“My GLA experience definitely provided even more spark to make this project something bigger, and to continue my volunteer efforts.”
Considering a trip to Europe this summer? If so, you might be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options out there. Typing “Europe for teens” into Google will yield countless results, from gap years to homestays to standard sight-seeing tours. How do you know what you’re really getting yourself into?
While GLA has been a leader in the education abroad world for over a decade now, this year we’ve joined the throngs of options for Europe travel. We’re fond of saying, “We’re not just another teen tour”–and it’s true! We don’t mean to toot our own horn, but our programs are a far cry from a typical sightseeing tour…in all the best ways.
#1: Specific, Integrated Learning Objectives
While we would certainly be remiss to skip out on iconic monuments and sights like the Eiffel Tower or the Sistine Chapel, our programs aren’t built around bit-ticket Instagram opportunities. Instead, these bucket list items are integrated into a meaningful, cohesive experience, where every activity has a purpose. Each stop along the way ties into higher learning objectives and answers key questions about the history, culture, and present-day status of our area of exploration. Country Discovery programs aim to dive deep into regional identities and histories, culture, and where the country fits into the grand scheme of things. Special Themed programs hone in on a singular theme which we explore through various sites across Europe, such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math), the European Union, or the formation of Europe itself.
#2: Community Service Component
We’ve created our Europe Discovery programs using same philosophy that governs our approach to Service Learning programs. We believe that in giving time and energy to grass-roots projects, we not only make an impact in the community but are also able to more fully understand and form connections with local people. Each Europe Discovery program includes roughly five hours, or an afternoon, of community service. This could mean spending a day assisting with community garden initiatives in Italy or helping at a low-income daycare in Greece. While our specific projects won’t be finalized until closer to summer, all of our projects partner with local, community-led organizations; our helping hands go to whichever project is most needed at the time of our arrival.
#3: Leadership Curriculum
At GLA, we’re all about leadership. (It’s in our name, after all!) Our leadership curriculum is infused into all components of our programs. A good leader is someone who positively affects change. A great leader maintains a global perspective, open-mind and caring outlook while impacting others. Unlike some summer leadership camps for high school students, GLA provides life-changing experiences that will cultivate these characteristics, inspiring students to be great leaders. Travel presents so many opportunities for our future leaders to explore their styles, regardless of whether it is to rural Ghana or in the heart of Paris. Learn about what effective leadership looks like through guest speakers, workshops, and thoughfully-led discussions.
#4: Local Perspectives & Community Connection
We’re on the move, but we’re still taking the time to forge the connections that make travel so magical. Some are guest speakers who are experts in their field; others are local residents who are eager to give visitors a peek into what life looks like in his or her hometown. Through activities like cooking classes, guest lecturers, visits to local high schools, and informal, off-the-cuff conversations, we foster these valuable relationships. Most travelers would agree that while exposure to new landscapes, foods, and languages is a treat, the people they meet along the way are what truly makes a lasting impact.
Itching to travel abroad? Check out all of our Europe Discovery programs here!
“The most important thing I learned while on both these trips is that if you want to make a change, you can’t just wipe away or ignore the communities and cultures already existent in a place when you arrive. I also learned that simply because something is not what much of western civilization is accustomed to does not make it wrong.”
There’s something special about the mountains–maybe it’s the spectacular views, the gradual change in climate and terrain, or the sense of accomplishment upon reaching the peak. Last week was International Mountain Day. In homage to the mountains, we’ve compiled some of our best mountain photos from last summer’s excursions. Enjoy!
A quiet, cool morning waiting for the fog to clear on the Lares Trek in Peru (Peru: Service In The Sacred Valley™)
Hike a half-day into the rural mountains outside of Shaxi until you come to this hidden gem! A beautiful temple is carved into the hillside, just waiting to be explored. (China: Mandarin Service Adventure)
You’ve never seen mountains like this before! The Rainbow Mountain in Peru is a photographer’s paradise. (Peru: Service Through The Lens™)
Pastoral views from the route up Mt. Brison (Dominican Republic: Caribbean Service Adventure)
Snow-capped mountains, winter sunlight, hiking companions…aaaaah. The perfect day. (Peru: Service In The Sacred Valley™)
This is as mountain-y a it gets in Fiji–but the views are still A+! See the entire Yasawa island chain from the ridge, just a short hike from the Home Base. (Fiji: Children Of The South Pacific™)
Jamie Paradis, a high school senior from Maplewood, New Jersey, enrolled in GLA’s Costa Rica: Beachside Service Adventure program because she was excited to make a difference. Jamie also wanted to deepen her experience and opted to enroll as a GLA Fellow, an optional program through which students can expand upon their GLA program with a curriculum that both highlights and recognizes their achievements. For her Fellowship final project, Jamie submitted a collection of seven poems that were inspired by her experiences in Costa Rica. We’ve picked two of our favorites to showcase here.
“releasing baby turtles”
we heard the soft cracks early this morning
43 small lives
squirming in our
lime green bucket
it tips over, spilling
and not yet hard shells
the turtles instantly know
where to go
struggling to inch
across the gray sand
two don’t move,
frozen near our bucket
we cheer for them the most.
they each slowly
begin their lives
the waves help,
picking them up
when they’re close enough
bringing them closer,
but then throwing them
we see their small black heads
pop to the surface
before each new wave crashes
soon we can’t see any of them at all
except for the squiggly
I wonder how many
how many will grow
and lay their own
eggs filled with
begun with sandy journeys