Group Orientation

On the MetroGetting the most out of your summer

At The Experiment, we strongly believe that the best way for students to get the most out of their summer experience is to begin each program with a thoughtful, intensive, multi-day orientation.

On the day of departure, students are met in the airport by their trained, adult group leaders. The leaders immediately start engaging the group in conversations and ice-breaker activities and typically share important logistical information. Right away, students start getting to know each another — a diverse group of high school students from many different backgrounds — and the two leaders. The group might also begin talking about important cross-cultural considerations and what it means to be a visitor and guest in another country.

Start participating in the culture right away.

Immediately upon arrival, students are involved in direct exploration of the host country and culture through fun, experiential activities. These activities involve engaging with individuals who live there and navigating select neighborhoods in small groups. With support and guidance from the leaders, students get out and interact; they start experiencing the sights, sounds, and tastes of the country, as well as increasing their confidence and cultural knowledge, from day one.

Sample exploration activities:

  • Explore Chinese dynastic history through an information scavenger hunt in the Forbidden City.
  • Search for regional delicacies in the 6th arrondissement of Paris. Plan a picnic lunch in the Luxembourg Gardens.
  • Visit Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 prison years, as you begin learning about South Africa’s history.
  • Explore the streets, sights, and sounds of Tokyo with Japanese high school or college students and your group leaders. Shop for exotic fruits and vegetables, engaging with vendors, in San Jose’s mercado central.

On the busBegin building communication skills and cultural knowledge.

The Experiment’s orientation activities are about equipping students with new skills and knowledge — including survival language skills and in-country cultural norms — designed to build students’ confidence in their ability to navigate a new cultural and geographic surrounding. These first few days are about helping to set the tone and expectations for the experience overall and are designed so students think about how they can get the most out of their summer.

Orientation goals:

  • Consider cultural differences.
  • Go over cultural norms, such as those around greetings, personal space, diet, meals, alone time, traditional gender roles, and chores.
  • Gain survival language skills through language-focused activities.
  • Review health, safety, and security considerations to help students do their part in keeping themselves healthy and safe throughout the summer.
  • Give students the opportunity to vocalize their questions, expectations, concerns, and ideas.
  • Discuss judgment verses observation: what’s the difference?
  • Consider new ways to observe, process, and learn.
  • Do role plays. This can be particularly fun and helpful in preparation for the homestay.
  • Build rapport and friendships among group members and with the group leaders.

During orientation, group leaders might also encourage students to consider their own backgrounds and any assumptions, ideas, and values they may be bringing with them as they engage with their host communities and the other members of the group.

In-country support through local partners

In each country, The Experiment works closely with an international partner — often an educational nonprofit organization. Many of the Experiment’s partnerships are decades-old.

These local partners contribute enormously to the dynamic, educational, and immersive nature of every program, and they play an essential role in maximizing the health, safety, and security of all groups. Group leaders work closely with the local office throughout the program period.

Our local partners are actively involved in the program orientation. On many programs, representatives from The Experiment’s international partner office will work with the group leaders and group throughout orientation.

Orientation duration and accommodations

The group orientation typically lasts between three and four days and usually takes place in the country’s capital city or another major city. On most programs, the accommodations are a centrally located hostel or small, locally owned hotel.

Preparation prior to departure

The Experiment begins working with students and parents on how to get the most out of their summer experience abroad far in advance of the program departure and orientation. Students are sent information about the host country and other important pre-departure material in the weeks before the program commences. Experiment staff strongly encourage all students to learn as much as possible about the country and culture prior to departure.

Read more about program structure.