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By GreatSchools Staff
The cost of going abroad can run into several thousands of dollars, and shorter trips are not necessarily cheaper. It's important for parents to find out what the program's fee covers. You'll need to make sure you account for airfare, room and board, local transportation and recreational trips outside the classroom. And don't forget to figure in the cost of immunizations and health care. Check to see what overseas services your health insurance covers; you might find you need to consider a supplemental policy.
Some programs, such as Amigos, help students raise money. Crohn says his group raised two-thirds of the cost of their $3,500 trip by selling grapefruit to friends, classmates and neighbors. But raising the money was time-consuming for the students doing the selling and for the parents enlisted to deliver the grapefruit.
Many programs offer scholarships, so be sure to ask about them.
A good place to start looking for an international travel program is the Council on Standards of International Educational Travel, a 20-year-old independent nonprofit based in Alexandria, VA, that promotes student exchange programs, sets standards for them and evaluates them. The council accredits programs that send U.S. students abroad and those that send foreign students here.
A program can still be a good one even if it's not on the accredited list, says the council's executive director, John Hishmeh. But accreditation gives parents the assurance that a program has agreed to follow standards for safety, educational value, student selection, placement and financial responsibility.
Which doesn't mean that things will go perfectly.
"Standards aren't created with the premise that nothing's going to go wrong," Hishmeh says. "They tell you what is reasonable to expect."
That means families need to ask lots of questions before signing a contract or sending a deposit to an international program. For a list of questions to ask, read What to Ask When Choosing a Travel Program for Your Teen on GreatSchools.org.
Leaving home isn't the only way for your teenager to get a global perspective, practice a foreign language or make friends from another country. Hishmeh of CSIET says student exchange organizations are always looking for U.S. families to host foreign students. Inviting a foreign student into your home can be a rich experience for the whole family. And it might whet your teenager's appetite to travel next year.
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