Holiday Gift Guide for Travel and Study Abroad Fans

Post-Thanksgiving funk got you down? There’s one foolproof way to lift your spirits: start dreaming of the looming December holiday season! And of course, there’s no better way to do that than by contemplating the meaningful gifts you’ll be distributing this year. For us die-hard study abroad and travel fans, it’s especially fun to give gifts that celebrate the importance of going global. So, for the study abroad and travel enthusiasts among you, here are some of the best holiday gifts to give (and hopefully receive!):

1) Personalized travel pack. If you know that one of your loved ones will be taking a trip in the near future (or maybe you just want to give someone a little travel inspiration!), a personalized travel pack is a great gift. Fill up a cute basket with airplane essentials for a relative who’s taking a long trip, or create a Pinterest-esque idea basket for your best friend who’s been dying to go to Iceland. Get creative and personal!

2) Gift card to Shutterfly. For the photography-minded travelers among us, a gift card for a photo-sharing website like Shutterfly is a truly winning idea. Recipients will be able to create everything from personalized iPhone cases to photo books of their travels.


3) Custom vintage pushpin map. A pushpin map is essential for those hard-core travelers who appreciate a visual reminder of where they’ve been and where they’re going. For study abroad alumni, this gift is a particularly wonderful way to track their international journey and feed the inevitable nostalgia cravings. Check out Etsy for inspiration — it’s a veritable goldmine for all things vintage-y and map-related.


4) International charity donation. For the loved one who appreciates the art of giving (or perhaps for the person who has everything), why not research a good international charity to donate to? Some charities, such as Woman for Woman International, will send a personalized thank-you card to the person of your choosing that explains how your gift is beneficial. And your donation doesn’t have to be in the form of boring old cash, either — for instance, Heifer International offers a gift catalog that includes goats, cows, and even honeybees, all of which can be donated to an impoverished international community.

5) Travel journal or letter-writing kit. Most of us could definitely afford to document our globe-trotting more in the form of writing — a cool, customized journal is always an excellent way to encourage just that. Letter-writing is also a great way to encourage people to write about their travel experiences, especially for study abroad students (who may or may not have become accustomed to using Facebook as their only form of communication). Put together a kit that includes some neat stationary, stamps, an address book, and any other letter-writing utensils.


6) Framed bucket list with must-see travel destinations. In the slog of life, it can be easy to lose sight of all those places you want to travel to before it’s too late. A bucket list of dream destinations (complete with check boxes!) that can be hung on a bedroom wall is thus the perfect gift for all travel/study abroad enthusiasts.

7) Travel piggy bank. A starter travel piggy bank is an excellent gift for the financially-strapped among us. Gift a cash-deprived yet travel-minded friend with a custom piggy bank or jar dedicated to squirreling away spare change for that first trip to Paris. At the very least, it’ll help serve as an excellent reminder to always set aside a little cash for the all-important purpose of global travel.


*For more fun travel and study abroad-themed gifts, essentials, decor & more, check out SPI Study Abroad’s Pinterest boards!

A Life-changing Experience!

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

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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.