this each week. 


It’s always best to set aside a small portion of your spending money ($250) while you are on-program to cover unexpected or emergency expenses. When you are headed to a remote location, consider withdrawing cash beforehand from an ATM in the local currency.

Packing tips

Country Guides

Here you’ll find information, advice, and tips from EF about the countries you may visit as part of your Explorer semester.

Places you might visit

London is the only stop in England for you during this program! During your time in London, you could use free time to venture out to another town or city near London.

The Basics

England is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, along with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. They are united under the same monarch and government, though each has their own parliaments. 

Formed by the union of small Celtic and Anglo-Saxon kingdoms during the medieval period, England is comprised of several distinct regions. Many English people identify with the region where they’re from—for example, Yorkshire, the West Country, or the Midlands. After World War II, England became highly urbanized.  

Cultural norms & what to expect

Learn a few common words and phrases. Even though they speak English, you’ll notice new vocabulary, such as:

  • Quid = a one-pound coin 
  • Knackered: exhausted 

Don’t expect to see the Royal Family at Buckingham Palace! 

Don’t mix up Tower Bridge and London Bridge. London Bridge refers to several bridges built over the Thames, while Tower Bridge is the current bridge between the City of London and Southwark in Central London.  

Don’t call the whole of the UK, “England,” especially not when meeting Scots, Welsh, or Northern Irish, as they’ll likely be offended. Study up a bit on the geography before arriving! 

London is a melting pot of people from across the globe. You’ll hear lots of languages being spoken and lots of different cuisines available.

You don't want to miss

There are tons of must-sees in London. Some highlights include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, and Big Ben. 

If you’re a history buff, check out museums, like the Imperial War Museum, the Natural History Museum, the British Museum, the London Transport Museum, and so many more. 

You can also venture outside the city to Stonehenge or Windsor Castle.  

Go to Camden Market, both to shop some for vintage goods and to take in the more counter-culture environment there. There are lots of great food stands there with cuisines from across the globe.

Places you might visit



The Basics

France is the most visited country on earth. Influenced by Celtic cultures, Gallo-Roman cultures, and the Franks (a Germanic tribe), France was home to one of the most powerful royal families of the medieval and early modern period. It was also the center of movements like the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. 

Paris, the country’s capital, is a major metropolitan area and a bustling center of fashion, cuisine, art, and architecture. Between the busy cafes, countless art museums, and quaint streets, Paris offers an experience of French culture like no other.  

While in Paris, you will rely heavily on public transit and it’s not uncommon for strikes to impact your commute. In addition to the magic of Paris, due to the size and high population, you should anticipate longer than average commutes from your accommodation to the city center.  

Nice is a relaxed beach city on the French Riviera. It’s smaller, sunnier, and more laid back than Paris. Although it’s a city, it’s relatively casual and walkable. Due to the weather and proximity to the beach, it’s a destination for many retired folks and has become quite the mixing pot. 

Food and wine are pivotal to the French people. Some classic dishes include boeuf bourguignon and coq au vin. Particularly important for those staying with a host family: meals are served later in the day, dinner often between 8:00 and 10:00pm. 

Breakfasts are often small and sweet–for example, something like bread and jam. It is uncommon to have eggs, sausages, bacon, and other typical American breakfasts in Paris. 

Cultural norms & what to expect

Learn a few common words and phrases:  

  • Bonjour = Hello, Good morning 
  • Au revoir = Goodbye 
  • Oui = Yes 
  • Merci beaucoup = Thank you very much 
  • Je m’appelle = My name is… 
  • Comment allez-vous? = How are you doing? 
  • Combien ça coûte? = How much is this? 

French people, particularly Parisians, may have a different communication style than Americans. They communicate clearly and directly, without much cushioning or sugar-coating, which can be shocking to some students. If you need something from your host family or at the school, do ask for it directly.  

Learn the metro or local transit system. It can be complicated at first, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll have access to the whole city.  

Don’t dawdle or walk slowly. If you’re lost, pop into a shop or a nearby café and reorient yourself. In Europe, try to always walk with a purpose to avoid unwanted attention or pickpockets. 

Use the formal “vous” instead of “tu” to address strangers and people in shops as a sign of respect.  

