What are the benefits of traveling abroad?
There are numerous benefits of traveling abroad! Among them are:
- Opportunities to use language skills developed in the classroom in real-life situations with native speakers
- Developing self-reliance and travel survival skills: map-reading, asking directions, understanding itineraries, using foreign currency
- Hands-on lessons in geography, history, math (currency, budgeting), and cultural competence
- Experiencing first-hand daily life in another culture
- Reflecting on the experience of being outside one’s comfort zone
What are the benefits of hosting a student from another country?
- Promote cultural understanding by sharing your family’s customs and traditions with an international student, and learn about his/hers
- Help an international student build his/her English skills
- Develop a relationship with a family from overseas. Many host families go to visit their student in his/her home country!
- Receive a discount/rebate on your own ISE travel program.
Who is eligible for ISE programs?
Cultural Immersion Abroad Programs (CIAP)
- Published programs: World language students in middle and senior high school; world language teachers and adults
fluent in the target language.
- For Spring Programs: students must be in second semester of level 2 at time of travel.
- For Summer Programs: students must have completed at least level 2 at time of travel.
- Custom programs: generally anyone who wishes to travel. The organizing teacher/group leader determines eligibility for his/her group. If the custom program includes an ISE family stay, language ability may be required. Please discuss this with the ISE coordinator for your program.
US Hosting Program (USHP):Families of all types can host.
- Primary language spoken in the host family home is English with a commitment to speak English at home as much as possible.
- Host family must provide the student with a bed of his/her own.
- Student can share a room with a child of the same gender and approximate age, or have a single bedroom.
- Host family may be responsible for transporting the student to classes or activities, depending on what program they participate in.
- Host family is responsible for providing meals
Why do participants on published programs need at least 2 years of the language?
Our programs are designed to provide a language and cultural immersion experience. To this end, the group leaders and guides carry out daily activities in the target language, and the volunteer host families are instructed to speak to ISE participants in their native language. A minimal level of language skills is required for the participant to fully partake in these activities and interactions.
For participants who do not speak the target language, ISE offers custom programs but that are tailored to the needs of the group.
How does ISE choose host families?
Understandably, parents of ISE students want to be assured that care and consideration are given to the process of finding suitable host families.
In each community where we have family stays, ISE has a local placement coordinator. This person is most often a teacher or someone else in the community who has access to local schools. S/he establishes contact through schools (language and social studies departments) and announces the opportunity to host a foreign teenager. In the great majority of the cases our coordinators have been doing this work for a number of years.
It is significant to note that our host families are volunteers. This is an important distinction from typical room-and-board arrangements whereby some companies literally hire families to host two, three or more for pay. Since they are NOT paid, the primary incentive is a genuine desire to host a foreign student and to share a cross-cultural experience. (In some countries, a small stipend to cover food expenses is provided to families.) Families who host must complete an application form in which they provide references and information about themselves. The local coordinator reviews each application and decides on the suitability of each family.
The main criteria for hosting are that the family has the means to host (provision of room and lodging; the student will always have his/her own bed if not room) and a strong interest in hosting. They are expected to provide a safe and caring environment for the duration of the stay. The foreign student is to be treated as a member of the family, subject to the normal rules of the household. Most of the time group activities are not conducted during the family stay. This allows for maximum opportunity to become integrated into the everyday life of the family in an immersion setting.
Host families are expected to comply with the norms of the program. At the same time, students/participants are expected to do their part to make the home stay a success: practicing daily courtesies, demonstrating interest in things new and different, engaging in conversation, not retreating to the privacy of his/her room, not unfairly comparing the host family with the family back home or with other host families.
While no one can offer absolute guarantees about an experience as personal and subjective as this one, we have considerable confidence in our local placement coordinators. We rely on the good will of all families and on honest full disclosure from their application form. The overwhelming majority of our students continue to rate their home stays positively.
The welfare of the student is always of paramount importance to us. If there is cause to move the student to a different host family, this will be done with the knowledge of the group leader. Prior to the group’s departure, ISE will communicate to the group leader the following information about the host families: name, address, telephone and/or cell phone number, occupations of the parents, and the number of boys and girls and their respective ages. In this way, the two students can start to communicate, usually by email.
