Pre-departure Information

Great Wall of China

The Experiment in International Living provides many pre-departure resources for participants and parents. In addition to the materials we provide on the website, our admissions officers are available by phone and email and may also be available to conduct online chats, for participants and parents, prior to departure.

Experiment admissions officers and other staff members are available to conduct pre-departure orientations near your hometown, for both small and large groups. Please contact us to inquire about this option. We believe that the pre-departure process is shared between the participant, parent, school and/or mentoring organization, and us.

On this page you will be able to download and/or print important documents about your host country and program, including flight information, domestic travel arrangements, health and safety guidelines, visa applications (if necessary), packing guidelines, health and baggage insurance information, and the Participant Handbook.

Our summer 2017 flight information will be published on a separate secure website, which can be accessed from the Parent Portal.

Please watch this series of six pre-departure videos, designed to help prepare you and your family for your Experiment summer abroad.

Once Experimenters and parents have watched the videos together and read the program-specific information on the pre-departure webpage, you are invited to complete our pre-departure quiz. One lucky Experimenter who answers all questions correctly will receive an Experiment tote bag for his or her travels this summer. Bon voyage!

Domestic Departure

The group’s meeting time is five (5) hours prior to your international flight departure. If you are flying domestically, your domestic flight should arrive no later than six (6) hours prior to the international flight departure. When everyone is present, you will check in as a group with your group leaders, who hold your international ticket. Do not check in in advance. Your group leaders will meet you at the time and area designated and will be holding an Experiment sign. Your international airline tickets will be electronically confirmed; there is no paper ticket.

Returning Home

Your flight home at the end of your program must be scheduled at least four (4) hours after your international flight lands in the US. You will need time to collect your bags, go through customs and immigration, change terminals, and go back through security before you get to your gate.

Don’t forget your valid passport!

Domestic Travel Information

Students have the option of staying at the designated international departure/return airport hotel in the US the night before departure and the night after their return to the US. (The designated hotel information will be posted on our secure flight webpage, accessible from the Parent Portal.)

At least one group leader will be staying at the same airport hotel, and other group members may be staying there as well. Participants are responsible for arranging and paying for the cost of these accommodations.

International Flight Information

In the interest of participant privacy and safety we do not publish our group flight details. Please log in to the parent portal to view your child’s international group flight. We will also email the secure flight webpage to participants and parents in our acceptance notification.

If you are unable for some reason to take the international group flight, please contact admissions immediately at 1 800 345-2929 or at experiment@worldlearning.org to discuss your options. Please note that any US student traveling independently must be dropped off and picked up in country by a parent/guardian. In addition, because we arrange group tickets, The Experiment charges a $250 inconvenience fee to students not traveling on the international group flight. (However, international students who live abroad and must travel independently from the group are not charged the $250 inconvenience fee.)

Participants who receive financial assistance from The Experiment are required to travel internationally with the group.

If you have any questions about your international group travel, please contact admissions at 1 800 345-2929 or at experiment@worldlearning.org.

Below you will find links to specific pre-departure materials for each Experiment program. These materials detail the following: domestic travel arrangements, health and safety guidelines, visa applications (if necessary), packing guidelines, accident and sickness insurance information, and the participant handbook. (In early 2017, our summer 2017 flight information will be published in a secure webpage, found in the Parent Portal.)

Many questions can be answered by reviewing these materials, but please do not hesitate to contact us if further information is required.

Our Participant Handbook is also helpful for participants prior to departure and is a reference for all our policies.

The Experiment provides accident and sickness insurance coverage for our students. We will publish our description of coverage here at a later date.

Note: If a document is listed on the following pages, but not linked, please check back again at a later time, as these pages will be updated. If you have difficulty downloading these files, email us at experiment@worldlearning.org or call (800) 345-2929.

Important Passport and Medical Information

If you do not yet have a passport, or if you have not applied for one, you should do so immediately. If you have not had a physical with your doctor since June 2016, make an appointment as quickly as possible, as your medical form must be filled out based on a current physical.

