Program Summary - Spring 2022

European Explorer Spring 2022 Program Details    
Dates  Friday May 20th, 2022 to Thursday June 16, 2022    
Length 28 Days    
Fee USD $8,000    

Note: Arrival airport Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) and departure airport Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE)

What's It All About?

The European Explorer Program resembles the classic European back-packing expedition of old mixed with a hands-on study of European history, culture and current events.

Students will be traveling for four weeks in a small group on the Inter-Rail train system from Amsterdam to Berlin to Salzburg to the Austrian Alps to Venice and the plains of Northern Italy.

This four-week, structured, group program focuses on Cultural Exploration, Immersive Travel and Climate Change. Each city we visit will have its own experiential learning outcome and theme. 

For example, we'll have a comparative study in how the low-lying cities of Amsterdam and Venice differ in their response to global climate change. But fear not, this program is no 'chalk and talk'!

From hiking in the Alps, to swimming in the Spree in Berlin, to student led meals and work exchange at an 18th century Italian Villa.

The Irish Gap Year team will guide you on this journey of self-discovery.

During your travels you’ll survey Europe’s grandeur, history and cultural diversity as we get behind the scenes of cities that have shaped the modern era, bringing you face to face with some Europe’s most iconic places.

Each of the cities and towns featured in the European Explorer Program are magnificent in their own right, but we like to think that the journey is the real reward.

If you are interested in a classic adventure by rail that explores European culture, connects you with locals, builds your independence, challenges you to look within and is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime, this is the program for you.

Apply Here

Our application process is done entirely through the website, click the 'Apply Here' link above to get started. You'll receive automated emails from Irish Gap Year prompting each step of the process.

  1. First create and register your account with Irish Gap Year. It's an easy process that only takes 5 minutes.
  2. Your Irish Gap Year Student Portal will be activated. Next you'll complete our questionnaire and medical form (through your student portal).
  3. We'll be in touch with you via email to organize a phone call to get to know you better, answer your questions about the program and officially welcome you aboard.
  4. Your orientation materials will be available through your Irish Gap Year Student and Parent Portals.

Upon acceptance, a 10% deposit is required to secure a place on this program. The balance of the program fee is then due 90 days prior to the start of the program.

Click Here to Create an Account

Combining Short Gap Year Programs

The European Explorer Program can be combined with our European Arts & Culture Program to make an 8 week gap program giving you an amazing experience of Europe.

Program Start Date End Date Length
European Arts & Culture Apr 22, 2022 May 19, 2022 28 Days
European Explorer May 19, 2022 Jun 15, 2022 28 Days
Combined European Experience Apr 22, 2022 Jun 15, 2022 55 Days

You can speak to us to find out more about combining our short gap year programs.

Equally the European Explorer Program can act as a stand-alone gap year experience for those with less time available.

The Journey

There’s a lot to take in as you travel in style and comfort on the European Inter-Rail train network. Here’s a glimpse into the timeless cities and towns that we’ll visit.

Amsterdam: Artistic Heritage, Progressive Culture and Cycling along the Canals

Amsterdam is known for its rich artistic heritage, progressive culture, narrow and ornate houses and elaborate canal system.  

Here you’ll explore the capital city of The Netherlands by the preferred local method of cycling as we visit The Rijks Museum and the Van Gough Art Museums.

In true Irish Gap Year fashion, we’ll also be venturing off the beaten track attending an underground music performance in a converted WWII bunker, explore the city's vintage shops, interview locals and take part in a ‘fishing for plastic’ tour of Amsterdam's canals by boat. We'll also be discussing how Amsterdam has been preparing for sea-level rise as we begin the first part of our comparative study on the effects of climate change on European cities. 

Learning Outcomes

Present to the group on a work of art of your choice from The Rijks Museum that tells a story of Europe. Discuss with local climate activists how the Dutch government has been preparing for rising-sea levels and compare the Dutch perspective to the Venetian perspective. 

Berlin: A Cultural Pick and Mix

With historical relics and monuments all around the city, a wealth of museums and galleries and a thriving creative atmosphere, it’s easy to understand why Berlin is one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations.

You’ll have the opportunity to check out the city’s most iconic historical locations and explore the lesser known hotspots of Germany’s capital city.

The Classics

The Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie: The physical and ideological border that defined a generation of Berliners and the only crossing point from East to West Berlin during the Cold War era.

Brandenburg Gate: Holding great cultural significance to Germans, this neoclassical architectural masterpiece represents both the division and reunification of Germany throughout the 20th Century.

The Reichstag Building: Tour Germany’s national parliament building, a historical edifice and an incredibly impressive feat of architecture as we discuss the significance that the building has held politically and socially through the ages.

Off the Beaten Track

Refugee Voices Tour: A powerful, controversial and moving tour of Berlin’s city centre as told by Syrian refugee guides. This tour speaks of Syria's own secret police, government repression, and natives fleeing for safer destinations - drawing parallels between modern day Syria and 1940’s Germany.
Swimming Pool in the Spree: Soak in downtown Berlins best views in a totally unique and local environment, this refreshing urban swimming pool is a must visit.
Coffee in the Urban Garden: Small café’s in organic gardens in the city centre, a hip and alternative hangout for Berlin’s young people.
Prinzipal Bar: Sip in the past in this off the beaten track and difficult to find, real life 1920’s speakeasy. The Prinzipal Bar is typical of pre-war Germany and has become an underground icon of Berlin in recent years.