Can my child stay with his/her own host family?
Yes! Students/participants may stay with their own host family. The participant (and his/her parents) are responsible for arranging and paying for the transportation to and from the host family, as well as coordinating with his/her teacher the participant’s departure from, and return to, the group. A release form for this experience can be found here.
How can I afford this program?
Many ISE students earn a portion of the money themselves. In schools where the travel program is established on a regular basis, students can plan ahead and save over a two- or three-year period. Use this financial planning tool to calculate how much money you should plan to earn or save by week or month ISE has also collected successful fundraising ideas from students and teachers over the years. In addition, ISE awards thousands of dollars in financial aid each year to students who qualify. Check out our financial aid grant calculator for more information.
Is financial aid available to students?
Yes! ISE meets its mission by providing financial aid to qualified students. Learn more here.
How does one apply for financial aid?
The application can be downloaded from this website and you can learn more here. A complete application must be submitted to ISE by November 30 (postmark applies).
Does ISE have any awards and/or grants for students?
ISE meets its mission is by supporting students in ways such as the Alumnus Scholarship Award, Most Valuable Traveler Award, Best “Dear Family” Letter and Best Photo Awards. Learn more here!
My child has traveled with ISE before. Does s/he get a discount?
Yes. Paying participants who have traveled with ISE before receive a $200 "Alumnus Credit" on subsequent programs.
Are there any family discounts?
Yes. Family members receive a $100 "Family Member Credit" when more than one member travels as a paying participant in the same year or in subsequent years.
Is the cost of this program tax deductible?
No. While ISE travel programs are educational in nature, the program fee pays for actual travel arrangements and are not tax deductible.
Is college credit available for the ISE experience?
Currently, ISE does not offer college credit for our programs. Our Director of Education, Tanya Gajewski is developing relationships with colleges and universities so that we are able to offer this option in the near future!
Why does ISE have a Code of Conduct?
Simply, ISE’s high expectations for the behavior of the students on our programs help us maintain the integrity and educational quality of our programs. ISE expects students and teachers to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to being a good ambassador. Students and teachers who cannot follow the Code of Conduct should not travel with ISE.
What happens when a student breaks the Code of Conduct?
Group leaders determine the consequences for discipline issues while abroad. The decision to send a student home is made by the group leaders (teachers) and supported by ISE. A problem student is returned to the U.S. at the parents’ expense. By signing the program application, parents/guardians agree to bear the cost of all expenses related to a student’s return to the U.S. and acknowledge that they forfeit all monies paid.
Will I receive a bill?
ISE only sends individual invoices for the final payment. For all other payments, please adhere to the payment schedule that pertains to your program. In most cases, the organizing teacher will collect payments prior to the postmark deadline.
What charges can I expect to see on the final bill?
In addition to the base price, you will see one or more of these charges on your final bill:
All groups, custom and published:
- Fuel Surcharge - – determined by the airline, this is a pass-through expense. ISE charges you exactly what the airline charges for the fuel surcharge at the time of purchase.
In addition, published programs may also have:
- Weekend charge – if your group departs or returns on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday.
- Small Group Supplement– if your combined group does not meet the minimum number required.
You may also see charges that pertain to additional excursions or activities specific to your child’s itinerary. Please ask the coordinator for details.
How do I make a payment?
The deposit must be made by check, cashier’s check or money order. Please give your deposit with program application to the teacher organizing the program; s/he will send them to ISE. Both the deposit and application are required for registration. Make checks or money orders payable to ISE and write the participant's name, school and destination country on each payment. ISE cannot accept postdated checks. All postdated checks will be returned immediately. Subsequent payments may be made online with a credit card. Make a payment online. ISE only sends individual invoices for the final payment. For all other payments, please adhere to the payment schedule that pertains to your program.
Can I pay with a credit card?
Yes! ISE can accept credit card and debit card payments made online after the initial deposit has been made by check. Click here to make a payment.
My child was assessed a fee. Why?
