FAQs

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about our Summer Programs

ECI FAQs

Have a question?

Below are the questions we are asked most.

If you can’t find the answer to your question here please contact us:

  • Toll Free 1-844-4674697
  • Send us an email 

SPAIN INDIVIDUAL PROGRAMS

When is the Application Deadline?

We have a rolling admissions policy for both group and Individual immersion programs. Enrollment on our trips is on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill up quickly—sign up as soon as possible.

Why do I need a Teacher Recommendation?

ECI requires your Spanish language teacher to complete a Teacher Recommendation Form (link emailed to your teacher by ECI) because we can only accept students who do not have a history of disruptive or behavioural issues.

Do the Host Families speak any English?

Children in the family usually have both studied and acquired some working knowledge of English. However, they know that the purpose of the Immersion program is for you to speak primarily only Spanish, and not English.

Will my language skills improve?

Absolutely! Spending time in another country, living with a local family and opting to take one-to-one language classes (some students choose to do this, but definitely not all) will all contribute to a remarkable increase in your Spanish language skills.

In order to truly benefit from the experience, you also need to make a personal commitment to speak Spanish as often as possible.

Are the trips safe?

Safety is our number one priority! We cannot do this alone, and need your cooperation. We assume a certain level of maturity from all of our students, and trust you to make responsible decisions. All of our programs are based in what we consider to be safe locations. However, like any town in the US, there is always the potential for danger, and it is your responsibility to avoid putting yourself in unsafe situations.

Taking personal responsibility to help keep yourself safe is very important. Part of ECI’s philosophy is to provide young people with an environment in which to mature and gain a level of personal independence. It is up to you to be an active participant in this process  –  your Host Family Coordinator cannot be with you at all times.

Should you find yourself in a difficult situation, however, your Host Family Coordinator  is always available to come to your aid – take a taxi with you, walk you home, take you to see a doctor,  or help you communicate with your host family, etc. You and your parents can call or text her 24/7.

How is my family chosen?

Our Host Family Coordinator in San Sebastian receives your full application, which includes your video introduction, letter to your prospective family, photos, details about your hobbies and interests, plus any allergies or dietary requirements you may have. She will then match you with a family best suited to you. Our Host Family Coordinator, Eva, is a high school teacher of English in San Sebastian, and has many connections through her school with teenagers who are very eager for their families to host a teen from the US.

When will I receive information about my family?

You will receive details about your host family any time between six and two weeks before you travel to Spain. Once you get this information you are free to email your family, who will of course be excited to hear from you. Sometimes families have to drop out of the program for unexpected reasons, so it could be that you receive your information very close to your departure, but this is rare.

How do I travel to San Sebastian, and how do I get to my host family?

Your Host Family Coordinator will meet you at Bilbao airport (the closest international airport), which is one hour from San Sebastian. She will then travel by bus or taxi with you to San Sebastian to meet your host family. Sometimes your host family will also be there to meet you at the airport in Bilbao. Your host Family Coordinator or your host family will take you back to Bilbao for your flight home.

What happens if I have a problem during the program?

Your Host Family Coordinator will be in regular contact with you. She will meet with you at least once during your stay for a two-week program, and at least twice for longer stays. She will also call you at the end of each week, but should you have a problem, she is available to take your calls or texts at any time. She will work with you and the family to resolve any issues, and if a solution cannot be found, you will be moved to a new family.

What if I’m not happy with my Host Family?

This can happen, and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a cultural misunderstanding, or a miscommunication, which can easily be resolved. You may find it difficult to adapt to your new surroundings, experience homesickness, or not enjoy the food.

Many of the causes of initial unhappiness are connected with adjusting to your new environment. But we take all concerns very seriously, and our chaperones will work with you to find a solution. Our leaders will closely monitor the situation and, if necessary, you will be moved to a new family.

In all cases it is very important to let your Host Family Coordinator know as soon as you have any concerns or worries so that they can work to resolve them. After twenty years of organising host family placements for students, we have dealt with every possible scenario and there is usually always a solution. Homesickness and culture shock often make small issues seem much more serious. Giving yourself time to settle in is often all that is needed, but ultimately if a placement is not working our Host Family Coordinator will move you to a new family after all possible solutions have been explored. Your wellbeing and happiness on the program is the main priority.

What time is curfew during Individual Immersion programs?

This is determined by your host family. As a guest in their home you will need to follow the rules of the house. Culturally, in Spain it is common to stay out later than in the rest of Europe. Dinner is often eaten at 9 or 10pm.

