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||China, CostaRica, Ecuador, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, 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|