What is a gap year?

A gap year is a break a student takes typically between high school and college. It is a year to learn who you really are outside the structures of public or private school.


Should I take a gap year?

A gap year isn’t for everyone. Some students thrive in the structure of public or private education; others need a chance to set their own schedules and live under their own rules before continuing on to higher education. If you feel like the latter, a gap year offers you the chance to figure out what you have to contribute to the world. If you put effort into a gap program, you’ll leave with a clearer sense of purpose and direction for your next steps in life.


Why should I spend my gap year at Earth Studies?

Earth Studies is a place for students who want to exercise and gain independence, self-awareness, and self-accountability. Our students are self-motivated, high-achievers, and care passionately about the environment and how we relate to it.


What do you look for in applicants or gap year students?

We are looking for agents of change. Our programs require you to take responsibility for your own life and pursue what you feel passionate about. The more initiative you take, the more you’ll get out of our programs.


Who runs the Gap Year Program?

Head to our “Our Team” section of the Earth Studies website to learn about the Cushing family.


What are qualifications of our studies programs leaders?

All of our leaders and educators are highly trained in their fields. In all of Canada, there are three female Krav Maga certified instructors; Earth Studies has two of them, both of whom are black belts in Jiu Jitsu. Jo Ellen, a certified wildlife rehabilitator, has been nursing wild animals for almost three decades. Geoffrey has taught outdoor education for 40+ years.


Are the Cushings the only staff?


No. We constantly have a variety of specialists and professionals on site, the specifics varying with the seasons. In the past, Earth Studies has partnered with wilderness medicine and first aid teachers, ecologists, naturalists, veterinarians, environmentalists, human rights activists, entrepreneurs, Native American elders, and photographers. Who knows what additional networking opportunities will become available in the future!


What are student housing accommodations like?


Overnight students live at the Lodge, a safe and secure cabin about 200 meters from the Cushing home. The Lodge has six bedrooms which can be outfitted to accommodate programs of any size. Each room has an on-suite bathroom.


There is never co-ed bunking, and genders are usually separated by upper and lower floors. The second floor overlooks Indian Lake and — as a quiet, serene oasis — it is the perfect place to read and relax from a day of exploring. The first floor has a fireplace and board games for fun and interaction with friends.


Alternate sleeping arrangements can be discussed with the Cushings.


How often will I be outdoors? Do I need to buy gear from REI or Mountain Equipment Co-Op (MEC) before arriving?


We will spend most of our days outdoors, in or around mountains and lakes. Check the weather before your trip and pack accordingly. Not sure if you have everything you need? Head to the “suggested packing list” per season on our Resources page.


Should I bring money with me?


We provide all meals, so you don’t have to worry about paying for food three times a day. However, we do recommend bringing some money with you just in case you forgot to bring something, or if you want to run to the local depanneur in Ladysmith to get your sugar fix.


Do you have WIFI?


Yes. We have internet access in the Cushing home, which is available from the beachfront and extends to a 50 meter radius around the building. Students are encouraged to stay up to date with the outside world and communicate with family, but are encouraged to remain connected to the natural world, as well. This is why we prefer to communicate by smoke signals on residence.


We reserve the right to disallow internet usage if it is abused.


Do you have cell phone reception?


There is not cell phone reception in the buildings, but there is on higher points of the property. When requested, we make our main phone lines available for students to touch base with parents and relatives. Google, Skype, and Facetime allow students to feel the comforts of home.


Will you store my passport for me?


We prefer that students 15+ hold on to their own passports. When we leave campus, it is required that all non-Canadians have passports on them at all times as a form of ID. This is for your safety and protection. If requested, we can store passports in the company safe.


Do students have access to their medications or do you oversee that?


Students’ access to their medications is figured out case-by-case. Usually, students dispense their own medication.


Any medications brought on-site require a Medication Form[1] [2]  and must be made aware to us prior to the students’ arrival. We reserve the right to remove any participant who fails to comply.


