General Program Information
In preparing for the Program, it is important to recognize that you will be participating in neither a highly structured tour-based trip, nor a strictly classroom-based academic experience. Instead, you will be involved in a program that will ask you to develop a deep understanding of and connection to the people and culture of the host country and that will challenge you to build the confidence, skills, and abilities necessary to connect and engage on this level. You will get the most out of your experience if you approach the summer with an open mind, patience, and enthusiasm.
The Program begins with an in-depth cross-cultural orientation to introduce students to the host country and culture. The orientation will take place on the first day of the Program. This time enables students and group leaders to become accustomed to one another and form a network that will provide vital support throughout the one-week experiential experience. From the moment you arrive in the host country, you will engage in discussions and activities with your group and group leaders as well as with in-country experts to better acquaint you with life in the host country. Throughout orientation, you will acquire “survival” language skills, discuss cultural differences, become familiar with the orientation city, and prepare for the rest of your program. This fast-paced orientation often includes learning about local markets, museums, and important historical, artistic, or architectural sites. Orientation is designed to foster your confidence and provide preparation for deeper immersion in the host culture.
The Program group will develop its own identity throughout the course of the program. Most likely, your group experience will be a significant part of your overall experience. During the Program, your group and group leaders usually become like family, sharing in the joys and bonding over the challenges of your summer abroad. Program groups promote an atmosphere of understanding, acceptance, learning, and growth. Just as Program fellows are introduced to the heterogeneity of many host communities, so too do they learn an incredible amount about the diversity within their own country from their fellow fellows. Interestingly, many fellows learn as much about the United States as they do about the country they are visiting.
Luggage and Packing
Program fellows are limited to two pieces of luggage consisting of a waterproof duffel bag or large traveling backpack (carry-on size) with sufficient room to carry clothing and toiletries for 8 days, in addition to a small backpack. Any student with more than two pieces of luggage will be required to send the excess home from the group meeting place at the student’s expense. The Program recommends using a traditional hiking backpack as your main piece of luggage or an easy to maneuver suitcase and bringing a backpack as your carry-on as these are useful to have throughout the program. Please check with the airlines (both domestic and international) for the most current luggage weight requirements, restrictions, and fees. Detailed packing instructions are included within the Program Guide.
The Program officially begins and ends at Miami or Fort Lauderdale International Airport. On the day of departure, you will be responsible for getting to your group’s meeting place four hours before the scheduled departure of the group’s international flight. When everyone is present, you will check in as a group with your group leaders, who hold your international ticket. The program officially ends when the group returns to their gateway airport in the US. It will be your responsibility to make arrangements beyond this point. Any costs associated with transportation to airports where the program begins are your responsibility.
You will receive program-specific details regarding travel preparation. This information will include:
- your international flight itinerary;
- information about your group’s meeting time and place;
- information necessary to arrange domestic transportation;
- contact information for the travel agency that procures the group’s international flight; and
- general travel recommendations, information, and newly established protocols for Americans traveling abroad.
We have found over the years that too much contact from a participant’s friends or family members back home in the US can cause undue pressure on the participant. If a participant is struggling with adjustments to the local customs, reminders of “how it is at home” can make things even more difficult. Remember that for the duration of the Program our group leaders and in-country colleagues are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week to help participants with any problems or issues that may arise. That being said, we understand the need for some direct communication between participants abroad and their families at home. We recommend that, before departure, you sit down as a family to discuss the most comfortable and appropriate communication strategy (e.g., by emailing and/or phoning a specific number of times a week). Given that the Program will only last for about 10 days, our recommendation for a reasonable amount of calls home is once upon arrival and before returning to the US, to accommodate busy schedules and to minimize homesickness. Parents and friends should note that orientation is a busy time and it may be difficult for participants to find time to call or email home during the first few days of the program. The Program will email each family upon each participant’s arrival in the host country.
Getting Ready General Communication Information and Recommendations
In our experience, the best and most reliable way to contact the US while abroad is through an international calling card. These cards are easy to purchase and use and are inexpensive. Your group leaders will help you with this purchase. We highly discourage the use of international cell phones. In our experience, they are expensive, unreliable, and likely to be lost or stolen. If you feel it’s necessary to have service, you can contact your long-distance phone provider to see if they have an international calling plan.
Internet cafés and communication via Skype are also alternatives when available.
For parents and guardians: “No news is good news.” As difficult as that may sound now, if your child is deeply engaged in the program, adapting to the new culture, and having a great experience, he or she will not be focused on calling or emailing home. If you have not heard from your child for an extended period of time and are concerned, you can always contact the Program group leader to get an update or facilitate communication.
We recommend that you bring $200 to $250. Make your decision regarding how much spending money to bring based on the following: the economy of the host country, the length of the Program, and, ultimately, your personal spending ability.
How should I bring my spending money? ATM cards with individual pin numbers from your bank are the most common way to access money while abroad. If possible, acquire a “chip and PIN” card from your bank. Please check your program-specific packing list and our website for additional information on recommendations relating to your country. Please refer to the personal funds section outlining ways to access cash.