Summer Exchange and Immersion Opportunities

Our students studied Chinese in China--and worked alongside locals to construct homes as part of a Habitats for Humanities project. Help your students experience the world! (Deb Agrin)

Our students studied Chinese in China--and worked alongside locals to construct homes as part of a Habitats for Humanities project. Help your students experience the world! (Deb Agrin)

Language learning should not end with the school year. There are several programs--many subsidized--that offer immersion experiences withint the United States, or travel immersion programs to the Chinese-speaking world. Some programs focus exclusively on intensive language aquisition, whereas others combine cultural experiences, and still others focus on service learning in a target language. 

What should one look for in summer programs? Experience and a good track record are very important. In addition to evaluating the program elements, do speak with several references who not only know the organization, but have participated in programs. Ask broadly--don't just rely on references provided by the organization. If a company is really reputable, it should not be too difficult to find alumni, especially using the search box on social networking websites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Flickr or YouTube.

Write a list of your desired outcomes, and notate what it will likely cost to realize your vision. Weigh the cost-benefit analysis carefully. Sometimes it's worth paying a little more to get the exact experiences you want.

Lastly, really think about the responsiveness of each organization. In the case of an emergency, will you want that organization to be at the front lines of troubleshooting?

Here is a listing of established summer immersion and travel programs. This is not a list of recommendations; it is up to you to do your due diligence and select the organization that best suits your needs and that meets your criteria.


STARTALK, a National Security Language Initiative administered by National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland, provides summer programs for high school students, and professional development programs for prospective and current teachers for levels K-16.

Foreign Language Study Abroad Service | link

FLSAS has been arranging study abroad programs for over 30 years. It is the oldest continuously operating study abroad service in the United States.

The China Exchange Initiative | link

Builds and supports educational exchange programs between schools in the United States and schools in China. Works with seven states to explore Chinese school connections. Provides exploratory discussions with interested teachers and administrators, orientation and protocol for introductory visits on both sides, advice on creating a formal agreement and suggestions for financing.

Concordia Language Villages | link

An internationally recognized language and cultural immersion program for children and youth, founded in 1961. Through year-round “global villages,” summer youth programs, village weekends for teachers, participants experience a variety of educational and cultural activities typical to their language’s home countries. Located at a camp facility on a northern Minnesota lake.

School Year Abroad | link

Secondary-level program which allows students to live with a European or Chinese family for an entire academic year while earning U.S. graduation credits and preparing for U.S. colleges and universities. Includes homestay and an academic program emphasizing foreign language acquisition.

CET Academic Programs | link

Private study abroad organization based in Washington, DC that designs and administers educational programs abroad in Vietnam, China, the Czech Republic and Italy. Sends more than 500 American students abroad annually.

American Field Service | link

An international, voluntary, non-governmental, non- profit organization that provides exchange opportunities in over 50 countries. The School Program for secondary school students is for one academic year, semester or trimester. AFS students live with a host family and attend a local secondary school as full-time students. Summer intensive exchanges are also available for secondary school students.

Experiment in International Living | link

An international non-profit organization that administers academic study abroad opportunities, as well as individual homestays, hosting, and volunteer opportunities.

Youth For Understanding | link

A non- profit educational organization which offers opportunities for young people around the world to spend a summer, semester or year with a host family in another culture.

People to People International | link

Non-profit organization promotes cultural exchange around the globe. Student ambassadors travel overseas for 2-3 weeks during the summer to learn, share, and re present their communities and schools. Annual Global Youth Forums, designed for middle and high school students ages 13-18, focus on international understanding, education, leadership and humanitarianism.

China Prep | link

China Prepis an educational travel business that creates customized travel itineraries for your school or program. They are experienced with high school travelers.

Challenge:TOMORROW | link

A cultural/language immersion youth program for students ages 12-16. American students meet and work with students from rural and urban Chinese cities engaging in dialogue and activities to prepare them to succeed in a global community.

Do you know other immersion or travel programs? Please share your impressions on the comment board below.