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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS & VIEWS : Learning Opportunities Abroad : Education: A summer program offers language study, community service and ecological adventure.

March 24, 1994|From Associated Press

Jarrett Seals says he can't begin to enumerate all he learned during a summer trip to Brazil.

"For one thing, I became fluent in Portuguese and learned how Brazilians see the world. I began to think globally and started to question things in my own life that I had never thought about before."

Seals, a freshman at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., went to Brazil as a 16-year-old as part of World Learning's Experiment in International Living Program.

He spent three weeks in Brazil, sharing experiences with a dozen peers of various ethnic backgrounds from around the country. Students lived apart, each with an assigned family, but met daily for classes, discussion groups and sightseeing.

"That summer really broadened my horizons and changed me totally as a person," Seals says. "I got to know about another culture, but I also got to know about being American."

World Learning Inc.'s Summer Abroad Program organizes supervised programs both at home and abroad--with language study, community service and ecological adventure components. Students age 14 to 20 are eligible, but most are high schoolers.

"The program gives young Americans from various socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds a chance to meet each other while they're learning about, are saturated in, another culture," says Mike Koonce, director of the Summer Abroad Program.

"It's the sort of experience that elevates one's sense of identity and promotes self-confidence," he says. "It makes goals clearer and motivates one to work harder to achieve them."

Founded in 1932 as the Experiment in International Living, the World Learning Inc., a nonprofit group in Brattleboro, Vt., claims 45,000 Summer Abroad alumni, including singer Tracy Chapman, Peace Corps founder Sargent Shriver, actor Larry Hagman and Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter.

This year, there are 17 destinations in Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean, Europe and Latin America. Program focus varies. For example, you can help maintain a baboon sanctuary in Belize; study language, Kabuki, Bunraku and temple garden landscaping in Japan; help build a classroom in a remote village in Kenya; preserve the fragile environment of the Galapagos in Ecuador; help prepare young Cambodians and other political refugees in Thailand for immigration to the United States or live and work on a kibbutz in Israel while visiting nearby Arab and Druze villages.

Some of the programs require one or two years of language study.

The programs last three to five weeks. Most begin June 28, with supervised travel from Los Angeles, Boston, Miami, Mexico City and New York, depending upon destination.

Fees range from $1,900 to $5,000, including round-trip air fare from designated gateway cities in the United States, travel within the host country, orientation and room and board with host families. Fees also include hotels, meals and admission to program-related events while traveling as a group, plus health and accident insurance. Round-trip travel between home and gateway cities is additional.

Scholarships, based on need and merit, are available, with a good share of the money coming from the DeWitt Wallace Youth Travel Enrichment Fund.


Summer Abroad: World Learning Inc., Kipling Road, P.O. Box 676, Brattleboro, VT 05302-0676. (800) 345-2929 or (802) 257-7751. Application deadline is May 1. A $300 deposit is required, including a $75 non-refundable application fee.

Some other summer travel programs for teens to consider:

* AFS Intercultural Programs, 313 East 43rd St., New York, NY 10017. (800) 237-4636. AFS-INFO.

* Council on International Educational Exchange, (CIEE), 205 E. 42nd St., New York, NY 10017. (212) 661-1414.

* Council on Standards for International Educational Travel, (CSIET), 3 Loudon St. S.E., Leesburg, VA 22075. (703) 771-2040.

Seeing the World Begins at School

If you are thinking about becoming a foreign exchange student, your first stop should be your school's counseling office or foreign language department. Ask to see the Youth Exchange Guide, which is published once a year and lists all the nonprofit groups offering foreign exchange opportunities.

Here are some of the exchange programs:

* American Field Service

(800) 876-2377

* American International Youth Student Exchange Program

(to be an exchange student or host family)

(800) 347-7575

* Open Door

(800) 776-6736

* Youth for Understanding

(800) 872-0200

* American Scandinavian Student Exchange

(714) 559-6817

Contact: Karin Norton

* If your family would like to host a foreign exchange student, call:

Foundation for International Understanding

(714) 528-8124

Contact: Marge Langer

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