5 Great Ways to Prepare for a Summer Abroad with SPI

The countdown to Summer 2017 has begun! Sure, snow is on the ground in a lot of places, and most are just focused on starting a new semester, but – truth is – June and July will be here before we know it. And if you’re a high schooler traveling this summer with SPI Study Abroad, that means you’re only a few months away from the experience of a lifetime!

Before going overseas, you may feel a mixture of excitement and a little nervousness about what’s unknown. Will I like living in another country? Will people be able to understand me? How do I get ready for something like this?

Well fret not! Keep calm and check out these 5 Great Ways to Prepare for a Summer Abroad with SPI!

1. Dive into the language


501 French Verbs

Practice makes perfect, but when you’re learning another language, it’s more about proficiency then mastery. Take extra time to prepare for speaking another language by reviewing concepts you don’t feel confident with and by watching the news, shows, or listening to music in your target language (online streaming has made this easier than ever!). Read a book in your target language and highlight verbs, conjugations, and vocabulary that you don’t understand. You can go back later translate independently or with the help of your teacher. If you’re a novice speaker, write down verbs that you use most often when speaking English, then study those conjugations in your target language. Focus on important things like directions, common questions, and how to express what you’re feeling!

No matter you’re language level, you’re going to be both challenged and supported in an SPI program, but the more time and effort you invest in practicing the language – the quicker you’ll reach fluency!

2. Research where you’re going



Did you know that students in SPI’s Siena, Italy program participate in the world-famous Palio Festival? Or that 25% of the land in Costa Rica is protected nature reserves? Between Wikipedia and Google Maps, you can learn a lot about where you’re going before you even pack your bag! Another great way to prepare and learn about your study abroad destination is by reading the SPI Blog for your program (look for your city’s name on the left side of the page). There, you can see first hand where we visit, what we do, and what it looks like! Of course, you still want to allow yourself to be surprised and awed by the sites you’ll be seeing – that’s one of the best parts of traveling and seeing something new!

3. Use the Orientation Portal



Need to know when your documents and final payments are due? Want another copy of your Student & Parent Orientation Guide? Everything you need is online! Simply login to the online portal (look for the password in your enrollment confirmation email) and you’ll have access to pre-departure essentials, orientation videos, important reminders, contact information for communicating with directors while abroad, information about SPI’s summer contests, and program specific resources!

4. Connect on Social Media


Liking an following SPI on Facebook, TwitterInstagram, and YouTube is a great way to get a feel of what studying abroad in high school is like! It also connects you with other students in your session! In early Spring, students will receive an invite to a Facebook group for their session. You can also use hashtags like #mySPIstory and #SPIstudyabroad on Instagram and Twitter to start sharing how you’re preparing for the summer!


5. Get Excited!


Let it soak in for a minute! In just a few short months, you’ll be zip-lining through a cloud forest, or enjoying an cup of gelato while strolling along medieval European streets, or meandering down China’s beautiful Li River on your way to a stunning water concert. You’re going places. Studying abroad will be a defining period in your educational experience – a journey that will transform you into being a globally-minded young adult with international experience that puts you ahead of your peers. It’s time to start counting down!

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

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Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.


Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.