Program Overview 

students standing in a line with mountain in background

LeapYear is a gap year and a full year of college through Naropa Universitya year of experience, adventure, and personal reflection. It is a transformative bridge into college and independent adulthood. LeapYear programs run Fall-Spring and Spring-Summer, allowing two yearly opportunities to complete a full gap year, first or second year of college, or final year of high school.

The leapyear program

Two semesters (Fall-Spring or Spring-Summer) of transformative learning experiences including:

  • 10-12 weeks of group travel in South Asia or Latin America
  • 10-11 weeks of service-learning project in your area of interest-selected through a supportive process
  • 2 (for spring entrants)-3 (for fall entrants) immersive learning intensive retreats, book-ending travel to integrate, reflect and carry forward the learning experiences
  • 21 or 30 semester credits towards a bachelor's degree at Naropa or to be transferred to your university of choice 
  • Full-time enrollment at Naropa University, with full access to federal financial aid (FAFSA) & scholarships  


Travel Opportunities

LeapYear is a year of intentional travel, immersion, and adventure: 

  • First Semester – Your LeapYear takes off with 9-10 weeks of group travel to either South Asia or Latin America. Guided by experienced leaders, you and your small cohort of student peers will together explore and immerse yourselves in these rich cultural landscapes.  
  • Second Semester – Your LeapYear continues with a 9-12 week service-learning project, developed with the support of our specialists during your first semester. We help you hone in on your interests, skills, and world region of preference to design an experience that is unique to you! 

Immersive Learning Retreats 

Immersive Learning Retreats bookend the travel portions of your year, providing a structured opportunity to integrate, reflect, and carry forward your learning experiences.  

LeapYear’s Immersive Learning Retreats are designed to prepare students for their travel experiences ahead. Retreats are structured, cultivated learning opportunities that allow for a deep-dive into reflection of one’s journey through our contemplative curriculum. Retreats take place near or on Naropa University’s campus in beautiful Boulder, Colorado.  

Details: How LeapYear Unfolds 

Fall Semester

Orientation Learning Retreat: Orientating & Preparing 

Our first immersive learning retreat sets the foundation for the year and prepares students for their small group international travel. Core Elements include:

  • Establishing Program Foundations: Preview of the arc of the year and understand program expectations, curriculum, and itineraries.
  • Developing Contemplative Practices: Be introduced to the meditation, movement, and creative expression practices of your year.
  • Building Conscious Community: Get to know each other - your travel-mates, group leaders, and curriculum guides. Envision the group culture you want to create and develop expectations to uphold these ideals.
  • Consulting for Internships: Participate in individual interviews and workshops with our Internship Specialists to get curious about what is possible for your internship semester.
  • Preparing for Group Travel: Learn about the upcoming travel semester, including cultural orientations, health and safety trainings, and physical travel know-how.

Travel Semester 1: Group Travel 

The first semester of LeapYear is 9-10 weeks of small group travel in South Asia or Latin America. Groups are generally 8-12 students with 2 leaders. During these months of group travel, gain the skills you need to live, travel, and work as an emerging changemaker in our world. Learn what it means to be a smart and safe traveler, practice new social norms, and experience cultural adaption to new and foreign places.

South Asia

From the pristine trails and exquisite landscapes of the Himalayas to bustling Varanasi, one of the oldest cities in the world, the Indian subcontinent is a land infused with spiritual richness and cultural vibrancy. The journey includes learning service projects, community immersion in homestays, culture and language study experiences, and rich opportunities to learn about the diverse social and spiritual traditions of this region.

Latin America

With abundant natural beauty in the lush volcanic highlands, the turquoise coastal waters, and everything in between, Latin America is a land of rich cultural heritage. Travel evokes wonder and curiosity through language immersion, community and family homestays, cultural exploration, adventure trekking, and environmental service.

Midpoint Learning Retreat: Integrating & Transitioning 

Our middle immersive learning retreat holistically integrates students’ learning from first semester and prepares students for their second semester internship. Core elements include:

  • Harvesting learning through group presentations, contemplative writing, individual storytelling, and exploration of other expressive methods
  • Preparing to travel forward with tools and strategies for continuing personal growth, adjusting to culture shock, and learning how to share our stories.
  • Developing the logistics and skills needed to prepare for your second semester internships, including practical workshops on health and safety, budget and managing money, study skills, and professional work practices
  • Reflecting on personal exploration, including intention setting, strengths and challenges discovery, resource and toolkit building, future visioning, and daily practice exploration for your next adventure
Winter Break

Rather than simply being a break, traveling home after the first semester of LeapYear is an integral and important part of the learning journey.  Returning to someplace familiar after a travel experience and seeing it with new eyes is a tremendous learning opportunity to understand oneself and one’s experiences in a deeper way. To support this learning, our curriculum continues during this program break. Written reflection and contemplative practices learned on program continue at home, and preparations for next semester continue with support from LeapYear. 

Spring Semester

Travel Semester 2: Independent Service-Learning Project

The independent service-learning project embodies the Naropa motto: “Transform yourself, transform the world”. This is an opportunity for students to both explore their passions and learn how their gifts can serve the world within the framework of Naropa’s long-standing international partnerships. Choosing from Naropa’s widely-ranging partner sites, the service-learning project allows students to:

  • Explore an interest and get real-world experience in a field to try out a college major or career path
  • Immerse in a new culture
  • Build language fluency
  • Choose an optimal learning experience and environment
  • Serve others, receive from others, and “be the change”
  • Receive support to practice self-directed learning
  • Share and reflect with the LeapYear cohort on their own independent projects
  • Explore the balance of responsibility, service, and independence

Closing Learning Retreat: Closing & Culminating 

Over your LeapYear, you will have countless adventures, make life-long friends around the globe, and develop a deeper relationship with yourself and the individual you want to be. Our closing learning retreat celebrates the successes, completes the curriculum, and shifts the lens towards what’s next.

We harvest the learning of the year through reflective writing, group storytelling, and individual presentations. We attend to the experiences of the year, to distill the knowledge and wisdom that can guide our steps after LeapYear. The year culminates with a formal rite of passage and graduation ceremony for students, families, and loved ones.

The Rite of Passage

Nearly every culture on the planet shows evidence of a ceremonial marking of the passage from youth to adulthood, undertaken consciously and witnessed by the community. Without such acknowledgement from adults, how do young people “know” they have crossed over into a new life-stage? And what happens when young people grow into adulthood, but are never initiated nor honored in their new roles?

LeapYear’s curriculum cultivates this movement into adulthood, specifically through learning themes centered on life skills development, socioemotional learning, and intentional community building. Scaffolded learning practices throughout the year include:

  • Integrity Exploration - The foundation of LeapYear’s curriculum
  • Skill Acquisition - Practical, applied strategies and tools for the working world
  • Cross-Cultural Investigation - Appreciation and honoring of diversity
  • Body-Heart-Mind Cultivation – Awareness, integration, and celebration
  • Emotional Literacy Development – Communication and responsive practices
During the closing retreat, students will undergo a Rite of Passage, intending to reflect on their year and look forward to their deepest inner truths, their strengths, gifts, and shadows. We ask critical questions, including, Who am I to be in the world? What is needed and what can I offer? What is calling me and what can I call upon? Students bring forward their concerns for the world - their personal challenges, their unique gifts, and their ultimate dreams - in order to step into this new stage of adulthood.