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Why choose Greenheart?

Greenheart Travel is a 501(c)3 non-profit, mission-driven organization based in Chicago, USA. We are passionate about providing immersive cultural experiences for teenagers and adults in countries all over the world.

We believe in the power of travel; a power that broadens perspective and turns strangers into family. It’s this belief that motivates us at Greenheart Travel to provide life-changing adventures for anyone with a case of wanderlust. We’re your personal cheerleaders as you navigate the unpredictable joys, surprises, and challenges of life abroad. With unrivaled support and guidance, Greenheart Travel gives you the tools to make sure you’re more than a tourist, you’re a world citizen. You don’t just travel for the sights, you travel for a change.

Diversity & Inclusion

BIPOC Support

We appreciate that everyone has a unique worldview and value everyone regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender or gender identity, ability, military status, religion, sexual orientation or political view. We are committed to building relationships and ensuring everyone we encounter feels welcomed, respected, and accepted. Greenheart is committed to helping anyone find the best program fit and will go the extra mile to make sure our participants feel safe and supported wherever they end up.

LGBTQIA+ Support

Greenheart Travel welcomes travelers identifying as LGTBQ+, and is committed to helping you find the best program for you. We can provide information on the cultural norms of our destination countries and are prepared to advise you on the best programs based on your needs and interests.
While most of our programs could be a good fit, we also know that certain cultures and countries are more accepting of and prepared to host LGBTQ+ people than others. We are committed to working with LGBTQ+ people to determine which experiences may be the right fit for them. Please reach out if you want to discuss which of our programs might fit you best ahead of applying at or set up a phone call with us here.

Neurodivergent Support

Greenheart works with partners who have varying levels of what is considered "good mental health". While we cannot change their eligibility conditions, we will work with participants to the best of our abilities in order to get them the program placement they want. We encourage you to discuss your specific situation with us directly, before securing these documents.

Accessibility Support

Greenheart Travel welcomes students of varying ability to explore their study abroad options! While resources and support differ from country to country, Greenheart Travel staff work with individual students as needed to find program options that will set students up for success.



We believe in supporting our travelers to make a positive impact in their communities. The Greenheart Club provides Greenheart Grant funding to alumni projects all over the world.
As the leading eco-friendly exchange organization, we are passionate about helping travelers explore the globe while respecting the environment and cultural heritage of the destinations they explore.

Ethical Impact

Greenheart Travel is a branch of Greenheart International, a Chicago-based organization that connects people and planet to create global leaders through personal development, volunteer service, environmentalism, fair trade, and cultural exchange. We provide resources, grants, and experiences to those who want to immerse themselves in another culture and leave it better than when they arrived. Through volunteering, creating relationships and more.


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No, I don't recommend this program

Teaching English in Italy

I have now completed 3 months teaching English abroad in Italy. Overall, this has been a great experience and I am extremely happy I did it! However, I would not recommend this particular program. There were some concerning aspects of this trip.
Number 1. The LACK OF COMMUNICATION. Communication from Greenheart was absolutely terrible. I would send emails and would no get a response until 2-3 weeks later (if any). They did not tell me where I was being placed until the end of November (I left end of January) and booking airplane tickets was expensive that late. They also did not tell me which grades/ages I would be working with until a few weeks before I left and still expected me to pack materials.
I often wondered if this program was a scam. I did not hear from them other than when they reminded me that I needed to pay the rest of the fee. When I had to pay the last large sum, I almost decided this company was a scam and didn't go, but decided to try it.
They also did not tell me about important holidays in Italy (when the school would be closed) so I could not plan anything until last minute. The last week of school was a half week due to a national holiday and therefore the program ended three days earlier than they had told me.
Overall, everything was very unorganized and everything was a surprise.

