As more American universities recognize the value of early global experiences, colleges and universities are beginning to adopt innovative First-Year Abroad Programs, allowing admitted students to participate in a unique study abroad program with a cohort of fellow first-year students. First-Year Abroad Programs can be several weeks during the summer, a single semester, or an entire year.  There are several different models, some are highly experiential and include service learning, international travel, or outdoor education, while others are similar to a traditional study abroad model. We consult with institutions to develop totally customized programs that match your school's unique culture.


Our Services

Free to Roam Adventures is a pioneer in First-Year Abroad Program consulting. With experience managing gap year and study abroad programs, we offer clients hard to find expertise that allows us to develop programs that meet the academic rigor of collegiate study abroad, while also tending to the specific developmental needs of pre-college students and first time intercultural learners.

We offer expertise in the following areas:

  • Program Design and Best Practices
  • Identifying Partner Institutions with Appropriate Accreditation
  • Service Placements
  • Logistics Management
  • Risk Management Advising 
  • Assistance Designing Pre-Departure Orientation, Mid-Trip Reflections, and Post-Trip Debrief Sessions
  • Suggestions for Curriculum Integration 
  • Suggestions for Group Excursions and Experiential Learning Activities 
  • Suggestions for Post-Program Student Support and Ongoing Assessment

Benefits of a First-Year Abroad Program

Retention and Recruitment

  • Institutions with existing First-Year Abroad Programs affirm they have proven important tools in recruiting top-tier students who were also offered admission to other institutions of similar size and ranking. 
  • A First-Year Abroad Program allows your institution to admit more students during the fall semester without the pressure of having to house those students on campus. First-Year Abroad cohorts arrive on campus for the spring semester, when housing tends to be more available. 

According to informal analysis by existing First-Year Abroad Programs and official Gap Year data, students who have a global experience early on positively impact an institution's rankings in terms of graduation rates, average GPA, and level of civic engagement. A survey run by the Institute for Survey Research at Temple University of approximately 1,000 American Gap Year students and alumni reported:

  • 83% of respondents indicated a GPA of 3.0 or higher. 42% reported a GPA of 3.7 (or higher)
  • The median time to graduation was 3.75 years
  • 89% reported participating in community service in the last month
  • Respondents are almost twice as likely to vote in national elections
  • 86% indicated they were satisfied or very satisfied with their jobs

Improved Diversity and Accessibility of Global Learning Programs

  • Institutions may elect to recruit first-generation, low-income, or minority students who are traditionally under-represented in education abroad.  
  • Research indicates that the earlier in their college career students have a global experience, the more time students have to integrate their knowledge into their course of studies, both inside and outside the classroom. 
  • Students who have an international experience early on are likely to develop a sustained interest in global learning and seek out more immersive, student-directed study abroad or research opportunities later in their undergraduate careers.    

Opportunities for Faculty Mentoring

  • Participation by faculty as leaders or onsite instructors ensures that the First-Year Abroad Program aligns with your institution's unique culture, and provides opportunity for faculty to develop mentoring relationships with students.
  • An interdisciplinary approach to the academic structure makes the program accessible to students with diverse academic interests, and encourages students to approach learning with a multidisciplinary lens.
  • Cultural mentoring is a crucial aspect of the first-year abroad experience.  We offer expertise in developing onsite instructors with the insight and skills to offer necessary support and help first-year students critically reflect upon and make meaning of their experiences abroad.

Personal Development

A First-Year Abroad Program allows students to cultivate global competencies that they will utilize throughout their academic and professional careers. In addition to gaining cultural fluency, we intend to develop students who are dynamic and innovative, who demonstrate resilience, and are not afraid to take risks. Our student-focused approach to First-Year Abroad programming allows us to create programs with life-long benefits for students personally and professionally.