CIEE Gap Year and High School Study Abroad

CIEE Global Navigator


With CIEE Global Navigator High School programs, the possibilities are endless. As a U.S. high school student, you can study abroad from as little as three weeks in the summer to an entire semester or gap year. With more than 60 programs on five continents, you’re sure to find the perfect program to match your personal goals and interests.



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Yes, I recommend this program

I had an incredible time in Alicante over the summer. I grew a lot in both personally, in my own independence, and in my Spanish-speaking skills. Alicante is incredible. The school where we attended classes was a 5-minute walk to the beach. Every afternoon there was some activity planned, like doing a city bike tour or beach volleyball, and every day it was different. On the weekends there would be bigger outings planned, such as spending a day visiting castles and waterfalls.
Alicante isn't a really well-known city, which was initially unappealing to me, but I think it was a better choice than a big city would've been. We had a weekend trip to Madrid, and I realized that being in a bigger city had a lot of potential for things to go wrong... a lot more theft and crime occurs in more prevalent cities.
The classes were intriguing and my professor was really fun and made class actually appealing. I liked that we not only learned about the language but also about the culture of the place we were staying in. Often, our afternoon activities would be catered to what we were learning about in class, which made my learning experience so fascinating. I'd taken 3 years of Spanish prior to the trip, (the requirement is at least 2) which I thought would suffice, but it really wasn't enough. A lot of the 40 kids on the program were nearly fluent, having spoken it from childhood. And instead of there being 4 different levels of class intensities as advertised, there were 3 classes: 2 for advanced kids and 1 for not-advanced, like me:). So for that reason I'd recommend 3+ years of Spanish unless you regularly speak it. Without a roommate with me in my host home, I would've had an extremely difficult time trying to communicate with my host mom. Having someone who also spoke English kept me sane when I didn't understand anything.
After class each day, you'd go home for lunch with your host family and take a siesta, which would be a couple hours of downtime, where you could really do whatever you wanted: do your homework, take a nap, watch Netflix, go to the beach, go shopping, etc. The siestas were some of my favorite times on the program because it gave me time to just chill out, especially when we had busy days, or do something with my friends. But I was really impressed with CIEE for the level of planning and preparedness they orchestrated for our afternoon activities and weekend outings. There would always be a perfect balance between downtime/free time and planned activities.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
1) Request a roommate. I'm a bit more introverted, and I didn't think I would want a roommate, but having one made the trip SO much better. I always had someone to walk back to the house with after classes, and it made communication with Spanish speakers a lot easier when we could tag-team something we didn't understand. If you're super confident in your language skills, then you can go solo.
2) ALSO, don't book flights with FlightFox. CIEE will recommend it if you choose a group flight, but it is NOT WORTH IT. I was on an individual flight to JFK and then on a group flight to Madrid and then Alicante, but because of weather issues we were rerouted to Atlanta halfway to JFK, and I missed both my connections. I had to rebook the flights for full price, and wait 24 hours in JFK. I had even used the insurance that CIEE recommended (iNext), which says it covers that, but now it's November and we're still disputing the claims. So, moral of the story, don't use FlightFox. Book on your own. Unless you're really on a budget, because FlightFox will literally get the worst airlines ever. AirEuropa, what they booked me on, landed me not being passed by customs coming back to the US because they had put my name in wrong and said I was 19, not 16. Just... so bad. Another airline we went on refused to let a girl on our program board because the flight was full, yet she had bought a ticket... so she had to wait 16 hours for the next flight. Don't use FlightFox!! Save yourself the pain.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My time in Palma was a life-changing experience, and I would recommend it to anybody considering applying. The island is simply breathtaking and I found the locals to be extremely friendly. I remember one instance where a friend and I spoke with a woman for over a half hour who told us about some of the island's history and even showed us pictures of her family. My favorite experience was during El Día de San Juan, when I witnessed the craziest, most vibrant display of pyrotechnics I have ever seen from the Dimonis of the Correfoc. One thing I should note is that the program is very structured, so it may not be the number one choice for those looking for a largely flexible trip. All said, it was truly incredible and I wouldn't change a thing!