2. Host family.
Although I had a lovely host family that were very nice people, I do not believe that they were in a place in life to be hosting someone at this time (as they told me many times). I strongly believe that the program should have looked into this more. My family said that they applied 2 year earlier but did not get anyone placed with them. This year they were asked to host me and accepted, although this was not a good time for them. They were almost never home, and if they were they were very busy with their own lives (understandably). Often I would only see them for about 30 minutes at dinner, where they often fought and screamed at each other. There was also often no food in the house and I went many times without lunch or dinner. It was not much of a cultural exchange: my family almost never asked about me or my country and I was made to feel stupid if I asked about Italian culture.

Orientation was pointless. It occurred a week after I had already been living in Italy. I do believe it would have been helpful it it occurred before I left home. However, everything they talked about I had found out for myself after I had arrived. All of the information would have been extremely helpful beforehand.
They also sent out a handbook that stated that orientation would take place over the first weekend in Turin with a group of people completing the program. Henceforth I booked my ticket to Turin expecting this to take place. Eventually I started asking questions and found out that was indeed not happening and that orientation would be online ( again, lack of communication).

Something good that came out of the program was the Facebook group. Although no one uses it, I was lucky that another girl completing the same program as me posted in it looking for connections. Luckily we started chatting and met up while in Italy. It was so nice to be able to chat with someone going through the same experience as you. Italy is extremely different from North America and had extremely challenging moments. I am extremely grateful that I met her and we were able to travel together on some weekends. We visited AMAZING places like Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Milan, and Turin and truly had the best time. Without her, I would have been extremely bored and depressed on the weekends. My family often did nothing with me and I would sit at home looking for something to do. There is much more free time here than in North America and without having something to look forward to on the weekends I do not think I would have been able to stay the entire 3 months.

My experience at the schools was overall great. At the secondary school (elementary level in North America) I was extremely welcomed by both staff and students. Most students were so excited to have me there and always waved and said hi to me. They treated me like a celebrity. I really enjoyed teaching my lessons each week and interacting with the students. Although, the language barrier was challenging and students in Italy have way less respect for their teachers compared to Canada. The school system is also completely different and old school compared to North America. Which was very challenging sometimes.
The primary school was very difficult to attend. They did not give me a schedule, and other classes from other schools would also show up and demand a lesson from me. Teacher did not speak English and they would all fight over my time and often were too aggressive towards me. I frankly hated going to the primary school, because of the teachers. However, the students were amazing and very interested and happy to have me. Somedays I was treated poorly by those teachers, and I paid A LOT of money to do this program which is why I am writing this review.

Overall, I am glad I did this experience. I love teaching and have enjoyed working with the students. I have enjoyed traveling on weekends and being in the country that is full of history. However, It is an expensive program where you work FOR FREE. There is a lot expected of you, even though you are the one paying to be here. So I believe that there must be a program out there that either is cheaper or pays you that may be a better option. Or simply just travel around Italy first before committing to living here. I do not think that I would do this program now knowing what I know. But I know everyone's experience is different.

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
My family ate pasta every single day for lunch which was very surprising to me.
  • I have made great connections with the students
  • I have made a great new friend out of this experience
  • I have travelled to some of the most amazing places in Italy
  • The lack of communication
  • Cultural shock
  • Host family not being at a good place to host someone
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Yes, I recommend this program

Teaching Abroad in Chiang Mai: A Journey of Discovery and Delight

3 months ago I began my teaching adventure abroad with Greenheart Travel. I've had a fulfilling experience overall. Initially unaware of their partnership with Xploreasia, I was happy with the level of support provided leading up to my departure. The program equipped me with valuable knowledge and resources, and their responsiveness to any questions made my feel at ease.

Now settled in the beautiful city of Chiang Mai, Thailand, I am thoroughly enjoying my teaching experience. The weather is delightful, the local community is welcoming, and there's an abundance of things to do!

Some of the downsides would be that the working hours are longer than anticipated, and the contract length exceeded my initial expectations. Additionally, I encountered unexpected hidden costs along the way.

