Language Immersion Program FAQ

Language Immersion Program FAQ

Answers to frequently asked questions about Language Immersion Programs

The Xperitas Experience
Who is Xperitas?

Xperitas is a 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.

Xperitas Language Immersion Programs allow students studying French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Japanese and English to practice their language skills in authentic situations with native speakers. The cornerstone of our programs is The Family Stay Experience™, through which students experience everyday life in their destination and become part of a local family while experiencing total language and cultural immersion.

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.

Why should I choose Xperitas?

Xperitas is a nonprofit organization with almost 50 years of experience organizing travel abroad experiences with family stays for students. As a nonprofit, all of our programs provide ways to meet our mission. The majority of Xperitas language immersion programs include an authentic family stay, which allows participants to experience firsthand another culture and way of life. The Family Stay Experience is a unique opportunity to use and develop language skills and cultural competency. It also provides an immersion experience that complements the travel itinerary.

Our language immersion programs put language first. Students and teachers/leaders are expected to speak the target language during the entire program. This provides invaluable practice of language skills learned in the classroom in real-life situations with native speakers.

Xperitas has an experienced program manager team that speaks the language of our destinations, and we work with trusted partners abroad to ensure high quality, safe and fun programs.

Xperitas provides a variety of online and print resources to prepare participants for travel abroad. Xperitas also sponsors an annual Global Leaders Conference for traveling teachers to help them prepare for this experience.

Xperitas maintains a financial aid program to increase access to our programs for low-income students. Xperitas also provides awards and other grants to teachers, schools, world language departments and associations.  Over the past decade, we have awarded over a million dollars in financial aid, grants, and scholarships.

What are the benefits of traveling abroad?

There are numerous benefits of traveling abroad! Among them are:

  • Increased level of language proficiency.
  • More job opportunities. Employers consider fluency in several languages to be a highly desirable skill.
  • Cultural immersion can lead to a greater appreciation one’s own culture and a broader world perspective, as well as improved self-esteem and confidence after partaking in an immersion experience.
  • The development of global competency and critical thinking skills. The Xperitas experience is only the first step on a life-long journey to develop these skills, which are in high demand across many industries.
  • The Xperitas program fosters a personal connection to the larger world that may open many doors in the future. Once on the path to international learning, students often discover new options and new possibilities for their lives. Additionally, parents consistently tell us the Xperitas program helped their child develop independent thinking and living skills, which helped prepare them to go away for college.
  • Make new friends and gain exposure to new outlooks on life by living with the local culture.
Who is eligible for Xperitas programs abroad?

Published programs: World language students in middle and senior high school; world language teachers and adults fluent in the target language.

  • Spring Programs: students must be in second semester of Level 2 at time of travel.
  • Summer, Fall and Winter Programs: students must have completed at least Level 2 at time of travel.

Custom programs: The organizing teacher/group leader determines eligibility for their group. If the custom program includes a Xperitas family stay, language ability is required. Please discuss this with the Xperitas program manager for your program.

Family immersion programs: elementary language immersion students generally in the 5th grade or higher and their parents and/or teachers. The organizing parent/leader determines eligibility for their group.

Why do participants on published programs need at least two years of language study?

Our programs are designed to provide a language and cultural immersion experience. To this end, the group leaders and guides carry out daily activities in the target language, and the volunteer host families are expected to speak to Xperitas participants in their native language. Thus, a minimum level of language skills is required for the participant to fully partake in these activities and interactions.

Who is eligible to chaperone on an Xperitas program?

Teachers are almost exclusively the leaders on Xperitas programs in order to ensure that the educational goals of the program are met. The leader or co-leader must be at least 22 years old and be highly proficient or fluent in the language of the destination country in order to effectively uphold the language immersion requirement.

Are groups from different schools combined on Xperitas programs?

Xperitas does combine school groups on our published itineraries to meet minimum group size requirements. Consult the itinerary or your Xperitas program manager for more 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 Global Leader’s Conference. Please find more information here.

Why does Xperitas have a Code of Conduct?

Xperitas' high expectations for the behavior of the students on our programs help us maintain the integrity and educational quality of our programs. Xperitas expects students and teachers to conduct themselves in a manner appropriate to being a good ambassador. Students and teachers who cannot follow the Code of Conduct should not travel with Xperitas.

What happens when a student breaks the Code of Conduct?

Group leaders work with Xperitas to determine the consequences for discipline issues while abroad. The decision to send a student home is made by the group leaders (teachers) and supported by Xperitas. A student who breaks the Code of Conduct may be returned to the U.S. at the parents’ expense. By signing the program application, parents/guardians agree to bear the cost of all expenses related to a student’s return to the U.S. and acknowledge that they forfeit all monies paid. View the Code of Conduct here.