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Make every moment count, because a month flies by.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Morocco was a riveting and absolutely beautiful experience. From the beautiful gardens to the beach to the bustling Medina, market, you had to be vigilant, not only to save your belongings and to fully enjoy and burn into your Rabat’s beauty into your memory. I was painfully unaware of the saving your belongings part yet that would not ruin my experience. The food you will eat in Rabat, such as tajine and Moroccan tea will be missed by your tastebuds. You will experience Moroccan culture but also Tamazight, the oldest people living in Morocco and the hardships they faced. You will also witness French colonization and how deep of a effect it has. Last but not least you will experience the culture of Sub-Saharan Africans who live some as refugees and others as professionals and Islamic culture but with the Moroccan spin on it.

If you did this all over again, what's one thing you would change?
Hold onto your belongings and don’t be so trusting because they are Muslims too. Also, GET A FANNY PACK. Its so useful.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Going into the Mohemmedia, Morocco mentoring youth and raising social awareness program, I had no prior expectations. I did not know much about the culture, language, or what I would be experiencing. After essentially being in it, I was amazed. Everyone was so kind to one another and I had so much support from my peers and program leaders. It honestly felt like we were part of a real family. Being with the host families was also a very life-changing experience. I loved how not only were we able to travel to Morocco, but we were able to be in a space where we could truly experience the culture and how it is like to live in a Moroccan household, essentially as though we were really Moroccans. Lastly, the kids were probably one of the best highlights of the trip. I loved seeing their eagerness to learn English and how quickly we all bonded with them. Not only were we teaching them English, but they also helped us learn Darija, which was very helpful once we were out in the local community and had to communicate with the local people. Overall, my experience was one that I will never forget and I will definitely take what I learned there back to my own home community. I definitely encourage anyone interested in this program to definitely consider applying and going through with the process of getting in.

What was your funniest moment?
Probably dinner time when the family and my roommate and I would crack lots of jokes.
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Yes, I recommend this program

The program was amazing. Nothing to say here. The family experience was where most of my learning and growth happened. Of course it depends on how you spent time with family, but I personally ensured that we stayed in the target language, Italian, for most of the time with rare exceptions. I learned a little more about Italian culture and their norms as well as a significant language boost which the classroom could never provide. I took 2 trips with my host family outside Ferrara, and a couple times we went out within Ferrara to the movies or something else. The classroom was great. My teacher was very kind, and not strict at all like the program staff. The projects we did and their presentations helped me learn as well. But to be completely honest, I expected the classroom to benefit me more than it did. The family experience turned out to be much more effective than the class. Then there were the weekend trips and after school activities with CIEE. We got to tour a theater, make pizza, make pasta, learn to sing, learn photography, etc. All those activities may not have necessarily helped with learning the language, but rather they helped learn the culture. They were all very fun and entertaining so I'm glad they were there. The 2 weekend trips to Venice and San Marino were also very good. We had a lot of free time there to roam with friends and enjoy sight seeing, as well as some shopping. I only have two criticisms for this program. 1. The missions in the street- They were these activities where we had to approach strangers in Ferrara and ask them questions and have a conversation. Most of them turned out very awkward and I ended up faking all the ones for the last week. It seems like a good idea but in practice it just puts students into uncomfortable scenarios. Perhaps it may work with a few tweaks. 2. Program leaders - They seemed nice at first but there were moments where they acted very unfair and unreasonable. They are biased towards certain students, and don't give chances for behavioral improvement. Basically, if they see something negative in you the first day, you are going to have a bad experience with them for the rest of the program. I personally was on their good side but I still noticed how unreasonable they can be at times, sometimes on a very small but irritating scale. For example, I didn't do an assignment along with 7 other people because there was a misunderstanding on the due date. They ended up pulling me out mid way through a movie we were watching to make it up. I feel like that was a little unfair. There was also a point where we were buying water and the program leaders told us to leave the store just as we were about to pay for it because apparently we had to go. We have to put the water back and upon exiting the store, we took a few steps away and stood there with the rest of the group doing nothing for 10 minutes while they figured stuff out. We could have bought water and it wouldn't hurt anyone. The program leaders also cancelled the third weekend trip because of rain and the rain never happened. Felt like they were simply lazy to go and jumped at the first excuse. There were many other much worse examples that happened with other students though like I said, I kept to their good side. My opinion on this program overall is that CIEE puts you through an amazing immersive experience, but the program leaders break some of that immersion.

What would you improve about this program?
The program leaders need to be a little less uptight about little things and should be more trusting and flexible. They seemed so paranoid every time we went on a weekend trip, or in Ferrara at time, as if they doubt our judgement or their own ability to keep us under control.