ISE charges fees for: returned checks ($40), re-enrollment ($100), late or missing payments ($40), late registration ($40), late materials ($40). See ISE’s fee schedule.
What kind of insurance does ISE provide?
Limited insurance for minor illness or accidents and trip cancellation insurance is provided for all ISE participants. Students will receive a claim form to carry with them on the program. Coverage details can be found in our insurance brochure. ISE recommends that each traveler’s own comprehensive medical insurance be up to date and include coverage for the destination country. Individuals may want to purchase additional trip cancellation and or medical insurance coverage if they wish to have more coverage than our insurance policy currently allows.
Note: Pre-existing conditions, mental illness and pregnancy are not covered. Coverage against catastrophic monetary loss due to unpredictable world events is provided by ISE’s Cancellation Protection Plan. If this isn’t on the website- make a link directly on p. 44 of fall booklet.
How do I know ISE is financially stable?
Over the past few months, ISE has fielded questions regarding stakeholder concern about poorly managed travel companies/organizations that have closed leaving travelers with no way to recoup their financial payments. We at ISE are proud of our fiscal responsibility, our reserves maintained to support us in lean times, and our commitment to reasonable pricing while ensuring we meet our educational mission. As a stakeholder, you can view our yearly 990 or request a copy of our most recent audit. Also feel free to contact our Executive Director if you have additional questions.
How do I cancel?
“Voluntary cancellations” must be submitted in writing (email is acceptable) by the participant or participant’s parent/guardian directly to ISE, clearly indicating the participant's name, school, and destination country. ISE cannot accept voluntary cancellations made by phone or requested by the teacher for the student. Cancellations can be emailed to the Registrar: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why did ISE cancel my child?
ISE reserves the right to cancel a participant for lack of payment, for failure to abide by the standards set by the teacher and/or school, or if the student/parent does not disclose a significant medical condition that may affect the student’s travel experience. In both cases the normal cancellation fees will be assessed.
What is your refund policy?
Please see our cancellation schedule.
How long does it take to process a cancellation?
Please allow 6-12 weeks for processing cancellations. If payments were made with credit card, refunds will be processed 60 days after the last charge was made. ISE issues refunds in the form of a check. Insurance claims may take longer as they are paid by our insurance carrier, not ISE.
Can my child depart earlier / return later than the group?
Yes, a participant may request an early departure or late return that uses either the outbound or return portion of their group air ticket. Eligibility for this depends on the airline’s group contract stipulations. Learn more here.
Can I arrange my child’s air travel?
Yes, however ISE strongly discourages this. ISE arranges group travel; when individuals book their own air arrangements, it disrupts the group travel arrangements and can be challenging for both the group leader(s) and the participant. Using frequent flier miles, or purchasing an individual ticket, entails an air record separate from the rest of the group. A separate, individual ticket can potentially leave a participant traveling alone. Furthermore, ISE insurance coverage is not effective while a participant is traveling separately from the group. If a participant is not using any or all of the ISE provided flights, a parent/guardian must sign a release form provided by ISE. If a teacher/leader decides that the group must book air travel together through ISE, ISE will support the teacher’s decision.
Is there a discount if a participant privately arranges his/her own air travel?
Participants who wish to arrange their own air must inform ISE when they register. They may deduct $600 (Europe/Peru) or $400 (Costa Rica/Ecuador/Mexico/Panama/Puerto Rico) from their program price. No credit is possible for partially flown itineraries or one way tickets. ISE and the group leader cannot be responsible for the participant in any way, and insurance coverage is not effective, while the participant is traveling separately from the group. If a participant is not using any or all of the ISE provided flights, a parent/guardian must sign a release form provided by ISE.
Will my child earn frequent flier miles on this program?
In most cases, the group tickets that ISE purchases are eligible to earn miles. However, there are certain types of tickets that are not eligible and ISE does not guarantee frequent flier mile eligibility. Participants should present their frequent flier program number at the time of check in to determine if their ticket will earn miles or not. Participants are also advised to keep all boarding passes in order to claim miles retroactively with the airline.