Registration and Payments
How do I apply for an Xperitas program?

Visit the How To Apply page for application information.

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. 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 students 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 students in ways such as the Alumni Scholarship and other awards. Learn more here.

Are any discounts available to participants?

Yes! Participants on Xperitas Language Immersion programs are eligible for a variety of discounts, including: 

  • Early bird –Participants who register by June 15th for spring and summer travel in the following year are eligible for a $200 credit, which will be deducted from the program price at the time of final billing. 

  • Family member – Any fully paying participant who has an immediate* family member also registered as a fully paying participant on an Xperitas Language Immersion Program is eligible for a credit of $100 per family member. Leaders are ineligible, as are participants who have a modified price (ie. land- or air-only). 

*Living in the same household, e.g. siblings, parents 

Is the cost of this program tax deductible?

No. While Xperitas travel programs are educational, the program fee pays for actual travel arrangements and is not tax deductible.

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.

Are there any additional fees charged by Xperitas?

Most Xperitas students 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.

How do I make a payment?

Payments can be made by check or money order mailed to Xperitas or by credit card 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.

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 or requested by the teacher for the student. Cancellations can 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?

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 participants depart earlier or return later than the group?

A participant may request an early departure or late return that uses either the outbound or return portion of their group airline ticket. Eligibility for this depends on the airline’s group contract stipulations. Additional costs including airline charges, changes in fare and any additional land services will be the responsibility of the participant. Participants need to receive approval from the group leader to depart earlier or return later than the group.  Learn more here. 

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?

Participants who wish to arrange their own air must inform Xperitas when they register, at which time the 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 program manager for help estimating the out-of-pocket costs that may be associated with your program. For more tips on using money abroad, read our Money Matters travel tips.

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 are up to date on routine vaccinations and review the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more details. 

What kind of accommodations does Xperitas use?

Xperitas typically uses 3-star, centrally located hotels. Three to four students will be placed in each hotel room, with room placements allocated by gender as determined by the group leaders. 

What kind of insurance does Xperitas provide to participants?

All Xperitas participants automatically have medical coverage, 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. 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.  

Where can I find more information about traveling abroad and the destination?

Xperitas provides an array of educational resources about preparing for travel abroad, researching the destination and much more. Xperitas also provides preparation activities for leaders to help prepare students for the experience. A good source of additional information can be found via Rick Steves’ travel tips

Family Stay
What is a family stay, and why is it important?

Xperitas believes that living with a family, speaking their language and participating in their customs is the best, most authentic and rewarding way to experience another culture. This is what distinguishes our programs from any other individual, family or group travel experience. Our host families are volunteers who genuinely want to welcome the student into their home and daily family routine. 

After almost 50 years of arranging family stays, we are no longer surprised when students consistently report that living with a family is the best part of their experience abroad. Our success with family stays is thanks to our network of dedicated people around the world who work to ensure a wonderful experience for our students. 

How does Xperitas find host families?

At Xperitas we take great pride in helping world language learners and host families create lifelong connections. All of Xperitas’ host families are volunteers who are carefully screened using culturally appropriate practices and selected by local coordinators in the destination country. Many of Xperitas' family stay coordinators abroad are educators and other well-connected members of their community. They network through local schools and community organizations to select volunteer families who not only speak the language being studied by the visiting student, but also are eager to share their home and their culture with an American teenager. Our primary concern is the safety of our participants, and we hope almost 50 years of experience will put your mind at ease. 

When will participants receive information about their host families?

We generally distribute host family information when it is received from our family stay coordinators, approximately two weeks prior to the group’s departure. We know you’re anxious to get this information and we’ll pass it on as soon as we get it! 

How can participants best prepare for the family stay experience?

Xperitas has many helpful resources for participants to prepare for this exciting part of their program. These include the "How Host Families are Chosen" document, monthly Navigator parent newsletters and articles on our blog.

How should participants thank their families for hosting them?

Host families very generously volunteer their time and open their homes to students. Xperitas recommends that participants write thank-you notes before the last day of the family stay and leave them with their host family.

Xperitas also recommends that participants bring small gifts to thank their host families for their hospitality. Gifts given to the host family do not need to be expensive or extravagant. Think about what would be unique and meaningful. Some ideas include:

  • Something that comes from or is made in your town, city or region
  • Preserved food items from your region that you can cook with your host family
  • Clothing or souvenirs featuring sports teams from your school, city or state
  • A book or calendar about your town or state with lots of pictures
  • A personal photo album with photos that depict your life at home – pictures of your family, school, pets and things that you do are best
  • Games that can be played with your host family
What is the leader’s role during the family stay?