Are there laundry facilities available?


We have a washer and dryer in the downstairs level of the lodge, no coins required. We encourage students to do their own laundry throughout the week.


Can I bring a car to Earth Studies?


We use chartered buses or Earth Studies-owned vehicles whenever possible.


If you would like to use a privately owned vehicle, it must meet the following requirements:

-       Vehicle must be insured for liability with limits of at least $300,000 per accident.

-       Vehicle owner must have primary insurance. Earth Studies insurance will not cover any accidents unless the limits of the owner’s policy are exhausted.

-       Vehicle must be up to date on all maintenance.

-       If the vehicle is owned by someone other than the driver, the driver must give written permission for its use.

-       Students may not drive other students.


All drivers must meet the following requirements:

-       Hold a valid driver’s license.

-       Driver must have an acceptable driving record which consists of:

-       No more than one violation in the past two years.

-       No violations more serious than a speeding ticket or failure to obey traffic control.

-       No at-fault accidents in the past two years.


The use of a private passenger van with a capacity of twelve or more for transportation to and from an academic field trip is prohibited. Use of minibuses is acceptable. If a chartered bus is used, the bus must be secured from a company approved by your organization and its travel management plan when applicable.


Which airport do you recommend?


If you’re travelling internationally, the McDonald International Airport (YOW) is the closest arrival destination. Upon your arrival, one of our staff members will greet you at the airport, give you a private bus tour of the nation’s capital, and ensure all other gappers arrive in Ottawa safely.


Can I defer my start or end date of a gap program?


Of course! Keep in mind, though, that you might miss whale watching, the group orientation party, and the first official game of Egyptian Rat Screw.


If your plans need to deviate from the program schedule, contact us (link to page). As seasoned professionals, we work towards finding a path that works for everyone (as long as we’re not picking you up from the airport at 5 a.m.)


What are your cancellation policies?


We know plans can change so we understand if you need to cancel your time with us, perhaps on short notice.


If you cancel:


-       Between 30 and 50 days from the program start date, Earth Studies will retain 25% of the total program cost as compensation for the lost seat.

-       Between 15 and 29 days from the program start date, Earth Studies will retain 50% of the total program cost.

-       Less than 15 days prior to the program start date or after the program has begun, there will be no refund options available.


What are your program transfer policies?


If you contact us about transferring:


-       More than 50 days from the program start date, there is a $50 transfer charge.

-       Fewer than 50 days from the program start date, standard cancellation policy applies.


I will be of legal drinking age (18+) in the Province of Quebec. Can I drink alcohol?


All gappers of all ages are strictly prohibited from consuming alcohol on the Earth Studies campus. This is for the safety and risk management of Earth Studies, our students, and our animals. We reserve the right to send home any student who is found with any illegal substances or alcohol.


What languages do you speak?

Although Quebec is a French-dominant speaking country, Earth Studies is an English-speaking program.


What do you expect of your students?

At Earth Studies, we want to have fun, and one of the ways to ensure we have fun is by creating a safe and enjoyable learning environment for both people and animals.


We create this open environment by being respectful and listening to our peers and counsellors. We may find ourselves camping overnight, hiking, learning new rules to a game, or learning how to deal with animals on campus, all which require listening to instructions.


There is zero tolerance for any disrespectful or harmful actions towards fellow students, the general public, or the resident and/or wildlife of Earth Studies.


Unacceptable behavior includes but is not limited to:

-       Littering

-       Abusive language

-       Physically striking/assaulting people or animals

-       Damage to property

-       Theft

-       Sexual harassment

-       Bullying


We may go off the Earth Studies campus for field trips or explorations. Even if the group may be off campus, the same behavioral expectations and rules apply.


Students may travel to a field trip site early, remain at the site after the planned activity is completed, or choose to separate from the group, but Earth Studies is not liable for any actions done at these times.


We reserve the right to send home any student who cannot conduct abide by our behavioral rules. We also reserve the right to take legal action when applicable.