So you know you’re interested in sending your teen abroad for a period of time this summer. You’ve heard from friends that had good experiences, or maybe your child has a strong interest in travel and you’ve decided it’s time for them to spread their wings; or, perhaps you’re an educator yourself and know first-hand the impact that experiential education can have.
If you’re just starting your quest for the ultimate summer abroad, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of providers out there. A Google search of “summer travel teens” will turn up dozens of options that may be undistinguishable at first glance. Many companies offer experiences that appear identical: the same countries, similar themes, same inspirational videos featuring smiling teens. Where to start?!
With so many options out there, how can you tell which organization is the “right” one to travel with? This four-part series will help you formulate the questions that will be most helpful to ask when determining the best fit for your family this summer. Over the coming weeks, we’ll share additional questions that we feel are crucial to explore before committing to a summer abroad experience.
Our advice? Start with the basics! For most families, student safety and the integrity of the company are the most pressing concerns.
At Their Core
Does the organization have clearly-identified mission and values that match your personal philosophy?
Most companies have a mission statement that they can point to, or at the very least a set of values that set the standard for their policies, priorities, and culture. Does their mission resonate with you? If a company hasn’t identified its mission, it may be reason for pause.
GLA is proud of its mission to inspire the next generation to realize their potential to transform the world and their role in it. Our goal is to provide life-changing experiences that will cultivate a global perspective and open-mindedness in students that will ultimately inspire them to become great leaders and global thinkers and seek positive change in their own communities.We believe that leaders are made, not born. Our values guide our interactions with our employees, local partners, students, and the world around us. You can read more about our values here.
Does the organization have a reputable record, founder, and current leadership or management?
The reputation of the person or persons heading a company can say a lot about the integrity of the company itself. Who founded the company, and for what purpose? What is the current CEO or management like? Doing a simple Google search on the key players in the company with which you choose to send your child abroad takes only a moment and is an important part of the vetting process.
GLA’s founders have a stellar record and have accomplished some amazing things both before and after the creation of GLA. Among the ranks of our founders and management staff are a former Peace Corps volunteer and former educators; founder Fred Swaniker was recently honored as one of Time’s 100 most influential people of 2019 for his work with the African Leadership Academy and African Leadership University, among other organizations. You can learn more about our founders here.
Legitimacy & Reputation
Does the organization provide references? What do their online reviews say?
Reviews matter! GoOverseas, GoAbroad, and good ol’ Facebook are great places to start and include most companies within the industry. Be wary of organizations that do not have an online presence or do not offer references. We encourage families to do their homework, to reach out to past participants and their parents to hear about their experiences. Ask for references. Hearing about the legitimacy of a company from an employee is all fine and good, but to have a conversation with someone who has experienced their services for themselves can carry much more weight. Global Leadership Adventures can provide a list of over 500 un-coached references from our programs last spring and summer who are happy to answer any of your questions candidly and give their honest take on their time abroad.
Does the organization value and prioritize safety and risk management? When was the last time they had a third party review?
Asking an organization for details on its commitment to safe practices is an absolute must! Third-party reviews are a crucial aspect in maximizing safety practices as they provide an unbiased and objective view. As the safety of our staff and students is our top priority at GLA, last year we solicited a review from the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), a long-time expert in the field of risk management in the context of outdoor leadership programs. For nearly a year, a team of reviewers examined every part of our organization, from the enrollment and screening process to staff training practices to our activities and policies in the field. They interviewed Headquarters team members, from upper management to interns, as well as summer staff. Suggestions stemming from this review process have been a key component in continuing to uphold GLA’s already high safety standards in an ever-changing world.
Learn more about what sets GLA apart on our website, or give our office a call at 858.771.0645. We’re happy to answer the questions above or any others you have for us.