Gap Year Programs

Ready to get started earning college credit while you travel?

Thinking Beyond Border's programming and curriculum allow Gap Year students to work toward their college degree while on program. Through our partnership with Western Colorado University's Extended Study Program, TBB students can earn college credit and gain access to their 529 College Plans.

 Before you begin the following WCU application process, please submit your TBB application as well as schedule your student and parent phone interviews

Step 1

Application Request Form

Review the WCU Extended Studies Page and complete the WCU Outdoor Programs Application Request Form.

Step 2

Credit Registration Packet

After you complete the WCU Outdoor Programs Application Request Form, you will receive an email from WCU with the Credit Registration Packet. Complete the Credit Registration Packet and submit it to [email protected].

**Please note that the Credit Registration Packet must be submitted no later than 30 days prior to your TBB program start date. International Students must submit their packets 3 months prior to program start date.

Step 3

WCU Invoice

After submitting the registration packet, you will receive an invoice from WCU including the fee for both your WCU credits and your TBB tuition. Detailed payment instructions are included in the packet. Once your full funding has been received and processed by WCU, your registration with TBB is complete.

Questions? To learn more about receiving college credit or using your 529 Savings to contribute to Thinking Beyond Borders tuition, contact us at [email protected] or call us at 203-993-0236.

Course Name: EDU 197- Liberation and Oppression through Education


Cost: $495 (Not included in TBB Tuition)


Credits: 3


Course Description


Education is often referred to as the “silver bullet” of development. It has the potential to reduce poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, social and political oppression, and various other major issues. However, education also has the potential to be used as a tool for oppression through explicit brainwashing and implicit and systemic maintenance of societal structures like socio-economic class. To effectively use education as a tool for empowerment and liberation rather than oppression, one must understand the dynamics of the relationships among students, teachers, the subject of study, and the societal structure over-arching them all. Accessing the potential of education as a tool for change requires a clear understanding of its purpose and a critical approach to its execution. 


This course challenges students to examine the relationships among stakeholders in educational systems. By teaching and observing in both urban and rural classrooms, TBB students have the opportunity to experience and analyze the dynamics of pedagogy and how it can shape society. Readings and seminars push students to deep reflection upon their own experiences as learners, the nature of oppression and liberation, and the social implications of various educational approaches on both philosophical and practical levels. Finally, state and national level policies are compared, contrasted, and analyzed utilizing the readings from the course. 


Course Objectives: 


  • Explore the socio-political of impact of education on the continuing development of society.

  • Reflect on the role that education has played in the life of TBB students and in the formation of their core assumptions.

  • Attain an understanding of how education can be used as a tool for proactive development.

Essential Question:


How can education empower people and communities toward development?




Out of 100 points:


  • Participation in seminars and work placement - 50 points 

  • Choice of Media Project or additional paper - 40 points 

  • End of unit Reflection Paper - 10 points 

Course Components: 


This course is comprised of three components.  The core of the curriculum will be delivered in a group seminar space which meets on average twice per week (depending on whether the student is enrolled in our semester program or our global gap year program, which operate on different schedules but cover the exact same course content).  Each seminar is approximately 2 hours in length and facilitated by program leaders with Masters Degrees in related content areas. These seminars are conducted in socratic seminar style and discussion formats, with media components incorporated along the way to bring in outside voices to the seminar space.  Students have two reading lists provided to prepare for each seminar: one of required readings and one listing additional optional resources to read. These readings are integrated into seminar discussions and also provide useful local and global context.


Work placements are the second course component and are carefully selected and framed not as volunteer experience, but as experiential learning and an extension of the seminar space into the local host community to learn from its members.  For this course, students will be working through Thinking Beyond Borders’ partner organization Cross Cultural Solutions, which has ties and connections within the host community in Thailand.


The third component to this course is comprised of deliverable assignments from students.  All students will have a final reflection paper to be completed within one week of completion of the course (dates will vary per TBB program).  In addition, students will have the option to write two more reflection papers (as listed throughout the course schedule), or select a research question that is related to course content for their small group media project (already a component of TBB programming).  These projects are student-driven, small group research projects, centered in primary source research gathered from within the host community. Students will have due dates throughout the course to structure their progress and time management on these projects and will have a media project advisor (program leader) assigned to them.  The final products must have a visual or media component and will be presented during the group’s “going-away ceremony” or get together with host families before leaving the host community. Sharing these projects with host families is a way of celebrating student learning, but also is a conversation starter to get input and further insight from community members on what our students learned while living in that community.



Within three weeks of completing your TBB program, you must email your reflection/written assignment to [email protected]

Frequently Asked Questions About College Credit

How does college credit fit into TBB's unique approach to education?

At TBB, we've spent 12 years cultivating learning environments for our students, free from the limitations that can sometimes be present in formal education.  We feel strongly that accrediting our curriculum is an important step to take on the path towards greater program accessibility and value and are pleased to create this opportunity while preserving what makes learning on a TBB program special; authentic inquiry driven by students exploring the world and themselves. 

How do I use my 529 college savings plan to pay for this? 

You can now fund your TBB Gap Year tuition either partially or fully with your 529 college savings plan!  To do so, contact your fund management company to have them work with WCU.  This payment should include both your course registration fee for WCU ($495) as well as any further funds you wish to use toward your TBB tuition.

If there are less than 30 days to my departure, can I still go through the process of receiving college credit through WCU? 

In general, the process with WCU has to be done 30 days prior to program start date but TBB is willing to work with families on a case by case basis with late enrollments.  Since international students need to register 3 months prior to program departure, these s

What if I already paid part of my TBB tuition before I decided to apply to receive college credit? Will that reflect on my invoice sent by WCU?

Yes. If for some reason this does not reflect in your invoice, please reach out to [email protected] and we will look into the issue.

Can I take other courses through WCU for college credit during my TBB program? 

At this time, there is only one course offered through TBB in partnership with WCU. We are working with WCU to create more opportunities to earn additional college credit in the future!

How much support will I get while I am on program when it comes to my course work? 

Program Leaders will facilitate all seminars and field work, but students are responsible for participation in both of these areas. Also please keep in mind that in order to earn a grade and any requested credits, you will need to complete a reflection/written assignment and turn it into [email protected] no later than three weeks from the last day of your course.  Keeping track of your assignment due date is your responsibility as a college student. As a courtesy reminder, Extended Studies will send your assignment due date one time in a registration confirmation email before your course begins. Please mark your assignment due date on your calendar, as you will not receive reminder emails regarding your required assignment. 

I've applied to college and deferred from my school of choice. Will credits earned during my gap year transfer to the school I will be attending?

Each school is different, so please contact your deferral school to verify that it will accept transfer credits through WCU.

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