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 one”? 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.
After safety and legitimacy, quality is often the next priority for families on the hunt for a summer abroad. Pose the following questions to potential organizations to ascertain whether you’re on the same page about what will be delivered.
Depth & Approach
Does the organization provide an educational curriculum, or is it more of summer camp or travel tour?
International travel at its most basic level provides an incredible opportunity for self-discovery; however, you may be looking for a more multifaceted experience than a simple tour can offer. Does the program offer a curriculum? What does the curriculum look like? What global themes or issues are addressed? Can they provide sample learning or leadership activities? While you don’t need to know every single aspect of a program ahead of time (the surprise is half the fun!), being familiar with the basics can be helpful in determining whether program objectives are in line with your expectations.
GLA’s Leadership Curriculum uses experiential learning methods to meet predetermined learning objectives, and was designed by experienced educators. Each location is ripe with opportunities to delve into both local and global issues and for students to For students with, say, a passion for wildlife conservation or education, exploring programs by type can be a useful tool. Looking for an even more learning-intensive option? Excellent! We offer Fellowships in a variety of concentrations; with coursework before, during, and after their program, this is a great way for curious students to bring their experience to the next level through a self-guided project. You can learn more about our Leadership Curriculum, themes, and objectives here.
If the organization offers service learning programs, how do they approach their projects?
Be familiar with how the company approaches the volunteer component. How do they work with communities? Who are their in-country contacts or partners? How do they select the projects on which student volunteers assist?
Although they are undoubtedly well intentioned, international volunteers do have the potential to negatively impact their host community if their projects are not approached mindfully and with project sustainability at the forefront. We believe that our roles as supporters and volunteers is to help carry out the community’s vision, not impose our own. Our in-country partners are local experts with intimate knowledge of the values, priorities, and needs of the communities in which our students work. When we partner with local leadership, we align with scalable, sustainable solutions to address development challenges at the community level in a way that makes the most sense for its permanent residents.
Quality & Inclusivity
Does the organization offer “sales” or heavily discount fees? If so, how are they able to do so?
Everyone loves a good sale, but we challenge families to ask themselves (and the company): What is the true cost of this discount? Is the company cutting corners on staff, program quality, or safety? Are there extra fees for certain activities, or is everything included in the posted price?
It is GLA’s goal to make sure tuition cost is as low a barrier as possible while still upholding our promise to provide a well-developed curriculum, high-quality staff and activities, and uphold our rigorous safety standards. Unlike many companies, the our listed tuition includes everything outside of travel to and from the destination country: lodging, meals, community service tools, and all excursions are accounted for in the tuition cost, so there are no surprises.
Does the organization value diversity?
What steps does the company take to ensure a balanced student body? Is this program inclusive of students from different socioeconomic backgrounds?
We believe wholeheartedly that a diverse student body is key to a well-rounded experience abroad. Our programs truly are for everyone, regardless of geographic location, gender identity, race, religious beliefs, or income.
GLA offers scholarships based on both financial need and merit, which can cover up to 30% of the tuition cost. Through partnering with organizations such as Summer Search, which works with high-achieving, low-income first generation students, we make every effort to create cohorts of teens that represent a wide range of demographics and are excited to learn from each other as they explore a new community abroad.
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.