Overall, my time with Greenheart Travel/XploreAsia has been positive, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to teach in such a beautiful location. While there have been challenges, the rewards of living and working in Chiang Mai are extremely fulfilling. I would recommend using Greenheart to allow the transition abroad to be smooth and stress free.

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Yes, I recommend this program

It was a great trip!

It was a really great trip, I cherish the opportunities it gave me and the memories I made. I am going to put much more effort into studying Japanese because I want to go back and be able to talk to people. I loved learning Japanese from native speakers and living with my host family the Yoshidas. They were the best part of the trip by far. Going to Osaka palace and bike riding at dusk were unforgettable experiences, and training Japanese kickboxing was so incredibly fun. Don't be afraid to get out of your comfort zone!

  • Good food
  • Flying
  • Fun
  • Got lost
  • expensive
  • a little bit lonely
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Yes, I recommend this program

Teach English in a Homestay in South Korea for 3 Months

I recently had the incredible opportunity to live with a family in South Korea for 3 months through Greenheart’s Korean homestay and teach English program and I highly recommend it.

My gap year dream was to live in South Korea and teach English. I had completed the TEFL course and then found out that legally I needed a degree to teach in Korea. I thought it was going to be impossible to go when I found Greenheart's homestay program whilst surfing the web and reached out to them.

Right from the start, the Greenheart team was helpful and guided me through the application process. Despite my late application, they stood by me, guiding and assisting me throughout the rushed process. Even after I arrived in Korea, their unwavering support continued from meeting me at the airport, sorting out a Korean SIM Card, taking me to the family I was going to be living with and helping me find and enrol in Korean language lessons. Whenever I encountered any challenges or needed assistance during my stay, Greenheart was always there, providing the help I needed.

One of the most pleasant surprises was the affordability of the program. Initially, I had concerns about the price, but experiencing it first-hand, I can confidently say it offers exceptional value. In fact, the cost is significantly more reasonable compared to attempting a similar endeavour independently.

To summarise, my experience with the Korean homestay and teach English program with Greenheart was truly extraordinary. It not only allowed me to fulfil my dream of living and teaching English in Korea, but it also provided unparalleled support and guidance throughout the entire journey. If you're contemplating a homestay in Korea, choose Greenheart. You won't be disappointed.

Default avatar
Yes, I recommend this program

Tokyo teen language camp



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Alumni Interviews

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

Grace Johnson

Grace Johnson

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because it had everything I wanted.

Prior to choosing Greenheart, I did a LOT of research comparing other study abroad agencies, and this one was the most cost-efficient and also had all of the things I was looking for in a program, including Japanese lessons (check!) and a homestay (check!). Those two things were really important to me because I wanted the most immersive experience possible, and I found that staying with a host family made a HUGE difference in the amount of Japanese I used and learned.

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

They assisted me with lots of information about my destination beforehand and provided me with a 40-page guide to my program. It included all of the technical information about the program as well as tips about carrying money, health, and safety, protocols for missed flights, etc. I found the information about cultural differences most helpful though.

The guide explained subtle differences in ideas, values, and attitudes beyond taking off your shoes in the genkan or keeping things very tidy. There was also a pre-departure online orientation where participants could ask questions and I connected with a few people before the program.

In terms of what I had to do on my own, I was responsible for organizing my flight, packing, and figuring out transportation to and from school. There was a lot of assistance prior to the program, but once you get picked up by your host family at the airport, you're pretty much on your own, but it wasn't challenging or scary.

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

Don't be afraid to venture outside of the basic itinerary of your program or to try something new. The best experience from my whole trip was a hike that was completely unrelated to the weekend trips at the language school (GenkiJACS). A friend of a friend who I met at GenkiJACS said I could come on a hike to a shrine at the top of a mountain, and it was probably the best day of my life. I was hesitant to go at first because it was with a lot of people I didn’t know too well from the school, and I knew my parents probably would’ve said “no” to me going with them. I’m a goody-two-shoes, so at home, I would’ve told them I probably couldn’t come along, however, my gut told me this could be something really amazing, and it was.

