Community Immersion Program FAQs

Community Immersion Program FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about Xperitas Community Immersion Programs

The Xperitas Experience
Who is Xperitas?

Xperitas is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting global citizenship through authentic immersion experiences. Founded in 1972 by world language teachers and enriched by the decades of shared experience of Intercultural Student Experiences and Global Citizens Network, Xperitas offers programs that embody true language and cultural immersion, inspire personal connections with diverse individuals and communities worldwide and provide transformational experiences for our participants.

In partnership with indigenous and marginalized communities in the United States and abroad, Xperitas Community Immersion Prorams offer participants the opportunity to immerse themselves in the daily life of the community while collaborating with community members on a locally led project.

What does Xperitas' nonprofit status mean?

As a nonprofit organization, Xperitas' foremost goal is to achieve our mission rather than to generate a profit. Any surplus revenue produced is reinvested into programs that support the mission rather than distributed among shareholders or owners. Nonprofits are granted tax-exempt status by the IRS, which means Xperitas must also adhere to laws governing nonprofit organizations on matters such as transparency and accountability.

Does Xperitas have any religious affiliation?

No, Xperitas is a secular organization. We may, however, work with a group within the host community who has religious or government affiliation. In that case, we have made all efforts to ascertain and be assured that the host group works with all members of the larger community, regardless of religious or political beliefs and associations.

What sets Xperitas Community Immersion programs apart?

Long-term partnerships with indigenous and marginalized communities

Xperitas partners with indigenous and marginalized communities in North America, Latin America, Asia, and Africa based on invitation from the host community to welcome Xperitas groups. These long-term partnerships, some 20 years strong, demonstrate the depth of our experience with our partner communities and the richness of the cultural immersion experience that you will have access to as a participant.

Experience day-to-day life in a single community

All Community Immersion programs take place in a single community, apart from the transportation required to arrive there. This allows participants the maximum amount of time to get to know the community, build relationships, engage in day-to-day activities, and collaborate on a community-led project. The project serves as a vehicle for cultural immersion as participants and community members work side-by-side. Groups take part in both planned and spontaneous activities, such as invitations from community members to local events, based on the timing of their visit.

Daily facilitated reflection by experienced leaders

Through daily group reflection and journaling facilitated by a trained Xperitas Team Leader, participants gain deeper knowledge and understanding from their experience and what it means to be a global citizen. Participants may reflect critically on themes such as cultural differences, privilege, and historical trauma in a safe space facilitated by their Team Leader.

Unprecedented support

From choosing a program to traveling, Xperitas will support you every step of the way. Whether you choose from one of our published itineraries or a custom program, we will collaborate one-on-one with you to understand your goals for the program and plan an experience that delivers on them. While traveling, your group will be accompanied by a Xperitas Team Leader, who will facilitate on-the-ground logistics, communication with community partners, and daily group reflection and journal-writing.

What traits make for a good experience?

Xperitas asks participants to be culturally sensitive, flexible, optimistic, willing to both share and learn, able to work well in a team setting and, above all, open to new experiences.

We ask participants to be experience-minded, not project-focused, because the “work” is actually only one part of the experience and may not always go as planned! Our primary focus is intercultural learning and building relationships and deeper empathy, not the work project. Flexibility is key!

Who participates in Community Immersion Programs?

Xperitas Community Immersion Programs are suitable for student groups (high school and older), family and friends, colleagues, and religious groups. All programs are guided by Xperitas Team Leaders, who facilitate logistics as well as daily group reflection and journal-writing.

Although we encourage participants to learn basic phrases to enhance their experience, Community Immersion Programs have no language requirement. Xperitas Team Leaders also serve as interpreters when possible and/or necessary.

The projects do not require specific skills from participants. If specialists are needed, the community provides them.

Can families participate?

We not only welcome families, but Xperitas is a leader in family-oriented cross-cultural experiences. Moreover, youngsters often want to participate in the project and community activities, so we welcome them to do so alongside their parents.

Our partner communities welcome participants of all ages. Nevertheless, certain sites are more conducive to hosting children than others. Participants under 18 must be accompanied by a guardian or a chaperone. For children less than eight years old, please contact us. There is no maximum age – we just ask for each person, no matter the age, to consider the working and living conditions.

What does Xperitas expect from me while on a Community Partnership Program?

Xperitas asks you to be culturally sensitive, flexible, optimistic, willing to both share and learn, able to thrive in a team setting and, above all, open to new experiences. We urge participants to be experience-minded, not project-focused, because the “work” is only one part of the adventure and may not always go as planned. Our primary focus is intercultural learning as well as building relationships and deeper empathy – not the job site. Lastly, we expect you to conduct yourself in the manner of a good ambassador. We require our participants to accept, understand, and honor the Xperitas Code of Conduct.

What is Xperitas’ approach to health and safety?