How long can I stay?

Most students usually stay with a family for two to three weeks. The minimum stay is one week, although this is not recommended as it can take at least 3 or 4 days to settle in and get over jet lag and culture shock! We also have students who stay for four weeks and longer. If you stay longer than three weeks we may have to place you in two families, but this is generally not an issue—our Individual Immersion students often relish the opportunity to get to know two host families!

How will I spend a typical day?

Living the life of a typical Spanish teenager in San Sebastian. This means that oftentimes your family will offer to take you on local excursions or sightseeing in San Sebastian and the surrounding region. But more often than not you will be experiencing the daily life of the family, enjoying meal times, going shopping with your host parents, going to the beach, participating in family parties or simply relaxing and getting to know your family, their friends and relatives.

Will there be a teenager in the family?

There will always be a teenager of a similar age in your host family. But keep in mind that your experience is also about connecting with every member of your family—the parents, younger children and even grandparents. Matching students to a family is not an exact science and even if a match seems perfect “on paper” it’s hard to predict how this will be in reality. Sometimes the chemistry is not quite right. If you are invested in solely bonding with the teen in your host family, and this is not all you expected it to be then you will inevitably be disappointed during your stay. If you are prepared and ready to bond with all the family members, then you will have a better chance of having a positive experience, even if the relationship with the teen in your family is not “perfect”.

Will I be able to take language classes?

This is a total immersion program, and the aim is to improve your Spanish speaking skills through daily interaction with your family and the community, but there is also the opportunity to take a more formalised approach by including Spanish classes. if you would like to do this we can arrange this for you. Your options are to take a series of classes through a local language school – this will be  a one-to-one program, or we can arrange for a private teacher to come to your host family home to teach you. Both of these options are very flexible. Students who have opted to do this have, for example, chosen to have 2 or 3 hours every day just in the first week, and others have chosen to have just 1 hour every few days throughout their stay, with the aim of building on and consolidating their learning. This is entirely up to you, and we are happy to discuss your needs on this, and arrange classes accordingly.

Are the families paid?

Our families are volunteers. They choose to host because they want to share their Spanish culture with a teen from the US. They hope to make a strong connection, and possibly long lasting friendship with you. They are motivated to host because they have a teen in the family and see the value of a cultural exchange. They receive a very small stipend to cover the cost of additional meals, but they do not receive a hosting fee. Language school host families typically receive a daily hosting fee, and basically offer a bed and breakfast service to students. They are often families of a lower socio-economic group and host mainly for the extra income. They also very rarely have teens in their family, and are often older couples with no children.

By only accepting volunteer families who receive a token remuneration we can be sure that families are hosting for the right reasons, and that they are enthusiastic about sharing their home and family life with you. Our families therefore tend to be professionals (although not all), and of a higher socio-economic background, which means  they also have enough space in their home to comfortably host a student, and the time to commit to providing a good cultural experience for their student.

What information will I receive before departure?

You will receive the following:

  • Your host family details.
  • Handbook of cultural and useful practical information, along with details about the host family experience.
  • Your Host Family Coordinator contact details, and an emergency number for your parents to call 24/7 during your stay.

How do I register to take part?

  1. On the website choose the menu tab APPLY NOW, or go direct to this page: Apply now.
  2. Select the Spain Immersion program, and follow the online instructions.
  3. You will be asked to fill out an online registration form and to make a deposit payment.

What happens once I’ve registered?

We will be in touch with you by personal email to ask if you have any questions, and to let you know that you will be receiving a series of automated emails requesting various information from you:

  • Your video introduction
  • Your letter to the host family
  • A medical authorisation
  • A teacher recommendation
  • Confirmation you have the necessary medical insurance
  • A copy of your passport

From this moment on we will be available to you by phone or email should you or your parents have any questions or concerns about your upcoming adventure in Spain.

We pride ourselves on providing a personalised and responsive service!

Is the payment due all at once and are credit cards accepted?

A second deposit of $1000 will be due within six weeks after you sign up and pay the first deposit of $1000. We accept most major credit cards.

The final program payment will be due on April 1st. If you would like to spread your balance payments between your first deposit and March 31st, please contact us.

Can I contact former students and parents ?

Yes, we have a list of students who have taken part in the program and who are happy for you to contact them to ask them questions about their experience. We also have a list of parents who your parents can contact who are happy to discuss any aspect of the program from a parent’s perspective.