Anticipate less emphasis on personal space. French people often greet one another with a kiss on the cheek and a hug (even strangers!). Similarly, they have a much smaller expectation of (or regard for) personal space.  

Anti-immigrant and anti-Black racism in France is unfortunately not uncommon. Students of color, particularly Black students, may encounter verbal harassment or more attention from police.  

A few tips from EF Gap Year alumni:

  • “Grocery stores are different than American ones–there aren’t super stores that have everything. If you want bread, you have to go to the boulangerie (the bakery) and if you want meat you have to go to the boucherie (the butcher).” – EF Gap Year Alum
  • “If you’re staying with a host family, the first few days can be uncomfortable since you’re stepping into a new family’s home. For me, my commute was nearly an hour outside the city, but I learned to navigate it. Embrace the entirely new way of life!” – EF Gap Year Alum
You don't want to miss

In Paris, the Musee de Picasso and the area surrounding it. The museum is beautiful and in a trendy area with restaurants and thrift shops—it’s also free for students! 

In Nice, the Promenade des Anglais, a large walkway along the Nice seafront, is world-renowned stretch of coastline and arguably the most famous in France. 

There are so many incredible spots along the French Riveria, from Cannes to Marseille. Just 20 minutes outside of Nice, France is an enchanting little town called Èze that is highly recommended from past students.  

Places you might visit




The Basics

Well known for Flamenco dance, bullfights, nightlife, tapas, and beaches, Spain has been one of the cultural centers of Europe for years. In fact, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world.

Spanish people live life to the fullest, while maintaining a slow pace of life. Particularly outside the major cities, expect long, drawn out dinners full of good conversation and food. When wandering through Spain, you’ll notice friends gathering at cafes in mid-morning, families spending time outside, and a long siesta in the afternoon. 

Barcelona, which sits on the northeastern coast, is within the community of Catalonia. Catalonia is a bit different from the rest of Spain. Dictator Francisco Franco banned Catalan institutions, language, and more under his rule, which led to independence movements. Because of this history, residents of Catalonia are very proud of their strong cultural heritage.  

Spanish isn’t the only official language in Barcelona. Catalan is another language that most residents of Barcelona are fluent in. Often, signs will have the Catalan translation on the top, followed by Spanish then English underneath.  

Malaga is far smaller than Barcelona, but still welcomes millions of tourists every year. Part of the Costa del Sol, Malaga and the nearby towns have warm, sunny weather and beautiful beaches. The people of Malaga enjoy a relaxed and balanced lifestyle. 

Cultural norms & what to expect

Learn common words and phrases: 

  • Buenos dias = Good morning 
  • Buenas tardes = Good afternoon 
  • Buenas noches = Good night 
  • ¿Cuánto cuesta? = How much does this cost? 

Remember that language can vary regionally, so be sure to learn the basics based on where you’re headed. 

Embrace the siesta lifestyle! Be aware that, in most cities, it can be difficult to find open restaurants during siesta, usually between the hours of 12-3pm.  

Each region in Spain has its own specialty and we encourage you to explore each. Primarily consisting of a Mediterranean diet, Spanish foods include lots of olive oil, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and peppers. Some of the most famous dishes include tapas (like albondigas and tortilla de patatas); paella, and gazpacho. To find the best regional food, ask the locals about their favorite dish! For example, in Malaga, seafood and fried food are very popular. 

Don’t go to a restaurant if you don’t have plenty of time. Unlike the US, there is less of a focus on fast and immediate service. Eating out is an experience, so be prepared to be patient.  

Be aware of pickpockets in high traffic tourist spots, especially in Barcelona. Always keep your belongings on you person and tucked away safely in a secure bag.  

Meal times in Spain are different than what you may be used to in the US. Lunch is later in the day, usually between 12-2 PM and dinner is much later, between 9-11 PM. Due to this, everything stays open later.   

While the family gender roles are modernizing, traditionally the mother manages the household and oversees the cooking and cleaning.   

You don't want to miss

Going to see a flamenco show is a must! It’s such a fun way to experience Spanish culture and history. The Kelipe Centro de Arte Flamenco in the Center of Malaga is a great place to look for shows.  