Japan was actually getting hit with the edge of a typhoon at the time, so the hike started off with a light drizzle which turned into a downpour as we neared the top and eventually climbed back down. It was the toughest hike of my life but I got to learn a little bit about everyone on the hike, made friends, and shared an experience that all of us will remember forever. The view at the top was incredible and the wind was so strong it made the rain hurt, but we all couldn’t stop smiling.

When we came back down, there was a festival that happened to be going on at a shrine at the base of the mountain and the people there were very kind and offered us some food and explained to us what was going on. We probably looked kind of crazy--9 Western hikers coming out of the mountain completely drenched, but they were friendly anyway.

If I hadn’t gone with my gut and ventured out of my comfort zone, that whole experience never would’ve happened, so trust yourself and take advantage of the opportunities that come!

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

For the first half of my trip or so, a school day would look something like this:

I would get up anywhere between 7 and 9 in the morning to get ready for class. On days when I had later classes though (the schedule varied between morning, afternoon, and late afternoon classes) I might not do anything until about 10. My host mom made me breakfast literally EVERY morning, which was extremely kind of her, so I would usually eat it and talk to her or if she had to leave in the morning I might eat it by myself. Then I would get ready for school and ride the bus to Hakata Eki. From there, I would walk about 7 minutes to school and go to class.

Class was fun and the teachers were always very nice and patient. Most of the class is taught in Japanese, which I thought I would struggle with, but it was actually very understandable. Depending on my class schedule for the day, I would either eat lunch between classes or afterward. If I had to eat between classes, I would usually go to the nearby FamilyMart (a convenience store) and if I was eating after class, I would go to Hakata Eki (walk) or Tenjin (walk or bus) to try different foods at the food stalls. When I had time, I would pick little sections of the city to explore before going back to my host family’s house for dinner. Sometimes I would buy postcards at Hakata Eki and mail them at a Japan Post or withdraw money from one of the ATM spots that are next to the post offices.

When I got home, I would shower and then eat dinner with my host family. We would talk about our days and I usually had my dictionary app ready so I could look up words I didn’t know. This is where a lot of cultural exchange and vocabulary expansion took place. Then I would do my homework in the family room and talk to my host dad and sister while they watched TV and go to bed.

For the second half of my trip, my schedule was essentially the same except I spent a lot more time out with friends in the evening and would sometimes go to dinner with them. My weekends were pretty varied. Sometimes I would go on trips with the school, sometimes on excursions with friends, and other times my host family would very kindly take me places.

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 don’t think I had anyone fear that was particularly intimidating, but I was probably most concerned about my interactions with my host family. I was worried that I would end up spending a month with a host family with whom my relationship would be awkward or negative. However, I ended up with the best host family I could ask for!

I tried asking questions and learning about them despite my broken Japanese, which really helped build a positive relationship with them. Dinners with them also had a huge impact on our closeness and I was actually able to open up to them about more personal issues because we’d all become accustomed to patience when trying to explain things over the language barrier.

Something I was more minorly concerned with was how people in Japan would react to my ethnicity. I’m half Caucasian half African American and have type 4 hair and a tan, so I wasn’t sure how that would go over in such a homogeneous country where fair skin and silky straight hair are considered beautiful. However, I wore my hair out many times anyway and, to my surprise, I got nothing but compliments!

There were multiple Japanese strangers who told me how cool and beautiful my hair was and I actually ended up doing a modeling shoot with a hairstylist! People were also very complimentary of my skin and eyelashes, and my trip ended up being quite the confidence booster!

How did you convince your parents to let you go on your trip?

Lots and lots of research.

