LEAPYEAR Gap Year Experience

Freshman & Sophomore Year Study Abroad Alternative

Bringing together international experiential learning with a program of self-inquiry, LEAPYEAR creates a "bridge year" to support students’ conscious transition from high school to college and development from adolescence into adulthood.
Discover more at leapnow.org

Naropa offers an alternative first year of college called “LEAPYEAR” that brings together the best of international experiential learning with a program of contemplative study to prepare students to make the best use of their college careers.  
LEAPYEAR is designed to bring together the best of a gap year with contemplative education, forming a "bridge year" meeting the developmental needs of young adults who are trying to make a conscious transition from family to independence, from high school to college and from adolescence into adulthood.

leapyear student

Student Highlight

"From LEAPYEAR I have gained a powerful foundation for a life of growth, meaning, clarity, and integrity.  With the tools LEAPYEAR has given me, I discover more each day what it means to live a life of learning, loving and ever-returning to myself and my path."

— Kristen
LEAPYEAR Participant

 LEAPYEAR Includes

  • ten weeks of group travel in India or Latin America
  • a three-month individual internship of your own choosing
  • two months of intensive, inner-directed retreats (in California or Colorado) focused on navigating successfully into college and adulthood
  • formal and informal Rites of Passage
  • full-time enrollment at Naropa University, with standard access to federal financial aid & additional scholarships
Group TRAVEL Abroad

During the first semester of a LEAPYEAR, students travel in groups of 8–12 with two experienced adult leaders. Students have a choice of traveling to India or Latin America.

The emphasis is on breadth of experience—immersion in the language, sampling of diverse short-term internships, social service work, trekking, work with endangered animals or on behalf of the environment, and completion of  short-term yoga or meditation retreats. During these group travel months, students learn the skills they will need to live, travel and work independently during the individual internship in the second half of the year.

Individual Internship

Take advantage of an unparalleled database of over 6,600 internships, volunteer options, work exchanges, and apprenticeships which are available only to Naropa LEAPYEAR students. We have amassed this database through travel, networking and research since 1977, and it is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in the world.

The breadth of these options allows us to ask questions that are asked far too rarely in educational environments: "What would you most like to do?  What learning environment would bring you most alive? What’s the most engaging thing you can conceive of doing for three months?"

Individual Internships allow you to explore an interest in-depth and "try on" a field you are considering majoring in college or doing for a living, live and volunteer just about anywhere in the world, and immerse yourself in a culture and gain language fluency.

Please note that the internships available to LEAPYEAR students number in the thousands and range across 126 countries, including the United States. Here are some of the thousands that are offered:

  • Work with children just about anywhere in the world—in schools, orphanages, on the streets, in refugee camps and other settings
  • Medical work outside of the United States—in Ecuador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Africa, and many other locations
  • Alternative healing internships: herbalism, Ayurveda, bodywork, midwifery, etc.
  • Building construction in the U.S and many other countries—conventional, sustainable and alternative methods.  Build treehouses in Japan
  • Work on organic farms and permaculture projects throughout the world—Australia, NZ, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the U.S, Europe, and the Caribbean
  • Work with animals in the U.S., Australia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Kenya, South Africa, India, Argentina, Nepal, and other countries. Work with elephants, primates, pumas, birds, sea turtles, penguins, musk oxen, baby baboons, horses and farm animals, Great White Sharks, and more
  • Arts & crafts study and apprenticeship in Latin America, India, Africa, Europe, Canada, and Asia. Blacksmithing, jewelry-making, glass blowing, weaving, print-making, fashion design
  • Work with scientists—ecology, botany, marine science, forestry, archaeology, anthropology and more
  • Spiritual study: yoga retreats, ashrams, meditation, intentional and sustainable communities, etc.
  • Political internships in the UK, Australia & Switzerland
  • Work with women's issues and women's empowerment groups throughout the world
  • Serve people with disabilities, the very poor, the dying, the blind or deaf, the homeless and those who are autistic or developmentally delayed
  • Language immersion and homestays throughout the world
  • Work with indigenous people in the U.S. and abroad, work on remote Pacific islands,
The inner journey is facilitated through four residential retreats totaling eight weeks that are held in Colorado.  These retreats, ranging in length from eight to twenty-one days, form the backbone of the LEAPYEAR program. Students put aside their phones, iPods, texting and Internet to minimize distraction and virtual engagement, and focus on hearing their unique and guiding inner voice. During this time, students are introduced to their curriculum, Naropa courses designed specifically for LEAPYEAR to develop the whole human being. The daily schedule for each retreat includes three to five hours of participatory and embodied classes in our studio, one hour of a physical discipline (yoga, t'ai chi, dance), four hours of outdoor work or cooking/baking, and some free time.
course requirements

LEAPYEAR is a 30-credit program consisting of two 15-credit semesters.


First Semester (15 credits)

LCOR110 Practice & Community (3 credits)

Nepal/India Group Travel
LCOR120 Cultural Immersion: Nepal/India (6 credits)
LCOR125 Wisdom Traditions of Nepal/India (6 credits)


Latin America Group Travel
LCOR121 Spanish Language Immersion (6 credits)
LCOR126 Cultural Immersion: Latin America (6 credits)

Second Semester (15 credits)

COR150 Diversity Seminar (3 credits)
LCOR140 The Whole Human Being (6 credits)
LCOR155 The World as Classroom (4 credits)
LCOR160 Being the Change (2 credits)

Total: 30 Credits

Age eligibility
Minimum age is 17 by the start of the program (not negotiable). Maximum age is 24.
  • No previous language proficiency is required.
  • Participants must have completed high school in order to enroll for college credit and financial aid.  Previous college experience, whether from Naropa University or elsewhere, is fine.   The program may also be attended for high school completion.
  • You must be able to attend the full program - September to May, or February to August.
  • We don't accept tobacco users, or anyone in the active grip of any other addiction.
  • Anyone in reasonable physical condition should be able to complete the program successfully. 
  • A vegetarian diet can be sustained throughout the program.
2018-19 Program Dates 
 The Fall 2018 LEAPYEAR cohort runs from September 2018 through May 2019. The Spring 2019 LEAPYEAR cohort will run from February through August 2019.


how to apply

  1. Research the program. Learn more at leapnow.org.
  2. Complete the online application
  3. Once your application is received, we will contact you to arrange an interview. 
  4. Applicants are notified of acceptance within one week of their interview.