Adventure & Leadership – Autumn 2023
|Dates||Sept 6th – Nov 20th|
|Group Size||16 Students|
Adventure & Leadership – Spring 2024
|Dates||Feb 26th – May 14th|
|Group Size||16 Students|
Adventure & Leadership Program
What’s it all About?
Our Adventure & Leadership Gap Year Program will take you far off the beaten track, deep into Irish nature and culture where you will learn much about yourself and the world around you. You will become immersed in our community, be challenged physically through outdoor adventure and mentally through our leadership skills, explore Ireland on our program expeditions and create lasting friendships.
The Adventure and Leadership program provides a supportive environment where students can recharge, come out of their shell and become more independent. You will explore a different culture and country, build your interpersonal skills, grow as an individual and make a valuable impact on the local community of a small rural town in Ireland. The rugged natural beauty of Ireland and warm heartedness of the people offer a unique setting for your journey of self-discovery. Our goal is to create an environment that nurtures this process.
This program is for students interested in being active outdoors and exploring Ireland off the beaten track. If you are looking to further develop your leadership and communication skills you will benefit from this program. You don’t need to be outdoorsy to enjoy and benefit from the Adventure and Leadership Program, it’s all about a willingness to participate and pushing your perceived boundaries.
Throughout this program you will develop a deeper level of self-awareness, independence, group dynamics and self-governance. We hope that you will take with you a way of thinking and self-awareness that will last a lifetime.
- Get a truly authentic experience of Ireland and her people while becoming part of our local community.
- Learn to manage your own house and build your independence while living with your peers in Bundoran, Co. Donegal, National Geographic’s coolest place on Earth in 2017.
- Learn to surf, kayak and paddle-board in the spectacular waters of Donegal Bay on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way.
- Explore Ireland’s coolest cities, national parks and villages on our overnight Program Expeditions.
- Complete our ‘Bear Grills Challenge’ and hone your outdoor skills over our three day wilderness expedition.
- Complete up to 80 hours of meaningful and fun community volunteering while getting to know the locals.
- Explore Irish pubs with you fellow gappers!
Find Out More About Our Adventure & Leadership Program
Our Adventure & Leadership Program builds independence, resilience and cultivating valuable soft-skills in our students through Outdoor Adventure, Cultural Immersion, Leadership Skills and Community Volunteering.
Our 4 Cornerstones
These 4 Cornerstones are interwoven throughout our Adventure & Leadership Program and are developed through student-projects, reflection, self-governance and on the principal of experiential learning. Find out more about our 4 Cornerstones by clicking on each of the icons below, or by clicking under the dropdown menu titled “Grow” at the top of every page.
Outdoor Adventure: Welcome to your Classroom
We believe that time spent in nature is good for the body, mind and soul.
Here in the sun, rain, hail, snow and under rainbows you’ll explore and connect with Ireland’s natural wonders while challenging yourself to push past your perceived limitations.
We will make full use of the superb natural resources that we have on our doorstep and enjoy daily, instructed adventures in:
- Cliff Jumping
Our outdoor adventures are nearly all a ½ day in length, meaning no gruelling multi-day hikes or shower-less weeks! And you don’t have to be a super-adventurer, hiker, surfer, outdoors-person to LOVE the Outdoor Adventure aspect of this program. In fact, many of our gappers have never been on a ‘proper’ hike in their lives previous to the program while others will have completed outdoor programs in the past.
Whatever your level of experience, the goal is for each student is to progress in the outdoor adventure activities from their own starting point to a new personal best throughout the program. All that’s required to achieve this is an open mind, a decent set of water-proofs and a determined spirit!
Leadership is about enhancing one’s personal strengths, working effectively within a team and developing the characteristics of a leader best suited to your personality type.
To achieve these goals we interweave a combination of leadership workshops, group projects, team-building games, student leaders, role modelling and reflective practices.
Our Leadership Workshops are taught in our outdoor classroom at Castle Park (perhaps the world’s most scenic classroom!?). They are conversation and experience-based workshops that are broken up with games, challenges and journaling designed to get students thinking about new concepts and examine themselves on a deeper level. The leadership workshops are taught by Irish Gap Year Directors Ryan Allen and Killian O’Kelly as well as Irish Gap Year Program Leaders. Some of the topics include:
Principles of Personal Leadership: Personal leadership vs. personal management and knowing the difference. Developing a compass of values and principles to navigate the map of life.
Circle of Influence & Personal Mission Statement: Where and how to we develop identity and what are the contributing factors? What type of person do you want to be? What would you like to accomplish or contribute to the world? What values are these based on? In this workshop we will identify our circle of influence and create a Personal Mission Statement.