FRANCE INDIVIDUAL PROGRAMS

When is the Application Deadline?

We have a rolling admissions policy for both group and Individual immersion programs. Enrollment on our trips is on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill up quickly—sign up as soon as possible.

Why do I need a Teacher Recommendation?

ECI requires your French language teacher to complete a Teacher Recommendation Form (link emailed to your teacher by ECI) because we can only accept students who do not have a history of disruptive or behavioural issues.

Do the Host Families speak any English?

Children in the family usually have both studied and acquired some working knowledge of English. However, they know that the purpose of the Immersion program is for you to speak primarily only French and not English.

Will my language skills improve?

Absolutely! Spending time in another country, living with a local family and opting to take one to one language classes ( some students choose to do this, but definitely not the majority) all contribute to a remarkable increase in your French language skills.

In order to truly benefit from the experience, you also need to make a personal commitment to speak French as often as possible.

Are the trips safe?

Safety is our number one priority! We cannot do this alone, and need your cooperation. We assume a certain level of maturity from all of our students, and trust you to make responsible decisions. All of our programs are based in what we consider to be safe locations. However, like any town in the US, there is always the potential for danger, and it is your responsibility to avoid putting yourself in unsafe situations.

Taking personal responsibility to help keep yourself safe is very important. Part of ECI’s philosophy is to provide young people with an environment in which to mature and gain a level of personal independence. It is up to you to be an active participant in this process –  your Host Family Coordinator, cannot be with you at all times.

Should you find yourself in a difficult situation, however, your Host Family Coordinator  is always available to come to your aid – take a taxi with you, walk you home, take you to see a doctor,  or help you communicate with your host family, etc. You and your parents can call or text her 24/7.

How is my family chosen?

Our Host Family Coordinators in Gap receive your full application, which includes your video introduction, letter to your prospective family, photos, details about your hobbies and interests, plus any allergies or dietary requirements you may have. They will then match you with a family best suited to you. Our Host Family Coordinators live in Gap and work in the field of education, and therefore have many connections with teenagers who are very eager for their families to host a teen from the US.

When will I receive information about my family?

You will receive details about your host family any time between six and two weeks before you travel to France. Once you get this information you are free to email the family, who will of course be excited to hear from you. Sometimes families have to drop out of the program for unexpected reasons, so it could be that you receive your information very close to your departure, but this is rare.

How do I travel to Gap, and how do I get to my host family?

Your Host Family Coordinator will meet you at Marseille airport (the closest international airport), which is two hours from Gap. She will then travel by car with you to meet your host family.  Your Host Family Coordinator  will take you back to Marseille for your flight home.

What happens if I have a problem during the program?

Your Host Family Coordinator will be in regular contact with you. She will meet with you at least once during your stay for a two-week program, and at least twice for longer stays. She will also call you at the end of each week, but should you have a problem, she is available to take your calls or texts at any time. She will work with you and the family to resolve any issues, and if a solution cannot be found, you will be moved to a new family.

What if I’m not happy with my Host Family?

This can happen, and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a cultural misunderstanding, or a miscommunication, which can easily be resolved. You may find it difficult to adapt to your new surroundings, experience homesickness, or not enjoy the food.

Many of the causes of initial unhappiness are connected with adjusting to your new environment. But we take all concerns very seriously, and our Host Family Coordinator will work with you to find a solution. She will closely monitor the situation and, if necessary, you will be moved to a new family.

In all cases it is very important to let your Host Family Coordinator know as soon as you have any concerns or worries so that she can work to resolve them. After twenty years of organising host family placements for students, we have dealt with every possible scenario and there is usually always a solution. Homesickness and culture shock often make small issues seem much more serious. Giving yourself time to settle in is often all that is needed, but ultimately if a placement is not working our Host Family Coordinator will move you to a new family after all possible solutions have been explored. Your wellbeing and happiness on the program is the main priority.

What time is curfew during Individual Immersion programs?

This is determined by your host family. As a guest in their home you will need to follow the rules of the house.

How long can I stay?

Most students usually stay with a family for two to three weeks. The minimum stay is one week, although this is not recommended as it can take at least 3 or 4 days to settle in and get over jet lag and culture shock! We also have students who stay for four weeks and longer. If you stay longer than three weeks we may have to place you in two families, but this is generally not an issue—our Individual Immersion students often relish the opportunity to get to know two host families!

How will I spend a typical day?

