High school students only have a few precious summers before they plunge into college life. So, how do you take full advantage of this valuable window of time? Here are five tips for choosing a summer program:
Tip 1: Consider what areas you want to further develop
Whether you are a student looking for a program for yourself or a parent looking for your son or daughter, it’s important to think deeply about what areas of your life you want to further develop.
Do you want to build a portfolio of international experience? Whether you are passionate about the environment, love animals, helping children, sports or want to study health care, there are a range of international community service programs that allow you to gain hands-on experience abroad.
Start by analyzing the outcome you want, and then work backwards to find the program that will help you reach that goal.
Tip 2: Look for more than just tours or trips – seek additional value.
While teen tours or adventure travel may be fun, there are many programs, like Global Leadership Adventures, that combine exciting international travel with valuable hands-on leadership development.
Not only will you have fun and see a new country (as you would on any old trip), but because of the community service and leadership components, the trips are more impactful, memorable and often bond new friends together for life.
Tip 3: Investigate safety protocols
Every program will tell you their programs are safe – but don’t settle for a simple answer. Probe this deeply. After all, your (or your son or daughter’s) life will be in that program’s hands. Look for a coherent, comprehensive and specific set of safety protocols that discuss lodging, staffing, transportation, healthy meals. Check out GLA’s Five Point Safety System as an example.
Tip 4: Be sure you know who is in charge.
The people running your program are the ones who will most directly impact your experience. While most programs will display a roster of program staff with impressive sounding credentials, think about from a broader perspective: Are the staff members just American? Or are they from the destination country? Or is it a mix of both?
While it’s great to have American teachers who have experience working with high school students, they might not necessarily know the ins and outs of a certain country. This is where local expertise is essential. Local people who know the territory can provide a safer experience and access to people and places that foreigners don’t know about. Our expert staff is comprised of local people and American educators.
Tip 5: Talk to people who have done the program.
It sounds obvious, but many people still do not check references. The best way to get unvarnished, first-hand accounts of what a program is actually like is to talk to past participants. Be sure to make a list of probing questions before in order to gather meaningful information. Be specific and ask questions like, “What was the worst part of the program?” or “Describe exactly where students lived during the program”, or “How did this compare to other programs you have participated on in the past?”. To speak to GLA references, just contact us and we’ll gladly send you a list of past participants.
That’s it for now.
While all these things might seem like a lot to think about, remember that your summer program is an investment, just like any other major purchase. Take your time and do your homework and you’ll increase your chances of having a life-changing experience instead of just another vacation.