What Makes a Great Leader? Who are great leaders you’ve known and what are their qualities? How did it feel to be around these people? Identifying the main types of leadership and completing a leadership self-assessment.
Deciphering team dynamics: What makes for a successful team? What are the key personalities and traits? How do we define and measure the success of a team?
Communication Skills: What messages are we sending and are these intended? What ways do we communicate non-verbally and how can we tap into the power of non-verbal communication?
Problem Solving: How we can think outside the box and work as a team to solve complex problems by breaking them down.
Group projects are used to create a strong bond and healthy group-dynamic throughout the program. They are also an excellent way to put into practice the topics covered in our leadership workshops and develop self-governance and personal responsibility amongst our students.
At the outset tasks set in the group projects are small in scale and achievable, however as the program progresses students will be challenged to set broader goals for themselves and the group.
Some of our Group Projects:
- Mountain Rescue Challenge: Through our mountain skills workshops we will teach you how to navigate your way through the mountains and forests of the northwest of Ireland. Then you’ll have to locate a mock-casualty deep in the mountains and bring them back to safety.
- Lough Erne Challenge: A scavenger hunt by boat of one of Ireland’s largest and most scenic waterways, you’ll be competing against one another in small teams to locate castles and other iconic historical locations on the lake.
- Wild Ireland Challenge: This challenge is the capstone project of our ‘Wilderness Skills’ series of workshops and involves ‘Bear Gryllsing’ it with your cohort for three days in Northern Ireland’s largest forest.
- Student-led Trip: This four-day expedition around Ireland gives students free-rein to choose their own adventure (as a group of course!) and develop a travel itinerary anywhere in Ireland. The students will budget, plan, book and execute the entire expedition themselves with the support of their program leaders.
Time as a student leader allows you to play an active role in the development of your own education. When an experience is earned, it is more meaningful and beneficial. This process is known as self-governance and is a valuable life skill that you’ll take away from the Adventure & Leadership Program.
You will have multiple opportunities to play the role of student leader, which sees each student in a leadership role, revolving every three days. As we progress through the program a student’s leadership style and their role within the team will evolve and grow offering invaluable applied leadership practice. After your time as student leader, you’ll self-evaluate your leadership skills and reflect on the experience with your program leader, identifying both strengths and areas to improve.
Your time as a student leader will be fun, challenging and constructive. As many have said in the past, there is no substitute for learning by doing!
Example Student Leader Roles:
- Assisting Program Leaders on activities
- Preparing the group for expeditions and outdoor adventures
- Day-to-day management of the household (house chores!)
- Designing and executing projects in the areas of volunteering, outdoor adventure and cultural outings
- Small presentations on Irish history. On-site and brief, they are great peer-to-peer learning opportunities.
Cultural Immersion: Live like locals
We believe that becoming deeply involved in another culture challenges students to expand their world view, while developing empathy for other cultures and people.
Students on our Adventure & Leadership Gap Year Program are going to have the opportunity to really delve into Irish culture by living and volunteering within our local community (by the way, Bundoran is one of one of Ireland’s coolest small towns!) and exploring the world famous cultural and heritage sites that tell the story of Ireland.
As with all of our cornerstones, cultural immersion is entwined within the larger framework of the program. For example, while volunteering with Liquid Therapy you’ll spend time getting close with a local family, getting to know them and their children on a deeper level. While adventuring and kayaking around the Irish coast students will learn the history of many castles that dot the coastline, telling their portion of Ireland’s long history. During your free time you may even venture to the world-famous Irish pubs, experiencing the epicentre of modern Irish culture while sharing a pint with the locals!
Ultimately our students will come away from this program with a unique experience of Irish culture that few visitors are afforded and memories of Ireland that will last a lifetime.
Community Volunteering: Creating Connection
Volunteering is a great way to connect with the local community and give back, showing appreciation and respect.
A big part of the Adventure & Leadership Program involves working with our volunteer partners across a range of projects, all of which make our community stronger.
We are proud to work with the following volunteer organizations:
Bundoran and Ballyshannon Neighbourhood Youth Project (NYP)
The NYP work with young people from ages 10 to 18 years and their families providing youth development and family support services to the local community. The students work with the local youth leader and the young people on a variety of programs including after school groups, teenage mental-health groups, drop-in services, mini-business projects, outdoor activities, arts & crafts and drama and citizenship programs.
Tattie Hoaker Organic Farm
Volunteering on a local organic farm as part of a series of workshops where students learn about how our food is brought from ‘farm to fork’, investigating issues of sustainability in food production and learning about bio-diversity in the local landscape. The workshops are led by a local enthusiast Aga, who holds a doctorate in Environmental and Soil Science Education.
