Language Immersion Program FAQs

Language Immersion Program FAQs

Answers to frequently asked questions about Xperitas Language Immersion Programs

The Xperitas Experience
Who is Xperitas?

Xperitas is a nonprofit educational organization dedicated to promoting global citizenship through authentic immersion experiences. Born from 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 of French, German, Spanish and English to practice their language skills in authentic situations with native speakers. The cornerstone of our programs is a family stay experience, through which students experience everyday life in the 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. 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 more than 45 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 a family stay, which allows participants to experience firsthand another culture and way of life. The family stay 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 who speak the language of their 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.

What are the benefits of traveling abroad?

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

  • Opportunities to use language skills developed in the classroom in real-life situations with native speakers
  • Developing self-confidence and building problem-solving skills that come from being outside one’s comfort zone
  • Hands-on lessons in geography, history, math (currency, budgeting), and cultural competence
  • Experiencing first-hand daily life in another 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 his/her group. If the custom program includes a Xperitas family stay, language ability may be 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 his/her 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 a 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.

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 problem student 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.

What are the benefits of hosting a student from another country?
  • Promote cultural understanding by sharing your family’s customs and traditions with an international student, and learn about his or hers
  • Provide opportunities for an international student to build his or her target language skills
  • Develop a relationship with a student from abroad. Many host families go to visit their student in his or her home country!
  • Receive a discount or rebate on your own Xperitas travel program
Who is eligible for Xperitas hosting programs?

Families of all types can host. A few expectations of host families include the following:

  • The host family must provide the student with a bed of his/her own.
  • The visiting student can share a room with a child of the same gender and approximate age, or have a single bedroom.
  • The host family may be responsible for transporting the student to classes or activities, depending on the program.
  • The host family commits to speaking the target language at home as much as possible.
  • The host family is responsible for providing meals and actively engaging the student in their daily life and activities.
Where can I find more information about Xperitas hosting programs?

Visit our hosting students page to learn more about hosting international students in your home or community.

Registration and Payments
How do I apply for a 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 credits available to participants?

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

  • Hosting – Students who host an international student in their home through Xperitas within 3 years of their travel program receive up to a $150 credit.
  • Early bird – Participants who apply before June 15 in the year prior to travel receive a $200 credit off the published program price.
  • Alumni credit – Paying participants who have traveled with Xperitas before receive a $200 credit on subsequent Language Immersion Programs.
  • Family members – 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. Family members must travel in the same year, consecutive years or alternate years (within 2 years) to qualify. 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
  • Financial aid – Xperitas awards more than $50,000 in financial aid each year to students who qualify. Check out the Financial Aid page for more information.
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 adhere to the payment schedule. 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 Schedule 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 schedule that pertains 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?
How long does it take to process a cancellation?

Refunds may take up to four weeks from the date of receipt to process, depending on the time of cancellation and method of payment. Insurance claims may take longer. Xperitas issues refunds in the form of a check made 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. 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, check out this article in our resources.

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 accommodations does Xperitas use?

Xperitas typically uses 3-star, tourist-class 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?

Limited insurance for up to $50,000 in medical expenses, and trip cancellation insurance (up to $1,000) is provided for all Xperitas participants. Coverage details can be found on the Insurance Page. Before departure, participants can print an insurance card to carry with them on the program by visiting coretravelinsurance.com. Individuals who want to purchase additional trip cancellation and/or medical insurance coverage can do so here.

Does Xperitas provide liability insurance?

Xperitas is protected by a multi-million-dollar liability policy for its operations. Teachers who travel as leaders are automatically covered under Xperitas’ liability policy. A school or district may be added as an additional named insured for a small fee. Please contact your Xperitas program manager for more details.

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

Participants are encouraged to visit our blog and our Resources section to peruse articles about preparing for travel abroad, researching the destination and much more. Xperitas also provides resources to leaders to help prepare students for the experience. A few good sources of additional information include FactMonster.comLonely Planet and 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. It’s also what distinguishes our programs from any other individual, family or group travel experience.

After more than 40 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 contributed 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 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 a U.S. American teenager. Our primary concern is the safety of our participants, and we hope our more than 40 years of experience will put your mind at ease.

When will participants receive information about their host families?

Because our host families are volunteers, the timing of when Xperitas and participants receive information about families varies. We generally are able to pass the information along two to four 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 monthly Navigator parent newsletters and corresponding stories and articles on our blog and Resources Section.

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, but is not expected to check in with students individually.

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.

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. 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: 3 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 allowance to cover leader and student entrance fees and public transit
  • A leader stipend to offset costs such as meals and incidentals (you may wish to budget more personal funds for this if traveling with fewer than six students)

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 4 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 allowance to cover leader and student entrance fees and public transit
  • A meal allowance if the group leaders wish to help students budget money for meals not included in the itinerary

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, the additional costs are up to you.

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 more and will be accommodated based on availability. Single room supplements vary by destination and itinerary. 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. Please discuss this with your Xperitas program manager.