It’s hardly surprising that combining language study with a worthwhile activity has become more popular than ever — luckily, the array of options is increasing to meet the demand
The Center for Cross-Cultural Study (CC-CS)
Service Learning opportunities abroad offer students the chance to gain rewarding professional experience while developing their language skills and giving back to their host communities. Many times service projects serve as a gateway to unique aspects of a culture often hidden from study abroad students or travelers. Those who participate in service projects are likely to get more than they give from the experience, and develop important personal skills in tolerance, open-mindedness and a greater sense of independence. As CC-CS student Hendrix Berry wrote, “It was truly a beautiful experience…I came out with great contacts, feeling accomplished as a member of the community.”
The center has been providing Spanish language immersion programs abroad since 1969, and their service learning opportunities are a great way to experience another culture. Students are placed in local development or educational organizations in projects that benefit the greater good of the community. Service Learning and internship opportunities can be fulfilled during a semester or summer abroad, or alongside one of their regular study programs in Spain and Argentina. CC-CS also specializes in customized programs for faculty-led experiences abroad.
Global Citizens Network
In partnership with people of diverse cultures, Global Citizens Network (GCN) promotes cross-cultural understanding and interconnectedness through authentic immersion experiences.
Since 1992, GCN has facilitated volunteer programs around the world, including: Brazil, Canada, Guatemala, Ecuador, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nepal, Peru, Tanzania, Thailand, and the U.S. Students and teachers customize 1-3 week alternative breaks, blending service and exchange projects throughout the year. Through grass-roots, community-based experiences, projects are locally conceived and globally achieved. GCN commits to projects until complete; while bringing awareness of other cultures and often more sustainable and just ways of living to trip participants.
Examples of program themes:
• Social justice through community development with the Afro-Ecuadorian people;
• Fiction v. Reality – Preserving Quileute Culture in the face of the Twilight Sensation;
• Enhancing quality of life through health care access & clinics with the Luo people of Kenya.
Students learn about themselves while learning about others. The public trips are age-diverse, and family-specific trips and sites are available. Tax-deductible program fees range from $950 to $2,550 plus airfare.
Walking Tree Travel specializes in Open-Enrollment and Custom Group travel programs that incorporate language immersion, homestays, community service and adventure travel. Students are welcome to participate in the Open-Enrollment programs independently during the summer or the company can custom tailor programs for educators and their students anytime throughout the year. This small organization has created special relationships with beautiful host villages, meaningful community service projects, and exciting adventure travel opportunities. Whether it is working with Peace Corps volunteers in Senegal on a reforestation campaign, supporting a micro-finance project in Guatemala, building schoolhouses in Costa Rica, teaching English at an orphanage in Mexico, or living with monks at a Zen Buddhist monastery in China, programs offer travelers the opportunity to see themselves, other cultures, and the world in a new and exciting light. While traveling, there is time to surf the perfect waves of the Pacific, hike through the rainforest to hidden waterfalls, mountain bike along the Andes, kayak in volcano-ringed lakes, view wildlife on African safaris, walk on remote parts of the Great Wall of China and much, much more. Walking Tree visits Costa Rica, Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Senegal, China and Senegal.
Ayusa Volunteer Abroad
Ayusa offers volunteer abroad language immersion programs for high school students in Peru, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Ecuador. Instead of just studying a foreign language in another country, students interact with the local community through community-selected service learning projects and homestays with local families – a great incentive to pay attention in the morning Spanish classes! All programs offer a core service learning experience with a local NGO in each community. From making cleaner burning stoves or ceramic water filters in Peru, to helping rural farmers on a self-sustaining co-op make cheese, care for animals, or help with the harvest in Costa Rica, students will engage directly with the local community and be able to improve their Spanish through daily interaction with locals. Finally, all volunteer programs include at least one cultural excursion per week and offer options for additional excursions, like Machu Picchu in Peru and Monte Alban (the ancient capital of the Zapotecs) in Mexico. No previous language experience is required, and Ayusa coordinates all details including round trip airfare, room and board, and an on-site coordinator available 24 hours a day.
Since 1989, VISIONS has offered international community service programs for teens and middle school students that blend ambitious volunteer work, cultural immersion, and adventure.
Program sites in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa provide foreign language opportunities, including Spanish and French immersion. Program leaders speak the languages fluently and participants use language skills during daily life while we live and work with the host community.
Groups live in the heart of communities where they accomplish construction and other service projects – agricultural, environmental, activities with local children – and internships with artisans, farmers, and micro-businesses. They work and socialize with community members, sharing meals, tools, and stories alike. Carpenters or local masons teach construction and other skills. Participants have built schools, housing, medical clinics, community centers, irrigation canals, cisterns, bio-digesters, bridges, and playgrounds. Time is always set aside for exploration, recreation, and especially for learning about the local culture. Participants are more like temporary community members than tourists.