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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose CIEE first and foremost because of their scholarship and financial aid help. As a low income Hispanic student traveling and studying abroad was a far fetched idea but CIEE’s tremendous generosity and help allowed me to experience Tokyo, Japan during my junior year of High School. Second after having read the program’s itinerary and comparing it with other programs I realized I felt that CIEE had exactly, if not more than what I was looking for and with CIEE I went to four different cities in Japan and learned a lot of the local culture, customs, food and language.

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

CIEE offered meet up points and airports, set us up with a language test before we left to check our level of understanding of the Japanese language and they had a lot of webinars and were on call the entire time. My mom was very paranoid about letting me go off with strangers to such a faraway country but CIEE was kind enough to keep her updated and called her frequently until they confirmed I was safely in their hands at the Narita airport. They provided us dorms, showers, buses, food, and great tour guides. As a full scholarship recipient there wasn’t much I had to organize on my own as everything was provided for.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Please study the language beforehand, it’s a courtesy to the native people of the country as well as a courtesy to yourself because if you find yourself not knowing how to speak or communicate at least at the basic level it’s going to be difficult to navigate yourself sometimes.

Also one month goes by very quickly savor it as best as you can, I came in the program very shy and came out very confident but I feel like my shyness prevented me from fully getting to know more people and more of the city, let yourself be free mentally and you will enjoy the experience much more. I always tell my friends to not be shy with your fellow peers as you will be each other’s family for the time you are there and to trust yourself and your instincts, it’s all strange and overwhelming at first but you will adapt.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Busy but fun! Depending on the day but usually we have classes in the morning Mondays to Fridays and then after class you could either have free time and explore the city on your own or you will be put in groups and do prescheduled activities such as calligraphy, meditation, exploring parts of the cities. We also took a week off of Tokyo to visit Kyoto and Hiroshima, we did not have classes that week but we did get to explore many parts of the two cities both with the entire group and on our own. We also had three days visiting our designated host families.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

I was certainly nervous but my biggest fear would have to be if I was going to be well received by others in the program and if I was going to manage to get out of my shell. I realized I didn’t have anything to worry about because by the third day I was already having a blast with everyone. I realized people aren’t so difficult to get along with and that I should let go of the fear of being reserved and how others perceived me because when I did let go it became much easier to be myself and get along with others!

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Michele Schreiner

Job Title
Program Observer
Michele Schreiner is a District World Languages Supervisor in a public school district in southern New Jersey.

What is your favorite travel memory?

Taking the group excursion to Greifswald, Germany as a wonderful opportunity for me. I was able to observe how the German Language program students and the Global Entrepreneurship students came together for one weekend.

We all traveled together by train to Greifswald, a quaint little picturesque town in the North on the Baltic Sea. We stayed at the Youth Hostel in town, which had a large open area for soccer and volleyball. It was great fun to watch the students get to know one another.

The architecture in Greifswald was beautiful and the students enjoyed the contrast between the big city life in Berlin and this adorable university town.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

As a language lover, I needed an opportunity to become a language learner again. Going to Berlin provided the perfect opportunity for me to focus my language learning skills on learning German. While in Berlin, I sought out as many opportunities as I could to utilize German with the local people. I am grateful for having had this opportunity.

Additionally, I personally needed a good refresher on my metro-taking skills. Being in Berlin was the perfect remedy for this, as the city is enormous and one often must change trains 2-3 times in order to get to a destination.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

I would love to go to see the program in Valparaiso. As diverse as my school district is, there is little opportunity to meet people from Chile. I would love to see how different the Spanish language is in Chile and to see how their culture is.

The security in Berlin at the study center was quite impressive. I appreciated how hard the Program Leaders were working to keep all of their students safe. I think this type of experience is unique to CIEE.

The company hires American high school teachers who are accustomed to working with American teenagers.

The 4 Program leaders I had an opportunity to get to know worked very hard at putting together meaningful "Into the Community" programs for their students. They also impressed me with how quickly and how well they had already gotten to know the students in their charge.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

Personalization. I observed how well the Program Leaders worked with the German teachers in Berlin and how well they worked with the local CIEE employees in Berlin. All of these people working well together is what makes for a wonderful experience for the students, without their even realizing how many people are working behind the scenes to make it all happen.

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