Living the life of a typical French teenager in the Gap region. This means that oftentimes your family will offer to take you on local excursions or sightseeing in Gap town and the surrounding area. But more often than not you will be experiencing the daily life of the family, enjoying meal times, going shopping with your host parents, going to the beach, participating in family parties or simply relaxing and getting to know your family, their friends and relatives.

Will there be a teenager in the family?

There will always be a teenager of a similar age in your host family. But keep in mind that your experience is also about connecting with every member of your family—the parents, younger children and even grandparents. Matching students to a family is not an exact science and even if a match seems perfect “on paper” it’s hard to predict how this will be in reality. Sometimes the chemistry is not quite right. If you are invested in solely bonding with the teen in your host family, and this is not all you expected it to be then you will inevitably be disappointed during your stay. If you are prepared and ready to bond with all the family members, then you will have a better chance of having a positive experience, even if the relationship with the teen in your family is not “perfect”.

Will I be able to take language classes?

This is a total immersion program, and the aim is to improve your French speaking skills through daily interaction with your family and the community, but there is also the opportunity to take a more formalised approach by including French classes. if you would like to do this we can arrange this for you. We can arrange for a private teacher to come to your host family home to teach you. This option can be very flexible. Students who have opted to do this have, for example, chosen to have 2 or 3 hours every day just in the first week, and others have chosen to have just 1 hour every few days throughout their stay, with the aim of building on and consolidating their learning. This is entirely up to you, and we are happy to discuss your needs on this, and arrange classes accordingly.

Are the families paid?

Our families are volunteers. They choose to host because they want to share their French culture with a teen from the US. They hope to make a strong connection, and possibly long lasting friendship with you. They are motivated to host because they have a teen in the family and see the value of a cultural exchange. In rare cases families receive a very small stipend to cover the cost of additional meals. Programs with language school components use host families who typically receive a daily hosting fee, and basically offer a bed and breakfast service to students. These families are often of a lower socio-economic group and host mainly for the extra income. They also very rarely have teens in their family, and are usually older couples with no children.

By only accepting volunteer families we can be sure that families are hosting for the right reasons, and that they are enthusiastic about sharing their home and family life with you. Our families therefore tend to be professionals (although not all), and of a higher socio-economic background, which means  they also have enough space in their home to comfortably host a student, and the time to commit to providing a good cultural experience for their student.

What information will I receive before departure?

You will receive the following:

  • Your host family details.
  • Handbook of cultural and useful practical information, along with details about the host family experience.
  • Your Host Family Coordinator contact details, and an emergency number for your parents to call 24/7 during your stay.

How do I register to take part?

  1. On the website choose the menu tab APPLY NOW, or go direct to this page: Apply now.
  2. Select the Spain Immersion program, and follow the online instructions.
  3. You will be asked to fill out an online registration form and to make a deposit payment.

What happens once I’ve registered?

We will be in touch with you by personal email to ask if you have any questions and to let you know that you will be receiving a series of automate d emails requesting various information from you:

  • Your video introduction
  • Your letter to the host family
  • A medical authorisation
  • A teacher recommendation
  • Confirmation you have the necessary medical insurance
  • A copy of your passport

We will form this moment on be available to you by phone or email should you or your parents have any questions or concerns about your upcoming adventure in France.

We pride ourselves on providing a personalised and responsive service!

Is the payment due all at once and are credit cards accepted?

A second deposit of $1000 will be due within six weeks after you sign up and pay the first deposit of $1000. We accept most major credit cards.

The final program payment will be due on April 1st. If you would like to spread your balance payments between your first deposit and March 31st, please contact us.

Can I contact former students and parents ?

Yes, we have a list of students who have taken part in the program and who are happy for you to contact them to ask them questions about their experience. We also have a list of parents who your parents can contact who are happy to discuss any aspect of the program from a parent’s perspective.

GROUP PROGRAMS

When is the Application Deadline?

We have a rolling admissions policy for both group and Individual immersion programs. Enrollment on our trips is on a first-come, first-served basis. Programs fill up quickly—sign up as soon as possible.

Are the trips safe?

Safety is our number one priority! We cannot do this alone, and need your cooperation. We assume a certain level of maturity from all of our students, and trust you to make responsible decisions. All of our programs are based in what we consider to be safe locations. However, like any town in the US, there is always the potential for danger, and it is your responsibility to avoid putting yourself in unsafe situations.