Learning Outcomes

The effects of borders on people: We'll be discussing the parallels between the historical events leading up to the construction of the Berlin Wall, its impact on the German people and current global issues around borders within Europe. We'll be joined by Syrian refugees now living in Berlin for the discussion.    

Prague: Medieval Europe at its finest

A thousand shades of terracotta, hundreds of spires reaching for the blue sky, colourful baroque buildings leading from one medieval town square to another, the sound of church bells ringing out as they’ve done for hundreds of years – Prague, a bohemian fairy tale.

Our visit to the capital city of the Czech Republic will be a dive into the past, we’ll visit the old town square, tour the Prague Castle and enjoy the same show that’s been going on since 1402 at the medieval astronomical clock.

Of course, no time in Prague is complete without a visit to a beer hall for a tasty dish of Vep'o knedlo zelo (roasted pork) washed down with a refreshing glass of beer!

Learning Outcomes

We’ll discuss the early peopling of Prague and how it came to be established as a city of great cultural significance in medieval Europe. Interesting parallels between the pre-history of Prague and the ‘Game of Thrones’ story-line will be covered as well.
We will also speak with locals about Prague’s recent history as the Czech Republic transitioned into an E.U. country in 2007 and what impact that has had on the capital city.

Salzburg: Alpine Adventures and Recharging 

Salzburg is a magnificent city nestled on the Salzach River in the Austrian Alps.

It’s full of medieval and baroque buildings, surrounded by snow-capped alpine peaks, is impossibly picturesque and seems as if it’s sprung straight from a fairy tale.

The city centre (A UNESCO World Heritage Site) is one of the best preserved old town centres in all of Europe.

We’ll spend a glorious week in Salzburg recharging our batteries, enjoying home-cooked meals and staying in our own villa in the Alps.

While in this enchanting city and the surrounding countryside you’ll be exploring the nooks and crannies of the striking, 1,000 year-old Salzburg Fortress, venturing into the Old Town Centre, admiring the ornate intricacy of St. Peter’s Abbey (home to Austria’s oldest library) and journeying into the Austrian and Bavarian Alps for a few days of hiking.

Learning Outcomes

Experiential peer-to-peer learning: Each student will choose one area of Salzburg's rich history, architecture or culture to research and present on-site to the group. It's completely up to you what aspect of Salzburg you'd like to delve into! 

Venice: The Floating City

Built on over 100 small islands, Venice is home to more beautiful canals, Gothic Palaces, Basilicas and impressive architecture than just about any other European City.

We’ll tour the city on Gondolas, take a photography tour of the coloured houses of Burano, and explore the Piazza San Marco which contains St. Mark’s Basilica and the Campanile bell tower overlooking the cities famous red roofs.

Venice, the city of love is sure to steal your heart and leave you wanting more time in Italy.

Learning Outcomes

We'll be revisiting the effects of climate change on iconic European cities as we explore how Venice has traditionally dealt with flooding in the past and how Venetians are preparing for the future.   

La Machina Fissa: Reflection, yoga and work exchange in the Northern Italian plains.

La Machina is unlike anywhere you’ve been before. This 18th Century Italian Villa nestled among national parks in the rural plains of Northern Italy is the perfect place to relax, immerse yourself in Italian culture and reflect on your incredible journey through Europe.

While here we’ll help our hosts with work projects in the gardens and around the villa. We will take reflective hikes around the Italian countryside and enjoy yoga classes. Garden fresh traditional Italian cuisine and wine will be enjoyed in the evenings among the company of good friends.

From La Machina Fissa we’ll travel to Milan International Airport where our European Explorers will say their goodbyes.

Program Reflections

While in Northern Italy students will reflect on their journey through Europe and on the take-aways from their gap time. We'll journal and discuss the impact of each student's gap year experience and how they plan to bring forward the lessons, their personal-growth and perspective they've gained. 

Who is this Program for?

If you are interested in a classic adventure by rail that explores European culture and history, builds your independence, challenges you to look within and is sure to create memories that will last a lifetime, this is the program for you.

The European Explorer Program is open to students who've completed a program abroad and/or Gap Year program previously. We also welcome current college students to apply. 

What’s Included on the European Explorer Program

  • Accommodation - Students will share (male and female separate) rooms in top-rated, centrally located hostels in Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Salzburg, Venice and Northern Italy. Our accommodation includes shared kitchen, private bathrooms and common areas.
  • All linen and towels are provided. We strive to provide the very best accommodations that are clean, safe, full of character and centrally located.
  • All breakfasts and most dinners. In total, Irish Gap Year provides 28 breakfasts and 20 dinners. 
  • 24/7 support from Irish Gap Year’s experienced team of Program Leaders.
  • Parents and guardians are given a dedicated telephone number to call if they need to speak to their child urgently. Students are also provided with this number and staff are always located close-by during free time.
  • All transport within Europe.
  • All entry fees for parks, UNESCO sites, museums and activities.
  • All staff conducting activities are fully qualified and trained to undertake the activity.
  • Fully insured and certified activity providers.
  • Fully insured and certified transport providers.
  • Program leaders are experienced mentors and have occupational first aid.
  • All art supplies.

What's Not Included?

  • International flights to Amsterdam and from Venice.
  • Individual travel insurance.
  • General spending money (See FAQ’s for recommended daily allowance).