Always a favourite among our students, Liquid Therapy’s professional special education team trains our gappers to work one-on-one in a weekly after school program with Irish children with additional needs, in a therapeutic capacity through surfing.
Many of the Liquid Therapy students have been participating in the program over the summer and it means the world to the kids to have their surf season extended into September and October with the help of our gappers ‘Big Brother / Big Sister After School Surf Program’.
We find that our gappers learn nearly as much about surfing from the Liquid Therapy students as they do on actual surf lessons! Upon completing the 5-week afterschool surf program, our gappers host the Liquid Therapy students and their families for a beach party with food, games and chat (all organized by the gappers of course!) Please note that due to water temperature in Ireland our Liquid Therapy Big Brother / Big Sister Program only runs on our Fall Program.
This animal shelter in Longford hosts up to 700 horses, sheep, cows and other vulnerable animals on any given day. Run by husband-and-wife Mick and Hilary, the animals are rehabilitated with the ultimate goal of being rehomed.
At Hungry Horse students help to care for the animals brushing, herding, mucking-out and maintaining horse stables among other rough and tumble jobs. Additionally, students will vaccinate sheep, herd goats and lend a hand at the dozens of daily jobs that Mick and Hilary take on every day. If you like horses you’ll love working at Hungry Horse Outside.
Clean Coasts Ireland is the national Irish body for removing and disposing of marine debris on Irish beaches. Being at the end of the Gulf Stream means that ghost nets, rope and other commercial fishing and shipping debris are prone to finding their way to our otherwise pristine beaches. These clean-ups often see tonnes of rubbish removed from remote beaches. Our students work with the Donegal County Council and local coastal communities to organize collection of rubbish and materials needed for the clean-up.
Castle Park Project
In 2020, Irish Gap Year began the Castle Park Project, a community green space and eco-park purpose designed and built by our gap year students for the local community in Bundoran. The park hosts ecological and sustainability workshops, yoga, gardening and a range of other holistic projects designed to raise ecological awareness and teach new skills to both our students and the greater community.
There are always plenty of jobs to be done maintaining the park and building new infrastructure such as raised beds, pathways and watering systems. This is a wonderful and peaceful place right on the Atlantic coast where our students learn many new skills alongside members of the local community.
Green Education Ireland
Irish Gap Year is a founding member of Green Education Ireland, a collaborative effort within Ireland’s educational community to work toward reducing C02 emissions associated with education-travel.
‘GEI’ aims to empower both students and the local community to take action against climate change through innovative educational programming, participation in local C02 sequestering projects and through inward investment into green spaces in and around the community.
The shared values of education, community and a respect for the natural world bring us together for a wide range of projects that vastly reduce the CO2 foot print of our programs.
The Expeditions Interactive Map
Adventure & Leadership Program Expeditions
Our expeditions around Ireland will take you to many of our country’s ‘must-see’ locations, as well as some of the lesser-known gems. Each expedition has its own student leader who will work closely with the program leaders to plan, prepare and manage the journey. Prepare to step out of your comfort zone and into the big wide world!
The Student-Led Expedition
The student-led expedition tasks gappers with the challenge of organizing (budgeting, planning, logistics, booking etc.) a 5-day road-trip anywhere they choose in Ireland. Planning begins half-way through the program and is supported by program leaders.
The student led expedition is all about self-governance, crafting your adventure and owning every step of the journey. It is a cap-stone project for the Adventure & Leadership Program and is always fun and a great learning experience.
The expedition usually takes place in week 10 of the program. The only rules, no sky-diving and 100% student planned and delivered.
THE DERRY EXPEDITION
Locals will take us on a tour of the city walls, which tell the story of ‘The Troubles’ in graffiti and symbols. Although this artwork is politically controversial, powerful and graphic, it is left for all to see and serves as a reminder of how far things have come in the past 20 years.
We will then depart Derry and head to Inishowen Peninsula to explore this seldom visited region of County Donegal famous for its beaches, castles and traditional villages.
While in Inishowen you will enjoy exploring and learning about the many ruined castles as we hike around Malin Head, Ireland’s northernmost point.
GALWAY: Ireland’s Culture Capital
Galway is just about everyone’s favourite Irish city, and it’s no wonder why.
Its cobbled streets buzz with vibrancy, music of buskers floats in the air mixing with delightful smells wafting from cafés and restaurants, the sea air permeates the city center. Galway’s museums are amazing, the pubs world-renowned and the people among the friendliest in Europe.
While in the ‘City of Tribes’ we will take in the amazing ambiance of Galway, enjoy museum visits, day-trip to the Aran Islands to explore ancient Celtic fortresses and amazing nature, have wonderful group dinners in the evening and allow for ample free time.