The health and safety of our travelers is our top priority. To learn more about how Xperitas safeguards the traveler health and safety, please refer our Health and Safety Information.

Is college credit available for the Xperitas experience?

Though our programs are educational in nature, Xperitas does not offer currently offer college credit. We encourage you to seek independent credit options with your high school or college directly.

Leaders can obtain graduate level credits through participation in our programs and Team Leader Training. Please find more information here.

Community Immersion Program Experience
Where do participants stay?

To allow for as much immersion and insight into the culture as possible, participants generally stay in the same community where the project and cultural immersion activities take place. Lodging varies by site, so we are happy to work with you to find the right program that meets your group’s needs.

  • Homestays – Guatemala, Peru and Thailand
  • Community Centers – Red Cliff, WI, White Earth, MN, and La Push, WA
  • Guesthouses – Kenya and Nepal
  • Ecolodge - Mexico

If you have any concerns or would like to discuss sites to find the best fit, we encourage you to contact Xperitas.

What is the food like? Can my dietary needs be accommodated?

Meals are prepared either by team members or by a local cook. When prepared by a local cook, you can expect to try a variety of traditional and authentic meals. When prepared by the team (which is the case in Red Cliff, White Earth, and La Push), the team will be able to choose the meals they cook.

We can accommodate participants with specific dietary needs or restrictions, and we have done so successfully in the past for those with gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan diets as well as certain allergies. Please contact us if you are concerned about a dietary restriction and we will be happy to discuss this with you.

Who are Xperitas Team Leaders?

Xperitas Team Leaders are dynamic, responsible individuals chosen for their leadership skills and willingness to facilitate meaningful cultural immersion experiences for others. They are responsible for on-site logistics, liaising with community partners, and facilitating daily group reflection and journal-writing. All Team Leaders attend a comprehensive training program to prepare them to lead in ways that align with the Xperitas Community Immersion program philosophy such as: 1) Creating a safe space for all team members to learn and grow throughout the experience; 2) Facilitating reflection for groups and individuals to deepen their learnings; and 3) Cross-cultural communication that respects and honors host communities. Team Leaders are also trained to handle on-the-ground components of the program, such as the itinerary and group budget management. Click here to learn more about Team Leader Training.

What types of projects are participants involved in?

Projects are determined and directed by our partner communities, therefore they vary by site and involve work in which almost anyone can participate; no special skills are required. Examples of past projects have included building a health clinic, renovating a youth center, planting trees, teaching in a primary school, and installing playground equipment. Projects may not be decided until shortly before the arrival of an Xperitas team. Participants should be aware that everything is subject to change. As worthwhile and fulfilling as the work will be, the true rewards come from the cross-cultural learning which takes place on these programs as participants work alongside community members on the project.

What physical considerations are there?

Living conditions, terrain, and the nature of work projects vary by site. In general, though, participants should be in reasonably good physical condition. If you have any concerns or would like to discuss sites to find the best fit, we encourage you to contact Xperitas.

Registration and Payments
How do I apply?

First, the group leader or teacher must contact Xperitas to plan a program. Then, participants will receive a personalized link to register for their group's program from their teacher or group leader. Follow the link and complete the online application. A $500 deposit is due with each application, which can be paid via credit card or ACH online or by check or money order mailed to the Xperitas office. Applications cannot be processed until the deposit is received.

What fundraising and financing options are available to participants?

Xperitas provides various resources to increase access and help families meet the financial commitment of our programs. Many Xperitas students earn a portion of the money themselves. In schools where the travel program is established on a regular basis, students can plan ahead and save over a two- or three-year period. Students may raise money for program and other travel expenses by participating in Xperitas’ Grounds for Change coffee sales fundraiser. Xperitas has also collected successful fundraising ideas from students and teachers over the years.

Xperitas also awards more than $50,000 in financial aid each year to high school students on school programs who qualify. Check out our Financial Aid page for more information. Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, and we encourage participants to apply for financial aid as soon as possible following enrollment.

In addition, Xperitas promotes its mission by supporting high school students on school programs in ways such as the Alumni Scholarship and other awards. Learn more here.

Are any discounts available to participants?

Yes! Participants on Xperitas Community Immersion programs are eligible for the Early Bird discount:

  • Early bird –Participants who register by June 1 for spring travel in the following year or June 15 for summer travel in the following year are eligible for a discount ($200 for international programs; $100 for United States programs), which will be deducted from the program price at the time of final billing.
Will I receive a bill?

Xperitas only emails individualized invoices for the final payment. For all other payments, please view our payment deadlines. This information can be found in the participant’s acceptance letter and on his or her Xperitas portal.

How and when is the program price determined?

Xperitas will email participants and leaders a final bill at least three weeks before the final payment is due. Several elements go into the final price of the program, including the number of participants, departure city, final program itinerary, included meals and activities, etc.

How do I make a payment?

