About ECI

Unique summer study abroad programs in France, Spain, Costa Rica, the US, Germany, Austria & Ireland

ECI experience

ECI has been organizing summer Study Abroad programs for high school students and teachers since 1998.

ECI Quality

With a reputation for quality and safety that parents can trust, we provide students with the best summer Study Abroad experience possible. Commitment to quality is a top priority for ECI.


I founded ECI in 1999 along with Phyllis O’Neill. As former high school teachers, Phyllis in the US, and me in the UK, our primary goals for our students were to improve foreign language fluency, to increase students’ cultural understanding, and to create bonds of friendship between the continents.

I believe we succeeded in achieving these goals, and continue to do so. Numerous ECI students have indeed maintained lasting friendships, and have chosen international careers using their language skills, as a direct result of taking part in an ECI program.

We initially offered group programs for US high school students in France and Spain, and group programs for European students in the US. We also organised programs for school groups to both the US and Europe, Costa Rica and beyond.

For our school group programs we only partner with the very best language schools in France, Spain and Costa Rica, many of whom have close links to US accredited universities and ties with professional organisations in France and Spain including FEDELE (Spanish Federation of Associations of Schools of Spanish as a Foreign Language) and the Sorbonne University in Paris.

The unique aspect of all of our programs has always been our immersion component – a true immersion where students live with volunteer families, and genuinely live the life of a teenager of that country.

Our focus now is mainly on that unique aspect we successfully developed over many years, working closely with dedicated Host Family Coordinators. Along with group programs for schools, we now primarily organise individual immersion trips for high school students in France and Spain.

Marie Harris (founder and director of ECI)

Careful planning

The application process is continually refined and updated in order to make enrollment as clear and user-friendly for students and parents as possible.

Individual Immersion host families are recruited well in advance of departure, and all aspects of this component are carefully planned by our Host Family Coordinators to ensure the most beneficial host family Immersion experience for our students.

ECI innovations

We have never wanted our school group programs to be simply sightseeing tours. At the heart of our philosophy is an attempt to enable our students to engage with the local culture through direct contact with local people.

Two ECI innovations that promote this philosophy are key aspects of our programs:

Language Partners

During our school group programs students spend a few hours each week in the program town in the company of young local people, speaking only in the target language. Language Partners are college-aged, allowing the students to communicate on a peer level. Students often tell us that this is one of their favorite program activities.

Individual Immersion

Many organization arrange for their students to live in paid families in the program town, but we want more than a bed and breakfast experience for our students, where the target language is only briefly spoken during mealtimes. We want complete immersion in Spanish, French, Costa Rican, US, Austrian, German and Irish family life.

Our Individual Immersion  feature is what makes ECI different. All our families are volunteers, (some programs receive a minimal food stipend), and genuinely want to form a relationship with our students. Our generous hosts go out of their way to plan for their individual student’s stay. Close bonds are forged throughout the students’ stay in a manner not usually possible with families who are compensated monetarily.


ECI are specialists in the field of Summer Study Abroad. After many  years of organizing programs for US and European teens we are able to exactly pinpoint what makes a valuable Study Abroad program for high school students.

Our  programs are the result of years of experience, and years of reviewing, adapting and honing our programs—working out which components work, which don’t and devising a blueprint for a successful program.

We are certain that our immersion experience is the key factor in providing students with a program that will achieve the most important goals of a quality Study Abroad program:

  • A marked improvement in a student’s ability to speak the target language.
  • Awareness, appreciation and tolerance for cultural differences.
  • Growth in social skills, self-confidence and personal independence.

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