European Explorer Program: A Cultural and Personal Reflection off the beaten track in Europe

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 in a small group on the Inter-Rail train system from Amsterdam to Berlin to Salzburg and the Austrian Alps to Venice and the plains of Northern Italy.

This four-week, structured, group program focuses on cultural exploration, independence building and reflection. Each city we visit will have its own experiential learning outcoming and theme - For example, we'll have a comparative study in how the low-laying 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.

While on 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 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.

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. 

Dates for Upcoming Programs

European Explorer Program Spring 2021: Wednesday, May 19th to Wednesday, June 16th, 2021. 


Our Spring 2020 European Explorer Program has been postponed due to COVID-19 and has been rescheduled for the spring of 2021 (Dates below). 

We are experiencing a high volume of applications for our Spring 21' Program and encourage students that are interested in joining us to be proactive with their applications.

All student who paid fees for our 2020 European Explorer Program have priorty on joining the Spring 2021 rescheduled program. 

All future applicants program deposits/fee are 100% fully refundable or transferable should our Spring 21' European Explorer Program be postponed due to COVID-19. 


US dollars $8,000

Apply Here

To apply for our European Explorer Program you must…

  1. First create your account with Irish Gap Year. It's an easy process and can be done through the link above.We will reach out to you via email once you've created your account and help you to begin your formal application.
  2. You will have an informal phone interview with Director of Admissions Ryan Allen to get to know our program better and make sure we’re the right match for you.
  3. You will complete our medical history form and then formally be offered a place on the program.

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.

To start the application process and manage your registration and payments please create your account through the link below. 

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.

The Journey by Rail:

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 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 cities vintage shops, interview locals and take part in a ‘fishing for plastic’ tour of the cities 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 comparitive 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.

Bradenberg 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 refuge 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 it's 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, surrounding 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 Salzberg Fortress, venturing into the Old Town Centre, admiring the ornate intricacy of St. Peter’s Abby (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 country side 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 students gap year experience and how they plan to bring forward the lessons their personal-growth and perspective they've gained. 

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