This is always a much-loved trip amongst our students.
THE NORTH DONEGAL EXPEDITION
A Kayaking Journey to Caves of Light
National Geographic recently named County Donegal (Irish Gap Year’s home county) the coolest place on Earth for its vast and untouched nature, unassuming and friendly people, small rural villages and all around wild feel.
From hiking through Ireland’s finest coastal forests to exploring hidden, golden sandy beaches, to staying in renovated railway cars, kayaking into the ‘Cave of Light’, this expedition is full of outstanding adventure and panoramic views around every corner.
WEST DONEGAL EXPEDITION
Sea Cliffs, Mountain Tops, National Parks and Castles
Welcome to West Donegal, a place of rugged beauty, vast sea- scapes and lonely mountain peaks.
Home to one of Europe’s highest sea-cliffs, West Donegal boasts a landscape unrivalled. This expedition will bring you to some of Ireland’s highest mountain peaks with outstanding views of the northwest, to places of ancient folklore and to stunning, windswept beaches.
Prepare to be immersed in a long-forgotten landscape; dramatic, beautiful and on the furthest fringes of Europe.
THE CONNEMARA EXPEDITION
THE CONNEMARA EXPEDITION
No Tech in the Wilderness of Ireland’s Largest National Park
Situated in the West of Ireland in County Galway, Connemara National Park covers some 2,957 hectares of scenic mountains, expanses of bogs, heather, grasslands and woodlands. This is also home to Ireland’s largest Irish speaking population and is a stronghold of traditional Irish culture.
While in Connemara we will be hiking some of the park's classic trails that offer expansive views of the surrounding countryside, mountains, rivers and sea. This is truly a spectacular region and an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise that will leave you astounded.
A Cultural Pick n’ Mix of Ireland’s Capital City
Ireland’s capital city is home to many national treasures, interesting characters and a rich history going all the way back to its Viking roots. While in Dublin we will be staying in the city centre just a short walk from the main downtown areas.
Gappers will compete against one another in small teams on our Dublin City photo scavenger hunt, which sees students searching out both iconic and underground cultural hotspots. We will also tour the well-kemp and elegant grounds of Trinity College, the world-famous Guinness Brewery (pints on the 13th floor included!) and the National Archeology Museum of Ireland.
There will also be free time for students to explore the city, shop and have their own adventures. In the evenings we will enjoy group meals at restaurants and pubs.
BELFAST AND PORTRUSH: Game of Thrones Country and Beyond
Small, yet bursting with natural beauty, history and mystery, the Belfast and Portrush expedition is the perfect mix of adventure and culture.
We will tour the Bushmills Distillery, learning about the history of whiskey making in Northern Ireland, visit the Titanic Museum and enjoy an private screening of an Irish film of your choosing an Art Deco, 1920’s theatre.
You will learn about the history of ‘The Troubles’ in Belfast from those who lived through them in small-group, Black Taxi tours of the city's sectarian neighbors. We will also meet with local street artists, touring Belfast’s infamous graffiti art that documents ‘The Troubles’ and the peace process, gaining additional insights into the cultural fabric of the city.
Making our way west from Belfast we will explore ‘Game of Thrones’ country, visiting the castles, dramatic film-locations and national parks that make up the north coast of Northern Ireland.
You will also have some free time to explore Belfast’s great shops and cafes. In the evenings we will meet up for group dinners at pubs and restaurants.
- All food (breakfast, lunch and dinner) excluding the occasional lunch during free time on city trips
- All accommodation, linens and towels
- Outdoor sports equipment (wetsuits, surfboards, camping etc)
- Instruction and guidance on outdoor activities
- 24/7 support for students and parents
- All transportation in Ireland
- Laundry facilities
What’s Not Included
- Travel insurance
- Pocket money
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you still have a question about the Adventure & Leadership program we haven’t covered yet?
Take a look at our FAQs and if your question still hasn’t been answered, get in touch and we’d be happy to talk you through it.
A Day in the Life of our Adventure & Leadership Program
Every day on our Adventure & Leadership Program is unique with a healthy balance of outdoors, leadership and travel. Here is an example of what a normal ‘local’ day on our Adventure & Leadership Program looks like:
9am Program leaders arrive to the student house. The student leader helps prepare the group for the day’s activities.
10am – 1pm Surf Lesson at Tullan Strand in Bundoran, Co. Donegal
1-2pm Home for lunch
2pm – 5pm Leadership Workshop and team challenges in outdoor classroom
6pm – 7pm Home-cooked group dinner prepared by the Irish Gap Year team
7pm On Free time