I mentioned in my last post that I have traveled to Guatemala with students a few times. I work very closely with a non-profit organization in Seattle called Global Visionaries (GV). Their mission is empowering young people to become global leaders in creating a just and sustainable future. It is a truly inspirational yearlong leadership program that brings together a mix of high school students from different socio-economic and racial backgrounds from the Seattle metro area.

A big part of the work takes place before the travel experience. Students who might never interact outside of the GV program work together on local service work teams doing positive work in the community such as trail restoration or teaching fifth graders about micro-lending. They go on a pre-trip retreat during which they take part in youth-led anti-oppression workshops. When they arrive to Guatemala, they are one group, united by a common desire to change the world.

In Guatemala, they join Guatemalan youth to carry out work projects that include school classroom construction, reforestation, coffee farming, and hospital volunteer work. Students also have one-on-one Spanish instruction and live with a local host family.

The most powerful part of the trip is the relationships that form between the U.S. and Guatemalan students. They begin with many preconceptions about each other and end the trip in tears, not wanting to part ways after an intense two weeks. When students return home, they often have a difficult time adjusting back to life in the U.S. (reverse culture shock). Their eyes have opened to the world, and they are never quite sure how to explain their experience to their friends.

I have seen many students go abroad during high school and return with a clear head, ready to take on the world. They often return to participate more actively in class discussions, sharing insights from their experiences with classmates. And the common “I dunno” reaction to the question, “What do you want to study in college?” frequently turns into a newly focused set of goals.

I have also seen many students who do not even consider going abroad during high school. They fear the financial cost of the trip or are just too nervous to travel so far from home. I tell them (and their parents) that traveling abroad is an investment like none other in your future. You don’t even know what you’re missing until you have the opportunity to open your eyes to the world. And stepping outside your comfort zone builds character; it’s pretty hard to teach that in the classroom.

There are many great programs, several fully funded, that support students though an international experience. Below is a list of some of them. It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on the Department of State’s list of Youth Leadership Programs for new additions and updates.

Global Visionaries (Seattle)  October 19  Sliding scale  Guatemala
National Security Language Initiative for Youth (NSLI-Y)  November 1  Fully funded China, Egypt, India, Jordan, Korea, Morocco, Oman, Russia, Taiwan, Tajikistan, or Turkey
YMCA Global Teen Program November 30  $950 – $1250 + airfare  South Africa, Thailand, Chile, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, or India
Youth Leadership Program with Azerbaijan  December 2  Fully funded  Azerbaijan
Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES Abroad)  January 10, 2013  Fully funded  Bosnia & Herzegovina, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Oman, Thailand, Turkey
Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) Program  January 15, 2013  Fully funded  Germany
Global Citizen Year  March 7  $26,300  Various countries
American Youth Leadership Program (AYLP) with Samoa  April 1, 2013  Fully funded  Samoa
Andeo International Homestays  May 15  Starts at $1,800  ChinaCostaRicaEcuadorFranceGermanyJapanMexico, and Spain
Youth Ambassadors Program  TBD  Fully funded  Brazil
Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program  TBD  Fully funded  Vermont (Iraqi students join U.S. students in for a cultural exchange)
AMIGOS Summer Program  TBD $4,600  Various locations in the Caribbean, Central and South America
AFS Study Abroad Programs  Varies  Varies  Various countries
The Experiment in International Living  TBD  Starts at $5,000  Long list of countries
Summer Search (Seattle) Teacher nominations in the fall. Fully funded Varies – domestic and international experiences





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