Select your program:

In order to participate in an Experiment program, each participant, parent, or mentor will need to secure and pay for the participant’s tourist visa application. We recommend using our visa agency, Travisa; alternately, however, you may apply for the visa through your local embassy or consulate. Tourist visas are required for travel to and from China, India, Tanzania, and Vietnam.

US citizens require a tourist visa to travel to:

  • Brazil
  • China
  • India
  • Tanzania
  • Vietnam

In early 2017, visa application instructions and fees will be published here.

Other Documents Needed for Travel

Mexico and South Africa have strict rules about minors traveling without their legal guardians. Below are the additional documents you will need if you are traveling to either of these two countries:

South Africa

Participants of The Experiment’s South Africa programs must travel with the following documents, notarized. Copies of the notarized documents must be sent to The Experiment’s admissions office at experiment@worldlearning.org before May 1, 2017.

  1. Copy of the child’s unabridged birth certificate (meaning with both parents’ names, notarized)
  2. Affidavit from the parents or legal guardian of the child, confirming that The Experiment’s group leader has permission to travel with the child (notarization required). In May, The Experiment will provide the affidavit form for you to complete, including your group leader information and passport numbers, which are required on the affidavit.
  3. Copies of government IDs of parent(s)/legal guardian(s) on the child’s birth certificate (notarization required)

Mexico

Participants of The Experiment’s Mexico programs must travel with the following documents—some of which must be notarized, so please read carefully. CCopies of documents must be sent to The Experiment’s admissions office at experiment@worldlearning.org before May 19, 2017. Each Experiment participant should travel to and from Mexico with his or her original notarized copies.

  1. Copy of the child’s birth certificate (notarization not required)
  2. An original parent consent letter signed by both parent(s) or legal guardian(s) on the child’s birth certificate, confirming that the child has permission to travel (notarization required)
  3. Copies of government IDs of parent(s)/legal guardian(s) on the child’s birth certificate (notarization not required)

In addition, any other necessary documentation (court orders, etc.) must be provided in certain circumstances when one or both parents or guardians on the birth certificate are unable to sign the South Africa affidavit or Mexico letter of consent. Please contact The Experiment’s admissions office at 800 345-2929 or at experiment@worldlearning.org with questions.

Homestay and Homesickness

It is common for participants to experience homesickness during key stages of the program, especially during the homestay. During the homestay, participants are immersed in the daily lives of their host family and experience another way of living and communicating. It is important to note that the first few days of the homestay can be challenging as participants adjust to a new schedule and family life. Participants and parents typically feel the most anxiety about the homestay, but our evaluations consistently show that participants consider the homestay to be the highlight of their program.

One of the best ways to address any anxiety surrounding the homestay is to actively reach out to and engage the family members. It will be uncomfortable for a little bit, but, if participants stick with it, they will have a rewarding experience. Also, please know that the Experiment group leaders are there to support the participants throughout this process of adjustment.

Dietary Preferences

Many Experiment participants have dietary preferences, such as vegetarianism and veganism, unrelated to a medical condition. Sticking to a specific diet abroad can be a challenge, depending on the program location. In general, one should remember that it is the responsibility of the participant to adapt to the culture they are in and to be prepared to remain flexible in many ways, including in relation to dietary preferences.

In many instances — when with the group, on excursions, or when eating on one's own — participants find it is possible to follow a specific diet. However, when living with homestay families, it is often difficult to adhere to that diet — for example, to remain a strict vegetarian. Examples of accommodations participants have had to make include eating vegetables cooked in the same pot with meat, and taking meat on one's plate as a display of respect.

Culture and Policy

It is important for participants to be aware of cultural norms around language, attire, and behavior. Pay attention to your packing list, which will indicate, for example, particular countries where short shorts may be offensive to local people. For safety’s sake, participants should also be aware of where they are expected to be at any given time.