Taking personal responsibility to help keep yourself and your trip mates (during school group programs) is very important. Part of ECI’s philosophy is to provide young people with an environment in which to mature and gain a level of personal independence. It is up to you to be an active participant in this process and to not abuse the trust given to you by our chaperones and/ or Host Family Coordinator, who cannot be with you at all times.

Should you find yourself in a difficult situation, however, the chaperones (during school group programs)  are always available to come to your aid, take a taxi with you, walk you home, take you to see a doctor, help you communicate with your host family, etc. You and your parents can call them on their cell phones 24/7.

What time is curfew during group programs? Is there a difference between weeknights and weekends?

In France, the curfew is midnight. This means students must be back in their dorm room by this time.

In Spain, from Sunday through Thursday, the curfew is also at midnight. This means students must be back in their dorm by this time. On weekends, there is a curfew extension to 1 AM because of the late-night culture.

Please note: students are always chaperoned after dark.

Do students have free time during group programs?

We always strive for a balance between organized activities and free time for our students. We encourage you to spend time pursuing personal interests and exploring the local community and culture with friends. During free time, you are required to be in a group of at least two, preferably three.

There is free time built into every day of the program. During every excursion there will be an opportunity for you to have free time and to explore the excursion town in small groups, within a safe environment.

Can I make my own travel plans for a group program?

If you choose not to purchase a ticket on the chaperoned group flight through our partner, STA Travel, you are responsible for booking your own independent flights.

If you choose this option, you are also responsible for making your own arrangements to meet up with the chaperones and group at the initial hotel, unless you choose our Meet and Greet Service, which carries an additional fee per direction.

This is also true at the end of the program for your return flight back to the US.

Will my language skills improve?

Absolutely! Spending time in another country, living with a local family and opting to take one to one language classes all contribute to a remarkable increase in language skills.

In order to truly benefit from the experience, you also need to make a personal commitment to speak in the target language as often as possible.

How are roommates assigned?

If you have a roommate request, we will do our very best to honor it. If you do not have a request, we will match roommates based on gender, age and common hobbies/interests that you submit on your application.

Do the Host Families speak any English?

If there are children in your host family they will usually have both studied and acquired some working knowledge of English. However, they know that the purpose of the Immersion program is for you to speak primarily only the target language and not English.

What if I’m not happy with my Host Family?

This can happen, and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the problem is as simple as a cultural misunderstanding, or a miscommunication, which can easily be resolved. You may find it difficult to adapt to your new surroundings, experience homesickness, or not enjoy the food.

Many of the causes of initial unhappiness are connected with adjusting to your new environment. But we take all concerns very seriously, and our chaperones will work with you to find a solution. Our leaders will closely monitor the situation and, if necessary, you will be moved to a new family.

In all cases it s very important to let your Host Family Coordinator know as soon as you have any concerns or worries so that they can work to resolve them. After twenty years of organising host family placements for students, we have dealt with every possible scenario and there is usually always a solution. Homesickness and culture shock often make small issues seem much more serious. Giving yourself time to settle in is often all that is needed, but ultimately if a placement is not working our Host Family Coordinator will move you to a new family after all possible solutions have been explored. Your wellbeing and happiness on the program is the main priority.

How are ECI’s  Group Programs chaperoned?

Each school group programs are usually chaperoned by the teacher organising the trip. At least one US chaperone will travel round trip with the group from the US.

The main US Leader will have a cell phone with him/her at all times. You and your parents will be sent this number prior to departure. You will also be given an Emergency Card with the US Leader’s and Local Leader’s cell phone numbers.

Will the chaperones always speak to me in the target language?

Our chaperones from the US who fly with you to Europe will usually be your high school language teachers and therefore completely fluent in the target language. They will also be equipped with the necessary skills to encourage you to speak French or Spanish wherever possible. However, their main role is a pastoral one; they are there to look after your wellbeing, and to try to solve any issues you might have, ranging from homesickness to ensuring you are integrating well within the group, and any medical issues that may arise.. Wherever possible they will communicate with you in the target language, but your main source of language learning will come from the Local Leader, classes (if applicable) and your host family immersion stay (if applicable).

Our Local Leaders are always native speakers and are told that they should not speak English with you. We can of course only provide you with the opportunity to speak in the target language—it is up to you to make the most of that opportunity to speak in the target language with all your leaders as much as possible, including your US chaperones.

Have a question?

If you can’t find the answer to your question here or in the program brochure please contact us:

  • Toll Free 1-844-4674697
  • Send us an email 

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