La Catalina Natural Language School
For adventurous teens looking for a cultural experience off the beaten path, a unique school on the jungle-lined coast of Jalisco, Mexico awaits. Over an eight-week span each summer, high school students go to the safe and friendly village of La Manzanilla, where they stay between one to four weeks. After flying in solo or with a friend, a staff member greets students and escorts them to the wonderful beach town of La Manzanilla, just 45 minutes from the airport, with a population of 1600 residents. Two main streets stretch along the beach mark the small but lively business district and a main plaza hosts fun and fiestas. The lapping ocean, with pelicans and seagulls squawking and soaring overhead, invites students to seize time of their lives-a time of learning, opening new eyes and having adventures in this foreign land. The program consists of living with a Mexican family, taking Spanish classes, volunteering, enjoying the beach, engaging in group recreational and cultural activities, and taking excursions on the weekends.
Centro de Idiomas Intercultura
This Costa Rican school works with local families to provide homestays to increase cultural awareness and interaction, while offering volunteer placements within several different Costa Rican organizations.
Students are strongly encouraged to participate in activities, special events, and a variety of fun excursions to promote cultural immersion and social interaction with the locals. Included in the Spanish program are classes such as Latin dance, Intercambios with local Ticos, typical Costa Rican cooking, yoga, Latin music, Spanish movie nights, and much more. At Intercultura, students are encouraged to discover why the school motto is: “Learn the language…live the culture!”
In addition to the strong cultural and activity component, the school has cultivated a Commitment to Community Development, and participates in, sponsors and hosts non-profit initiatives to better the surrounding communities. It is the only private language school recognized by the United Nations in their Global Compact for Corporate Social Responsibility.
Broadreach offers worldwide summer adventure learning programs for middle, high school and college students including marine biology, scuba, sailing, language immersion, science and medicine, community service, outdoor skills and leadership adventures. Program locations include the Caribbean, Central and South America, Canada, Australia, China, India, South Africa, Egypt, France, the Solomon Islands and Fiji. Many Broadreach programs qualify for college credit and all incorporate a community service component ranging from 5-55 hours. Multiple certifications including PADI scuba certifications, IYT sailing certifications and Wilderness First Responder are offered, and trips are 14-31 days in length in June, July and August.
Since 1993, the company has taken pride in introducing young people to the fun, educational and eye-opening experiences adventure can bring, and then returning them home with a record of their achievements. At the end of each trip, students leave not only with amazing memories, new life skills and great friends, but also with certifications, community service hours and, often, college credit.
Cross Cultural Solutions
Cross-Cultural Solutions is a non-profit organization that enables volunteers to make a meaningful contribution to the community by working side-by-side with local people, while gaining a new perspective and insight into the culture and themselves. The volunteer work is with carefully selected local organizations, all of which are dynamic and inspiring community-led initiatives. The CCS experience also includes Cultural & Learning Activities so that volunteers can learn about the local culture. These include an in-depth orientation, language training, guest speakers and more. There is also plenty of free time to relax, reflect, or explore the community.
Volunteers enjoy the flexibility of choosing from 12 countries, start dates year-round, and programs from 1-12 weeks long. CCS offers international volunteer programs in Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Ghana, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Peru, Russia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Thailand.
Universidad del Pacifico
Peru’s Universidad del Pacifico offers Spanish programs to universities and groups who can choose activities such as Peruvian Dance, Andean Cooking, Pre-Columbian Art,The Art & Culture of Peru, and Latin American Literature discussion groups.
Center for Cultural Interchange
For the adventurous American & Canadian teen, CCI’s High School Abroad is a full immersion experience: Students live with a host family and study at a local high school for a semester or academic year in one of 15 countries. Participants can also log community service hours by joining the Global Greenheart Club and volunteering with local organizations.
Intercultural is a non profit organization, language school and teacher education center located in Mendoza, Argentina, at the base of the Andes mountains. The school is a member of the Instituto Cervantes network and offers intensive Spanish programs, courses in eight other languages, and is able to set up internships and volunteer opportunities for students of all ages.
The organization is affiliated with the University of Congreso and the Universidad del Aconcagua, so credits may be transferable to other universities.
The main objective at Intercultural is for students to be completely immersed in the culture and language throughout the whole year. The ambience is described as particularly friendly, which motivates contact with local residents. A learning experience at Intercultural is a life-changing-learning opportunity.