Architect Antoni Gaudi has covered the city of Barcelona in his masterpieces. La Sagrada Familia, Park Guell, Casa Batllo, and Casa Mila are must-see projects of his!

Explore the smaller cities and towns throughout Spain if you have the time. Places like Granada and Marbella are spectacular. 

Places you might visit



The basics

The German language and traditions are what make the culture unique. The official language is “Deutsch” (German), though there are varying regional accents and dialects across the country. Germans themselves refer to their home country as Deutschland.  

Germans are known for being hardworking and punctual, having a low unemployment rate, and drinking lots of beer (the average German consumes approximately 140 liters of beer per year)! Common foods include bread, potatoes, meat, and greens.  

If you visit multiple cities in Germany, you may notice a stark difference between the East and the West. After World War II, the country was split into “East Germany” and “West Germany” until 1990, when the states were unified. Today, each region maintains remnants of that history, the West being more cosmopolitan, industrialized, and westernized, while East Germany has been influenced by socialist and conservative views of the Soviet Union.  

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is a huge city full of creative minds and innovative thinkers. Expect a dynamic city full of art, music, and culture. Transportation is easy to come by, but remember: if you buy a transportation ticket in Berlin, you’re required to validate it by getting it stamped before starting your journey.   

Munich, another major city in Germany, is another popular tourist destination. The city is a center of the banking and financial industry, but perhaps is most famous for its beer and annual Oktoberfest celebration. 

Cultural norms & what to expect

Learn common words and phrases:  

  • Guten Tag = Good morning 
  • Sprechen Sie Englisch? = Do you speak English? 
  • Wie geht es dir? = How are you? 
  • Gut, danke = Fine, thank you. 
  • Nett, Sie kennen zu lernen = Nice to meet you.  

Get straight to the point when in conversations. Germans generally do not need much small talk to warm up the conversation and appreciate directness.  

Be punctual, as it’s a value of the German people! 

Don’t be surprised if a stranger asks to share tables with you in public. They may ask, “Ist dieser Platz noch frei?” (“Is this seat free?”) 

Do not cross the road on foot while the lights are red. Jaywalking is frowned upon in Germany, and you can even be ticketed for it. Also, do not walk in the bike lanes.  

Don’t start eating until your host has said that it’s time to begin. The German term for this is, “Guten Appetit.”  

To make the most of your time, don’t forget to study up on World War II history prior to your arrival. It’s acknowledged throughout the country through statues, museums, plaques, and memorials.  

You don't want to miss

In Berlin, don’t miss a boat ride along the river Spree. It’s a fantastic way to see the city from all angles. There are a few different boat trips to choose from. Some go under all 60+ bridges in the city, some are more scenic, and some are more historical, but try to explore the city by going on at least one! 

Currywurst is one of Berlin’s iconic street foods. A sausage that you dip in curry powder or curry ketchup, it’s a hearty food for when you need a quick bite. It’s not uncommon to even find vegan sausages as well! 

Places you might visit





The basics

Italy, a peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea, is home to the epicenter of the of the Roman Empire, a major hub of Catholicism, and the birthplace of the Renaissance. The country is known for its incredible food and history around every corner.  

The Catholic Church’s statistics suggest that 96% of Italians were baptized as Catholic, so that alone speaks to the dominance of Catholic traditions. Whether or not you’re Catholic, you will be welcomed into the country with open arms, but it’s important to respect the traditions, particularly when visiting religious site, such as the many towering cathedrals or Vatican City.  

Cultural norms & what to expect

Learn common words and phrases:  

  • Ciao, ragazzi = Hey guys!  
  • Buongiorno = Good morning 
  • Buonasera = Good evening 
  • Lei parla inglese = Do you speak English? 
  • Come va = How are you? 
  • Bene, grazie = Good, thank you 

Be prepared for hugs and kisses when greeting others. It’s common to give air kisses on both cheeks when greeting others; this is called il bacetto. 

Don’t spend too much time in touristy areas! Visit once, then explore the less traveled areas.  

In big cities like Rome, popular areas can be very touristy. It’s not uncommon for Americans to get pick-pocketed, so be sure to keep your important documents or electronics close (we suggest a cross body or a fanny pack!). Make sure to keep your phone zipped away, not in the pocket of pants or jacket.