Being on an Experiment program includes being away from home for an extended time and agreeing that during this time you will abstain from any tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs. The use of these substances may result in dismissal from the program, and it will be the responsibility of dismissed participants and their families to arrange for the return home.

Active Participation

Challenging programs, the camaraderie of fellow participants, and the guidance and support of group leaders give Experiment participants a rewarding experience and lifelong memories. It is important to remember, however, that there are many policies intended to protect the safety and well-being of the participants, leaders, partner office personnel, the environment, and the host culture during each Experiment program. When a participant is not able to follow established guidelines, leaders have an obligation to intervene on behalf of the organization, group, or individuals. Certain behaviors will be managed in the field, while other conduct will require a response that extends beyond what is possible in the field.

Expectations of participants in conjunction with Experiment policies:

  • All participants will be inclusive and respectful of other participants, group leaders, Experiment staff, partners, and host families.
  • Everyone will participate actively, stay on track with scheduled programming, and work within the schedule of the group.
  • It is Experiment policy to strongly discourage any exclusive relationship, romantic or fraternal.
  • Other expectations and/or policies will be given by the direction of the leaders prior to or at the start of each program.

Leaders, with guidance and support of other Experiment staff, may respond to behavioral incidents in the following way(s):

  • Report to The Experiment and/or the participant’s parent(s)/guardians
  • Written behavioral contract with participant
  • Suspension of activities or privileges
  • Dismissal of participant from the program (Logistical and financial arrangements for changes in travel are the responsibility of the participant and their family/guardians.)
Examples of behaviors that will require intervention by The Experiment include:
  • Compromising the physical or emotional safety of another individual or group
  • Endangering oneself or others through blatant disregard of established guidelines and policies
  • Illegal acts, including the possession and/or use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
  • Repeatedly disobeying specific behavioral expectations
  • Signs of severe depression or other disorders that may be injurious without intervention of trained counselors or psychiatric help
  • Exclusive relationships that draw undue attention to or away from others
  • Undisclosed medical/mental health conditions and/or medications

Communicating with Your Participant during the Program

The Experiment encourages all participants to check in with their family once they have arrived in country. Parents/guardians should expect to receive a call within 48 hours of the group’s landing in country. Orientation is a very busy time and participants may not be able to call right away. Leaders also let The Experiment know when the group arrives in country at the start of the program and when all participants have departed the country at the end of the program.

How often and the manner in which your child contacts you during his or her program will depend on the location of the program. Make sure you have developed a communication plan and expectations with your child about frequency of calls home: our recommendation is that you should realistically expect to speak about once a week.

While the majority of programs have access to postal service, we discourage the sending of mail or care packages. In our experience, mail service, especially packages, can be delayed for a variety of reasons outside of our control. If you must send something to your child, ensure that you include tracking services, as Experiment staff will not be able to help locate lost/late packages.

Please remember that two trained adult group leaders are available to participants and are best positioned to help with all issues that arise during the program. We therefore request that participants speak directly with leaders about issues prior to contacting parents.

Methods of Communication

In our experience, the best and most reliable way to contact the US while abroad is through web-based communication such as: email, Skype, WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook messenger, etc. We highly discourage the use of international cell phones. In our experience, they are expensive, unreliable, and likely to be lost or stolen. They also make it so that you cannot disconnect from home. This takes away from the immersive experience abroad and makes participants more homesick. Some host families have expressed disappointment if their participants use their phones regularly. If you feel it’s necessary to have service, you can contact your long-distance phone provider to see if they have an international calling plan.

  • Internet cafés may be a useful resource when available during free time.
  • Experimenters should not expect to use their host family’s telephone, and should discuss this with them before attempting to do so. In some countries, even local calls incur additional fees.
  • If you find yourself feeling sick, homesick, or dealing with other issues in-country, talk to your group leader first because they are the ones who can immediately help you in-country. If you call your parents, they can only call the US Experiment office, who will call your group leader.