My parents are extremely overprotective so I researched practically everything you could worry about and more. I researched at least 10 programs before choosing one and read the fine print of every policy. I made a slide presentation with the program details, cost estimates on the high and low sides, program reviews (from this site actually!), country safety, etc., and even that wasn’t enough at first. My dad made me email the Greenheart staff about whether or not they surveyed their program graduates because he wanted to know if they cared about improving the program and alumni feedback (he’s very business-oriented). The staff were very nice and provided me with all of the information he asked for. Additionally, he made me check the policies on Go Overseas to make sure they didn’t let companies pay them to write fake reviews, research whether or not there were radiation safety issues, and more.

The important thing is to be patient with your parents. There were many times when I thought the amount of detail they wanted was over-the-top, but I kept my composure despite my frustration and got them everything they asked for because I knew they just wanted me to have a great experience.

Stay calm, manage your tone, and don’t be afraid to email people persistently to get the information you need. It’s tedious but well worth the experience you’ll have once you get through the tough part.

Don’t give up!

Staff Interviews

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

Zoe Coulter

Job Title
Work Abroad Program Manager
From the moment that Zoe began writing to her pen pal from Germany at age 12, she began looking for any opportunity to learn about diverse cultures. She has spent time traveling throughout Europe and Central America, spending more extensive periods of time studying in Spain and working in Costa Rica. Today, she manages the work abroad programs at Greenheart Travel.
Zoe Coulter

What is your favorite travel memory?

Back in 2015, I was in Puerto Limon staying at a hostel and I met an artisan from Peru who was passing through on his way to Nicaragua. He took the time to show me how he crafted rings and bracelets. We also spent time chatting about how our own cultures differed. I thoroughly enjoyed learning about his work, travels, and his home country. I believe that the best way to learn about another culture is to get to know the people.

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

Working for a mission-based non-profit has inspired me to give back to my local community. Our company culture has really bled into my personal life and now I think I use my free time a lot more purposefully. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to mentor and volunteer throughout Chicago. Volunteering my time has become something that I sincerely enjoy.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

It is great to see the growth that each of our travelers undergo during their time abroad. One of our Greenheart Travelers was adamant on honing her Spanish-language skills. Following her journey and hearing about her time working in Argentina was really rewarding. She spoke so transparently about the hardships of trying to grasp a second language—things such as learning a work vocabulary and learning the regional slang were challenging even though she had a good grasp of the grammar before the start of her program.

On top of work, she decided to pick up Spanish classes five days a week. Her days were packed, but the outcome was that she was able to speak Spanish confidently and she felt more comfortable in both social and work situations. As a result of her using her time intentionally to learn a second language and cultivate her Spanish conversational skills, she was able to form deep bonds with her coworkers and the friends that she made while working abroad.

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

If I had the opportunity, I would participate in the Thailand Marketing Internship. Interns can work with two great organizations, one of which is a non-profit dog rescue in Hua Hin. All Greenheart Travel interns get the opportunity to see how the organizations work from the ground up, and interns are encouraged to lead and innovate projects.

I think the program is a fantastic growing experience in the many respects. The first week is devoted to exploring the history and culture of Thailand, which is very interesting. Thai people are so loving and caring and I hear nothing but great things from our interns about how hospitable everyone has been to them. The program is short term, so it is a great way to get your feet wet if this is your first time traveling or if you have a few months open for travel.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

I’m proud of the time and effort we take to help our travelers prepare for traveling abroad. We have created multiple resources to address culture shock and to support individuals before departure, during their time abroad, and after returning to their home country. We aim to make sure that our travelers feel prepared in every sense of the word before traveling abroad.

I think a unique aspect about our company is that the whole application process is very personable. For example, I speak with and interview every person that applies to the Work Abroad programs. There isn’t a person who goes through the application process that I don’t know on an individual level. All program managers make themselves available over the phone, via email, and even over mediums like Skype because we really want to connect with every Greenheart Traveler and ensure that they feel supported.

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

Believing in what you do is what I believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company. If you don’t believe in the value of what you’re doing, then that becomes evident in your work. Our whole team at Greenheart Travel is passionate about the programs that we facilitate and the impact that travel has on individuals, and I think that passion shows in the way that we interact with everyone that we come in contact with.

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