Some advice from EF alumni:

  • “Catcall culture is real–I had no idea how often women are catcalled in Italy. Wear headphones or don’t engage if you feel uncomfortable. Also, it’s also always a good idea to travel with a buddy.” – EF Gap Year Alum
  • “Don’t be surprised if you receive tough love from your host mom! Mine was very blunt with her words, which initially felt rude, but I quickly learned it’s cultural. I had to learn not to be offended.” – EF Gap Year Alum
  • “Particularly in Rome, be prepared to spend time on public transportation. The city depends largely on buses, which tend to get stuck in traffic, so my commutes were often longer than anticipated! Download a good podcast or album and enjoy the ride.” – EF Gap Year Alum
You don't want to miss

In Rome, don’t miss the Trastevere area: there are small, quaint streets, fewer tourists, and picturesque views.  

Pompeii, where Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, is an incredible trip for history buffs. The preserved site features excavated ruins of streets and homes that you can freely explore.  

Cinque Terre and other coastal villages that line the western coast are a must-see. 

Places you might visit


Chiang Mai 


Koh Lanta 

The basics

The “Land of a Thousand Smiles” is a truly special place to visit and learn from.  

Thailand lies between Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos, with the Gulf of Thailand to its south. Its varied landscapes are extremely diverse; you’ll find everything from forested mountains and dry plateaus in the north to river plains, sandy beaches, and dozens of tropical islands in the south.  

The culture of Thailand is a vibrant mix of many different Austroasiatic and Asian traditions, with more than 70 ethnic groups represented and dozens of different languages spoken in addition to the official language, Thai. Reports state that between 85 and 95 percent of the population practices Theravada Buddhism and between 5 to 10 percent practices Islam, with the remainder of the population practicing other primarily eastern religious traditions.  

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a rich political history. The current king Maha Vajiralongkorn is the son of the third longest reigning monarch in history and many Thai people hold significant reverence for the royal family and its symbols.  

Thailand is one of the great economic development success stories of the 20th century, boasting a booming free-market economy that exports manufactured goods and agricultural products including coffee and rice to the global marketplace.  Its currency is the Thai Baht. 

The rainy, or “monsoon,” season roughly runs from May until November, with the heaviest rains coming in October and November. The temperatures across the country hit their highs between March and April, with an average range of 85-95 degrees Fahrenheit in those months.  

Thai infrastructure is well developed, but public transportation is limited across the country be sure to adhere to guidance from your Tour Directors and other EF staff to get around safely. 

Cultural norms & what to expect

Common phrases: Mari Johnson Basic Phrases for Travelers  

  • Hello – Sawadee khrup/ka. 
  • Yes – Chai (khrup/ka) 
  • No – Mai (khrup/ka) 
  • Thank you – khop khun (khrup/ka) 
  • Sorry/excuse me – Khor thoad khrup/ka. 
  • Where is the restroom– Hong nam yoo tee nai khrup/ka? 

Practices for customary greetings/pleases and thank yous/respecting elders 

The wai, pronounced like the word “why,” is the traditional greeting of Thailand. The wai is the placing of two palms together, with fingertips touching the nose. Though foreigners should not go around giving the wai to everyone they see, they are often expected to return the greeting. 

Don’t point with one finger; if necessary, gesture with all four fingers extended and the thumb flat against the palm  

Appropriate dress: Generally summer clothes are okay while traveling throughout Thailand, although some regions are more conservative than others. The tropical climate can get hot: the best way to stay cool is to wear loose fitting, moisture wicking long sleeves and pants instead of exposing a lot of skin. Travelers should also bring clothes that cover their shoulders and knees for religious sites such as Buddhist temples or monuments. Temple officials will ask you to rent coverings if you are showing your shoulders or legs upon arrival.  

Tipping is not customary in Thailand, but small gratuities for great service can be very much appreciated.  

Be respectful of all statues, religious monuments, and temples. In Thailand, it is illegal to disrespect the royal family or Buddhist icons in any way; infractions can carry severe penalties.  

