How will I contact my friends and family back home?
AmeriSpan recommends that you bring a pre-paid phone card with you or a cell phone that works overseas. You may not make phone calls from your homestays, however your parents may call you there. It is customary to keep calls brief. Most schools have onsite access to the Internet for student use and many towns have Internet cafes as well.
What should I pack?
Our advice is to pack light. You will be responsible for carrying your own luggage on and off the airplane and to and from your homestay. Plus, you will want to leave room to bring home all the souvenirs you may buy. Bring comfortable, practical clothes that you can wear more than once, with a few nice pieces thrown in. Remember to pack clothes that you can layer, and never bring new shoes. For specific country packing lists, consult your 'Need-to-Know' sheets.
Am I just in class all day?
No! Sure you have some language classes, but all the programs offer many activities and excursions. Consult your itinerary for the best guideline of your day-to-day activities.
Do I have to take a placement test?
Yes, a test is given the first day at school. The test lasts approximately 20 minutes and allows us to evaluate your language skills and helps place you in the correct classes. Some schools also conduct an oral exam for a more thorough assessment.
Is there homework?
Each program is different. Some require homework while others have no homework. However, the term "homework" is used loosely and might not mean lots of handwritten exercises. For example, your homework might be for you to watch a specific TV show, interview a member of your host family, or read an article in the local paper. Your leader may also add assignments for you to complete about the activities and excursions you participated in.
Will I be speaking the target language 24/7?
You will be surrounded by your target language, but you will likely have plenty of opportunity to speak both English and the target language. Just remember that you can really build your language skills by practicing at every opportunity... so take advantage of being in another country to use your target language whenever possible.
Can I stay out late? Can I leave the program to travel on my own?
For teenage participants, AmeriSpan and the group's leader will discuss rules and a curfew for the group. No exceptions/extensions are made even at the request of your parents. AmeriSpan does not tolerate teenage participants skipping school, missing scheduled activities, breaking curfew, drinking alcohol, using drugs or engaging in sexual activities. Breaking the rules will result in your expulsion and early departure at the cost of your family.
What are the accommodations like?
My group leaders choose homestay accommodations for their group because living with a host family is the best way to get to know the culture and language of your host country and see what daily life is like. Host families will speak to you in the target language, helping you practice the skills in an authentic context. The school selects each host family after completing a rigorous application process. The families must live within a reasonable distance from school, have ample living space, live in a clean, safe, comfortable environment, and enjoy hosting international students. You may indicate any requests and preferences on you application and a family that best suits your needs will be chosen.
What types of meals are served?
Your host family will serve you meals customary to your host country. It is best to go into it with an open mind, knowing that you will be experiencing something new and different. In some countries it is customary to eat the biggest meal during the day, rather than at nighttime. In other countries, foods you may eat for dinner are served in the morning. Most host families are able to accommodate food allergies and preferences with advance notice.
Can I change host families before or while on the program?
If you are having a problem or feel uncomfortable in your host family, please let your leader or the school's homestay coordinator know immediately. They will help you try and resolve your problem. If the best solution is to switch to a new family and there is another family available, the homestay coordinator will help you do so. Remember, the sooner you speak up, the sooner your problem can be solved.
What out of pocket expenses will I encounter?
Depending on the location, you will be provided with 2-3 meals per day at your homestay. You will be responsible for any meals not included in the program. Additionally, plan for any snacks, souvenirs, drinks etc. Transportation to/from school and during your free time is also not included in the program cost. For most countries there is an airport departure tax (usually about $20).
How are host families chosen?
The school selects each host family after completing a rigorous application process. A family must meet the schools' high standards before they can accept students into their homes and they must agree to all of the school's rules and guidelines. Each family is required to provide students with basic necessities including a bed with the appropriate lines, pillow, a desk with a lamp, clean drinking water, all meals provided with the program, and of course plenty of interaction. Keep in mind, most host families provide students with more than the minimum required. Periodic visits are made to the homes to ensure things are kept at a suitable level.
What if my child is homesick?
Whenever someone studies abroad, everyone (even adults) will experience some cultural adjustment. This cultural adjustment can be a little more difficult for younger participants as they are less experienced travelers and their expectations may be a bit more unrealistic (i.e. standard of living and lifestyle differences). Usually, cultural shock/homesickness occurs within the first week and disappears as your child gets used to the differences.
How will I know my child has arrived safely?
For group programs, AmeriSpan recommends that leaders set up a phone chain using the students' at-home contacts for the quickest and easiest to keep everyone informed. Keep in mind that flights are rarely on time, immigration lines are usually long and the group needs to get from the airport to their lodging. These factors may cause a delay with the group's leader communicating with you.
How can I communicate with my child? And vice versa?
The best way to keep in touch is to purchase a pre-paid phone card or a cell phone that works overseas. Participants may not make phone calls from their homestays, however parents may call the participants at the homestay. It is customary to keep calls brief. Most program locations have access to the Internet as well.
If we apply and change our minds, can we get our money back?
First, you'll need to decide ahead that this will be the right program for your child. The registration fee for Group Programs is non-refundable. AmeriSpan's Group Refund policy is as follows: You are entitled to a full refund (excluding registration fee) when you cancel more than 8 weeks before your start date. If you cancel within 4 – 8 weeks notice, you will be billed for 20% of the program cost and the registration fee. If you cancel less than 4 weeks before the program start date, THERE ARE NO REFUNDS. There are also no refunds once the program begins. Airfare arranged by AmeriSpan is non-refundable.
What type of spending money should my child bring?
We recommend a combination of debit/credit card, cash and travelers checks. In most program locations, there are ATM machines. Although traveler's checks can be more difficult to use, we still recommend some just in case your child loses their purse or wallet. Depending on the location, you child will be provided with 2-3 meals per day. He/she will be responsible for any meals not included in the program, as well as snacks, souvenirs, drinks etc. Transportation to/from school and during his/her free time is not included in the program cost. For most countries there is an airport departure tax (usually about $20).
What paperwork does my child need?
All participants will need a valid passport and some countries will need a notarized letter from all legal guardians granting permission for the child to travel without both present. Some countries change requirements often so it is best to check with the group's leader as he/she will have contacted the country's embassy or consulate and find out exactly what is needed.
Can I contact AmeriSpan directly?
It is always best to contact your child's group leader before contacting AmeriSpan. If you are unable to do so, do not hesitate to contact us. If you need to get a hold of your child while they are traveling, please call the AmeriSpan office or our 24 hour Emergency Phone number and we will help you get in touch with your child.