Xperitas requires at least one leader to remain on-call during the family stay. Leaders may stay with a family as well, or in a nearby hotel. The on-call leader is available to address any problems that arise during the family stay. If everything is running as planned, the leader is not expected to check in with students individually, and we also encourage leaders not to do so in order to allow students to interact with their families.  

What if an issue arises during the family stay?

Xperitas has staff on call 24/7 while our groups are abroad to address any issues that arise. Participants will have the group leader and local coordinator’s contact information in case an emergency arises. Participants should feel comfortable reaching out to their leader, and the leader should work with the local coordinator to address any issues in collaboration with Xperitas.

Leader Questions
Can my spouse or child come on the program with me?

Xperitas Language Immersion Programs are designed for world language teachers and their students with specific educational goals in mind. All participants on our published programs are expected to speak the target language while traveling in order to fully realize the goal of linguistic and cultural immersion. For this reason, family members and children who do not speak the target language are not eligible for travel on our published programs. They are welcome to visit you during the family stay (additional costs will apply). 

Family members and children are allowed to travel on custom programs. However, it is vital that you discuss this with your Xperitas program manager and school administration. 

Can we arrange our own family stay?

Yes! Depending on the length of your private family stay arrangements, we can either include it in a published program or tailor a custom program around your family stay.

Can I stay with a host family too?

While Xperitas cannot guarantee a host family for every teacher, we certainly make every effort to accommodate requests by teachers to stay with a host family instead of in a hotel during the family stay.

How do I cancel a student?

Students and/or parents must notify Xperitas directly in writing for voluntary cancellations (cancel@xperitas.org). Xperitas will not accept notification of cancellation verbally, or from teachers/leaders, unless the reason for cancellation is for disciplinary issues. 

Xperitas allows “involuntary cancellations” by the teacher/leader if the student fails 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 the student’s travel experience. Standard cancellation fees will be assessed. Please call your Xperitas program manager to discuss this in more detail. 

How are my costs covered?

Published Programs: The published program price covers the cost of one teacher/leader for every six participants. If a leader on a published program has fewer than six students, Xperitas calculates a pro-rated price based on the number of students. Example: Three students would entail a pro-rata of 3/6 or 1/2 of the total program price.

Custom Programs: often the leader costs are completely covered by the students. The organizing teacher decides how many leaders will travel.

What personal costs can I expect as a group leader?

Published Programs

If you travel with a minimum of six students (per leader), the following program costs are covered: airfare, transportation, hotel accommodations, breakfast and other meals as noted on the itinerary. 

You will also receive: 

  • An entry fee and public transit allowance to cover leader and student entrance fees and public transit costs (please note that depending on destination and included transportation and activities, not all programs include these payouts) 

  • A leader stipend to offset costs such as meals and incidentals  

Please note that if the group does not travel for whatever reason, all allowances and stipends must be returned to Xperitas. 

If you have fewer than six students (per leader), a leader price will be pro-rated based on the total student cost for your program. For example, a teacher traveling with four students would have a pro-rated price of 2/6 or 1/3 of the final student price. Leaders who have a pro-rated price may make payments online with a credit card; full payment is due at the same time as the students’ final payment. 

If you choose to travel on your own when not on-call during the family stay, your personal travel costs would be your responsibility. In addition, if you choose to depart earlier or return later than the group, you are responsible for any additional cost. Please discuss this with your program manager. 

Custom Programs

The organizing teacher/group leader creates an itinerary with the Xperitas program manager and can determine what leader costs to include. Custom programs often include: 

  • A leader stipend to offset costs such as meals and incidentals 

  • An entry fee and public transit allowance to cover leader and student entrance fees and public transit costs  

  • A meal allowance if the group leaders wish to help students budget money for meals not included in the itinerary 

Please note that if the group does not travel for whatever reason, all allowances and stipends must be returned to Xperitas. 

If you choose to travel on your own when not on-call during the family stay, your personal travel costs would be your responsibility. Likewise, if you choose to depart earlier or return later than the group, you are responsible for the additional costs. 

What are the accommodations for teachers/leaders while traveling?

Leaders are accommodated in twin/double rooms while traveling and during the family stay. Single room accommodations cost vary by destination and itinerary and can only be accommodated based on availability. Please contact your Xperitas program manager for more details. 

Can I depart earlier / return later than my group?

A participant or teacher may request an early departure or late return on their program. Eligibility for this depends on the airline’s group contract stipulations, and you will be responsible for any additional cost incurred. An adult is required to accompany the students both to and from the destination, and we suggest you let your school and families know your plan. Please discuss this with your Xperitas program manager.