The Experiment provides pre-departure documents and travel planning resources to participants and families to ensure trips go smoothly. Our admissions officers are also available by phone and email prior to departure.
Below, you will find general information to help prepare you and your family for your Experiment program, including: expectation setting and communications during the program, domestic travel planning, videos about packing, passports, health guidance and the role of your group leaders, visa guidance (if a visa is required to enter your program country).
After confirming your enrollment summer (submitting your application, Conditions of Participation, Acknowledgement of Risk form, and $400 deposit, if applicable), you will receive an email with a link to the Program-Specific Pre-Departure Program Planning webpage, where you will be able to download and print important documents about your host country and program, including your international flight and hotel information, domestic travel arrangements, packing instructions, health guidelines, and the Experimenter and Family Handbooks. Please contact us if you do not receive that email link.
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.
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
Please visit our Pre-Departure Program Information webpage to find your international flight information and domestic hotel information, if applicable. (This webpage link will be emailed to you this spring after your enrollment is confirmed.)
For some programs, participants are required to stay or have the option of staying at the international departure/return airport hotel in the U.S. the night before departure and the night after their return to the U.S. (Not every program will have an Experiment designated airport hotel.) In these cases, at least one group leader and other group members will be staying at the same airport hotel. Each participant or a parent/guardian is responsible for arranging and paying for these accommodations. To make a hotel reservation, go to our domestic travel planning website. If you would like to share a room with another Experimenter, call The Experiment at 1-800-345-2929, and we will help connect you with another participant or parent so you can make a reservation and arrange the bill.
International Flight Information
In the interest of participant privacy and safety we do not publish our group flight details. We will email the secure flight webpage to participants and parents once your enrollment is confirmed.
If you are unable for some reason to take the international group flight, please contact admissions immediately at 1 800 345-2929 or at [email protected] to discuss your options. In addition, because we arrange group tickets, The Experiment charges a $250 inconvenience fee to participants not traveling on the international group flight. (However, international participants 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 [email protected].
After confirming your enrollment, later this spring you will receive an email with a link to the Pre-Departure Program Information webpage, where you will be able to download and print important documents about your host country and program, including flight and hotel information, domestic travel arrangements, packing instructions, health guidelines, and the Experimenter and Family Handbooks. Please contact us if you do not receive that email link.
In order to participate in certain Experiment programs (see below), each participant, parent, or mentor will need to secure and pay for the participant’s tourist visa application. For your convenience, we have partnered with the visa agency Travisa. An Experiment Admissions Officer will send you an email with specific instructions on how to secure your visa using Travisa prior to program. Some visas require supplemental documents, which The Experiment will provide. Alternately, however, you may apply for the visa through your local embassy or consulate.
U.S. citizens require a tourist visa to travel to:
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.
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.
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 and in-country partners 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 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 disregarding 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 U.S. 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. We have found they are expensive, unreliable, and likely to be lost or stolen. They also prevent Experimenters from disconnecting from home. This takes away from the immersive experience abroad and makes participants more homesick. Some host families have expressed disappointment when their participant 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 offer 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 or wifi, and should discuss this with them before attempting to do so. In some countries, even local calls or data usage 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 U.S. Experiment office, who will call your group leader.