Considering a Gap Year? This Overseas Program Gives You a Full Year’s Worth of College Credit

When Sarah Wilbur graduated from high school in 2017, she knew she was going to college to pursue a bachelor’s degree. There was only one problem. As you can guess, most academic institutions don’t let you major in Undecided, Not Sure, or Up In the Air.

She had an inkling she might pick a track in communication or business, but she didn’t know enough about the career and had no hands-on experience in those fields.

Then she heard about a program called Global Bridge. As a partnership between Students International and Crown College, the study abroad program gives new grads an opportunity to serve in a foreign country while taking full credit college classes.

“My career plan is very up in the air at this point,” she says. “However, after working hands on in the setting of a special education and physical therapy site in the Dominican Republic, as well as a tutoring site, I feel far more guided as to my future purposes. For this reason, I have been following a more general major with plans to pursue opportunities as a teacher, an event planner, or even a business owner which all fall under passions of mine.”

For Wilbur, Global Bridge is more than just an academic exercise. Because students work alongside missionaries and serve in the community, it exposes them to real-world hardships and what it means to be “on the ground” on foreign soil, helping the disadvantaged.

“Learning an entirely new language, becoming immersed in other cultures, living in a community among people in similar seasons of life as yours–it’s all helped me become far more spiritually mature throughout these past two years of the program, and Global Bridge opens the invitation for the Lord to really work on your heart through so many ways,” she says.

Dr. Darin Mather, the Associate Professor for Global Studies at Crown College, helped start the program five years ago. Students take online classes while in Santiago in the Dominican Republic. (Students with previous college credits are also encouraged to apply.) Every student spends 20-30 hours per week serving with Students International missionaries.

Students work at ministry sites that match their academic interests, such as agriculture, technology, health care, sports, women’s social work, or education. For five weeks each semester, they receive intensive instruction in learning Spanish.

During the year-long program, they earn up to 30 college credits and can continue for a second year, earning an Associate’s degree. After that, they can continue in an online-only program to earn a Bachelor’s degree. Eventually, the program may expand to other overseas locations.

“Global Bridge is unique in that it is designed for students who are just graduating from high school,” says Dr. Mather. “Students receive intensive discipleship and mentoring from Students International staff, and work at ministry sites that fit with their vocational interests.”

Another unique feature of Global Bridge: because part of the program involves housing, airfare, and meals but it is connected to Students International, students can raise part of the support they need. For the academic portion, they can receive financial aid. Global Bridge costs about $21,000 per year, which Dr. Mather says is about half the price of many Christian colleges.

“The schedule and flexibility of the program truly flows and it is related to the dedicated directors who are so full of joy while simultaneously making relationships both in the communities but as well with us students,” says Wilbur. “The benefits from this program are completely life-giving; by far the most impactful memories I have made have been from Global Bridge!”

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