Because of its position as a hugely popular tourist destination, foreigners are welcomed all over the country; however, in places where tourists are less common, there can be varied levels of comfort and understanding of foreign cultures. In these areas, it is especially important to follow any directions and social cues from your local guides and partners. 

Standards related to beauty in Thailand tend toward fair skin. It is common to see ads featuring fair-skinned models marketing products like sunscreen and moisturizer that include whitening agents. Many Black travelers have noted limited availability of black hair and skincare products, which is perhaps unsurprising but something to consider for longer stays in the country.  

Thailand is one of Asia’s most LGBTQ+-friendly nations. It’s close to approving same-sex civil partnerships, has a thriving transgender community, boasts hospital services tailored to LGBTQ+ patients, and big Thai companies even offer medical leave for gender reassignment surgery; however, Thailand still has a complicated relationship with those communities which is important to understand before you visit. 

Being vegetarian or vegan in Thailand is fairly easy. Fruit stands are at every corner, fresh markets are abundant, and the demand for organic products is growing. It is always possible to get vegan options in Thai restaurants since their traditional cuisine is mostly composed of vegetables. One note of caution is that they tend to use chicken broth and fish sauce in most dishes, so be sure to speak up if you want to avoid these. 

You don't want to miss

One of the best ways to experience Thai cuisine is to take a cooking class or join a street food tour. Be sure to try Thai staples like pad thai, green or panang curries, Tom Yum (sour soup), Som Tam (papaya salad), and Pad Kra Pao Moo (stir fried basil and pork).   

You won’t want to miss Thailand’s renowned temples, the most famous of which is Wat Arun, a Buddhist temple in the Bangkok Yai district of Bangkok on the Thonburi west bank of the Chao Phraya River.  

The beautiful beaches of Krabi are some of the most pristine in the world! Just below the surface you’ll find hundreds of species of wildlife including seahorses, humpback dolphins, and sea turtles.  

Making the most of your program

To make the most of your time during your program, this section gives some helpful context and reflection questions. These questions are great ones to think about on your own, to journal about, or to discuss with a friend or in a small group. Make the most of your time during your program by spending a little bit of time each day—even as little as 5 or 10 minutes—doing conscious reflection!

Personal Development & Growth Mindset

As you go through this program, you’ll learn a lot about yourself and what you are capable of. You will face challenges you’ve never faced before, and you’ll learn how to overcome these challenges in your own unique ways. Here are some questions to consider before, during, and after you go through the program:

  • What goals do I have for my own personal development? What tangible steps do I want to take to achieve them?
  • Who is my support group — on program or at home — who I know will always cheer me on to succeed?
  • What things am I doing get outside my comfort zone? And how is my comfort zone expanding as I try new things?
  • What parts of the program are particularly challenging for me? Why are they challenging for me?
  • What is one thing I’ve done so far on this program that I never imagined I could do?
  • How do I communicate with others around me about my needs and boundaries?
  • What strategies do I use to cope with stress?
Global Awareness

As you travel throughout the world, you are going to see other cultures, societies, environments, histories, economies, geographies, languages, and peoples that you’ve never seen before. These experiences can propel you to better understand who you are in the world and what you want your life to look like — whether that be figuring out your certain career path, understanding what type of urban environment you want to live in, or gaining a better connection to a certain period in history. These questions can help you think through some of the places you will visit, and they are great ones to discuss with a friend or a small group.

  • What does it feel like to see some of Europe’s biggest cities during your Guided Exploration? What makes each of these cities so unique?
  • What was the experience of living in a new culture with a new language like? What challenged you?
  • What have you learned about Thai culture during your Service & Sustainability module? What surprised you?
  • As your program wraps up, how do you see the changes you have gone through during your semester?
Social Identity Resources

Travel provides incredible opportunities to learn about yourself, the world, and yourself in the world. But travel is also a deeply emotional experience that can bring different challenges to every individual based on the identities they hold and experiences they’ve had.

This resource is intended to help you think about how your intersecting identities can, and will, shape your experience as an EF student. Take some time to review our Social Identity Resources to hear different perspectives, learn about identity-specific resources, and prepare with helpful tips before you go abroad.

Questions about your
upcoming program?

Your dedicated Gap Year Advisor is here to help every step of the way.