Payments can be made by check or money order mailed to Xperitas or by credit/debit card or ACH on the participant's Xperitas portal. Participants will receive login instructions once successfully enrolled on a program. Checks or money orders should be made payable to Xperitas and have the participant's name, school and destination written on each payment.

Xperitas only emails individual invoices for the final payment. For all other payments, please adhere to the payment deadlines that pertain to your program.

Are there any additional fees charged by Xperitas?

Most Community Immersion Program participants will not be charged fees beyond the established program price. Xperitas only charges fees for: returned checks ($40), re-enrollment of cancelled participants ($40), late or missing payments ($40) and late registration ($40). See Xperitas's payment deadlines and fees.

Can I pay with a credit card?

Yes! Xperitas can accept credit card and debit card payments online on the participant's Xperitas portal. Xperitas accepts Visa, MasterCard and Discover cards.

How does a participant cancel?

Voluntary cancellations must be submitted in writing (email is acceptable) by the participant or participant’s parent/guardian directly to Xperitas, clearly indicating the participant's name, school, and destination. Xperitas cannot accept voluntary cancellations made by phone. Cancellations may be emailed to cancel@xperitas.org. Please read our full cancellation policy.

What is your refund policy?

Please see our cancellation schedule, refund policy, and information regarding cancellations due to unforeseeable world events here.

How long does it take to process a cancellation and receive a refund?

Please allow 4-6 weeks for processing cancellations. Xperitas issues all refunds in the form of a check payable to the participant.

In what situations will Xperitas cancel a participant?

Xperitas reserves the right to cancel a participant for lack of payment, for failure to abide by the standards set by the teacher and/or school, or if the student/parent does not disclose a significant medical condition that may affect travel experience for the student or group. In each case, the standard cancellation fees will be assessed.

Travel Planning and Logistics
Can a leader or participant arrange his/her own air travel?

Yes, however Xperitas strongly discourages this. Xperitas arranges group travel; when individuals book their own air arrangements, it disrupts the group travel arrangements and can be challenging for both the group leader(s) and the participant. Using frequent flier miles, or purchasing an individual ticket, entails an air record separate from the rest of the group. A separate, individual ticket can potentially leave a participant traveling alone. Furthermore, Xperitas insurance coverage is not effective while a participant is traveling separately from the group. If a participant is not using any or all of the Xperitas provided flights, a parent/guardian must sign a release form provided by Xperitas. If a teacher/leader decides that the group must all book air travel together through Xperitas, Xperitas will support the teacher’s decision.

Is there a discount for privately arranging a participant’s air travel?

Possibly. Participants who wish to arrange their own air must inform Xperitas when they register, at which time any applicable discount amount will be determined. No credit is possible for partially flown itineraries or one-way tickets. Xperitas and the group leader cannot be responsible for the participant in any way, and insurance coverage is not effective, while the participant is traveling separately from the group. If a participant is not using any or all of the Xperitas provided flights, a parent/guardian must sign a release form provided by Xperitas.

Can leaders and participants earn frequent flier miles on this program?

In most cases, the group tickets that Xperitas purchases are eligible to earn miles. However, there are certain types of tickets that are not eligible, and Xperitas does not guarantee frequent flier mile eligibility. Travelers should present their frequent flier program number at the time of check-in. Travelers are also advised to keep all boarding passes in order to claim miles retroactively with the airline.

How much spending money should participants bring?

This depends on the length of the program, included activities and destination. Consult with your leader and/or Xperitas for help estimating the out-of-pocket costs that may be associated with your program.

Do participants need any vaccinations or medicine in order to travel abroad?

Xperitas recommends that you schedule a visit with a travel doctor to determine if there is any medical preparation necessary before travel. We also recommend that you check out the website for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What kind of insurance does Xperitas provide to participants?

All Xperitas participants automatically have medical coverage for international and domestic programs, subject to certain exclusions, for accidents and illness while on their program. Participants will receive instructions for printing their insurance card prior to departure. Note: Pre-existing conditions and pregnancy are not covered, and mental illness is not covered for medical expenses incurred in- country. Xperitas recommends that each traveler’s own comprehensive medical insurance be up to date and include coverage for the destination country. Xperitas also provides limited trip cancellation insurance, detailed under the section Cancellations. Additional insurance benefits and/or higher limits may also be purchased. Coverage details and more information about additional insurance can be found here. Xperitas does not offer cancel-for-any-reason insurance. All travelers who would like trip cancellation insurance for non-medical reasons are encouraged to purchase additional travel insurance independently. 

Does Xperitas provide liability insurance?

Xperitas has general liability insurance that covers bodily injury, property damage, and personal & advertising injury (defamation). Leaders are insureds for their acts as employees and volunteers, except when these circumstances arise out of their sole negligence or willful misconduct. Leaders are considered either an employee or volunteer.

Please contact Xperitas for more details.