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Greenheart

About

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.

Reviews

Default avatar
Carolina
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Wonderful Start to a Wonderful Experience

Greenheart travel partners with a team in Asia to take care of certifying teachers, applying for jobs, getting you completely ready to live and teach in SK. I was very lucky; I didn't have any issues with the training or finding a placement.
Overall, I am happy that I choose GHT. There were some restrictions in place in SK due to covid regulations, but even so I didn't feel abandoned when I arrived. I would recommend them to anyone who was interested in traveling abroad.
Coming to Korea has been such an exciting adventure. If you want to have unforgettable experiences, you should apply to come here.

Pros
  • Great food
  • A+ Nightlife
  • 1st world comforts
Cons
  • Long workdays
  • Not a lot of time off
Default avatar
Max
4/5
Yes, I recommend this program

High School Abroad in Argentina

I was extremely fortunate to receive the First Time Traveler scholarship from Greenheart travel. This scholarship enabled me to pursue a year studying abroad in Argentina. Greenheart in association with their partner in Argentina, EduQuality, made the experience unforgettable. In all honesty, I had no clue what to expect before beginning the program. A year away from my family in a foreign country was simply unfathomable. However, It has proven to be more valuable and enjoyable than I could ever begin to express. I encourage prospective travelers to take the leap, whether it be a trimester, a semester, or a whole year. A whole world of new incredible experiences awaits you.

Default avatar
Jessica
1/5
No, I don't recommend this program

PLS DO NOT USE GREENHEART TRAVEL

I used this agency to find a place to teach English in Korea and please do not use this agency. Please use XploreAsia directly instead. They ripped me off and they didn't do anything other than connect me with different agencies as such Hands Korea and XploreAsia.

It's a total scam because to even have a meeting with their person to learn more information, you have to pay 300 dollars deposit. They should have more information on their website about what to expect. After the initial meeting, you have to pay another 300 dollars to continue with your process. They are not clear about the whole money thing in the process. They just send emails saying I have ____ amount to pay due certain date. Finally, I paid 2,270 dollars to fully commit to the program.

2,870 dollars is too much to have one meeting and get connected with two agencies. I wonder how much I would've paid if I were used other agencies. For sure, I know I paid too much money to get a job that's paying around 20k dollars in a year.

I wish they were more upfront and clear with their payment in the beginning. I have no clue why there are no bad reviews on them.

Anyway, I'm glad I got to expose this company’s scheme.

Cons
  • Too expensive
  • Feels like ripped off
Response from Greenheart

Thank you Jessica for sharing your feedback. It is unfortunate you found our process confusing. It is always our intent to be transparent and as easy to understand as possible. We will revisit our website’s step-by-step outline to make sure it is clear. Greenheart Travel works with partners all over the world to design the best Teach Abroad programs—and to make sure Greenheart teachers get the best school placements and the highest paying contracts. While some people prefer to apply directly with international schools, that does not come with the support and guidance that Greenheart Travel and our partners offer.

We are sorry that you were unhappy with the payment timeline. The timing for payments and visa applications is laid out with our teachers at the very beginning of our process and we follow it carefully to ensure we are setting up a positive exchange experience for you. Greenheart Travel works collaboratively with our partners to handle different parts of the application and placement process in the USA and in the destination country. All teachers must have their program fees paid before they receive their school placements and we cannot make exceptions to those timelines.

We do appreciate your feedback and we’ll be reviewing our website to make sure our process and payment timing is clear. Everyone has a choice to apply directly with international schools or to apply through Greenheart Travel. We are glad that you chose to arrange your teaching position through Greenheart Travel! We are here to support you on your upcoming journey so that you feel comfortable and safe, and so that you get the most out of your cultural exchange experience. Thank you and safe travels!

Default avatar
Kai
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great school experience, worrisome communication

I'm grateful to have gone to Japan through Greenheart Travel. Here is my honest opinion on my experience. Overall, it was great. My flights to and from went smoothly, aside from my broken laptop :( , and my host family's home was, honestly, bigger and more comofortable than mine in the US. My schoolteachers were very understanding of me and the other students, and pushed us to practice Japanese in a variety of ways. They occasionally scolded us for speaking in English while in between classes! My experience was faithfly immersive, and I got to learn a lot about the Japanese way of life along with their historical culture. This was done through organized field trips, or outinfs with my host family. I enjoyed my time there, and received reasonable communications from the language school of events and schedule changes. However, Greenheart Travel's communication itself disappointed me. While I was preparing for my trip to Japan, the program manager seemingly changed between 2 or 3 different people at different times. There were times when I didn't know who my main point of contact was because of the confusion, and it was very scary for me because I had never been abroad, and had no idea what kind of information I needed to provide along the way, or who I would ask my questions too. I was grateful that Greenheart had the ability to provide scholarships for students like me, especially because I was paying for the program myself, but aside from that have limited good experiences with the agency. My program handbook mentioned that I was supposed to have at least one video call with my host family before I left to get to know them before departing, but this never happened. Instead, I wasn't even given any information about them until less than a week before my departure. I'm glad to have had this experience, but have now ascertained that I'm unlikely to travel with Greenheart again until they build a more reliable team. It was the people I met while abroad that truly made my experience so wonderful, and I hope that Greenheart can give future students a better experience!

Pros
  • People are just as excited to meet you as you are them!
  • Amazing street vendors
  • People enjoy when you participate in their culture
Cons
  • Worrisome communication from travel agency
  • Difficulty getting around (not all streets have names)
  • Cultural activities and fun outings can get expensive
Response from Greenheart

I’m glad to hear that your overall experience in Japan was great and apologies for the fact that you did not feel supported by Greenheart. We did have a staff change and having your main point of contact change a couple of times is understandably not ideal. This was the first summer for teen language camp programs after the pandemic and finding host families that were good matches with students took much longer than usual. We appreciate your honest feedback as it is always a priority for Greenheart Travel to evaluate and review all student concerns in order to further improve our programs. Thanks again, and we are glad to hear you enjoyed your program!

Default avatar
Skylar
5/5
Yes, I recommend this program

Great support!

I was initially so nervous to travel to Thailand, especially due to the COVID pandemic- I even put it off for another 6 months because of this! But I could not say enough good things about Greenheart and how they helped. They completely understood when I wanted to push back my start date, and stayed in contact with me the whole time. At one point, I was even worried I was sending too many emails and annoying them- but they always consistently answered and never seemed annoyed by my anxiety! Right before I was due to leave, I ended up having a ton of visa problems, and they answered almost immediately to help me work through my issues. Luckily, I haven't had many issues since arriving in Thailand, but I know they are just an email away if need be. If you are looking for the opportunity to visit Thailand, I recommend going through Greenheart- this company has your back!

Pros
  • Great support
  • Clear expectations
  • Set you up with all of the right people!
Cons
  • There were a lot of hidden costs when I actually arrived- but Greenheart could not have prevented this, and it isn't their fault.
Response from Greenheart

We appreciate your recommendation and kind words! It's a whole new world out there post-Covid and flexibility, diligence, and good communications make travel go more smoothly for everyone! Thank you for traveling with Greenheart! Enjoy your stay!

Programs

Displaying 1 - 9 of 34

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.

Professional Associations

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