Putney Student Travel

Why choose Putney Student Travel?

Since 1951, Putney Student Travel has offered high school, middle school, and college students powerful travel and experiential education programs that help them prepare for college, shape their futures, engage with people from different cultures, and form lasting friendships. Our summer programs range from two to five weeks in length and include Pre-College, Service, Language, Exploration, Career. These life-changing programs are offered in North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania.

We believe that an essential component of every young person’s education is passionate engagement with the world in the company of carefully selected peers–an experience that goes far beyond looking out the window of a teen tour bus.



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Yes, I recommend this program

Absolutely excellent – we could not have hoped for a better outcome!

Our 16-year-old daughter LOVED this program! From the counselors to the kids (all of whom she had never met before), the writing program, and the cultural exploration – she loved every minute in Ireland and has not stopped talking about it. She is not typically one to go on and on about something but she still (9 months later) gushes about her time with her "Putney friends" in Ireland. The counselors did a fantastic job quickly bringing the group together to create a vibe where the kids felt comfortable and would share creatively – no small feat when you only have 12 days together. The fact that she is still in touch with many of the kids tells me so much. She got a tremendous confidence boost and came home even more inspired to pursue a career in writing. I couldn't recommend a program more highly – I felt informed every step of the way and was confident she was in great hands while overseas. Thank you, thank you!

What would you improve about this program?
Nothing comes to mind. :) Kinda wish they had programs for adults.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing Experience that You Don't Want to Miss!!

This program has given me an experience that I have never before had. From the very beginning, we immersed ourselves in the culture of the people in Dominica and formed close relationships with the locals in Bense (our host town). During the afternoons we would play sports and cards with the local kids as well as occasionally doing an organized after school fun camp. We taught the kids many things and they taught us many things as well. This exchange of ideas has shown me many new games that I can play with my friends today. Not only that, but the island on its own is beautiful. Everyday you are immersed in incredible views that you cannot see anywhere else. In addition to being located in such a beautiful place with such nice people, it was truly meaningful to perform numerous service projects alongside our local contractors. Some of our projects included fixing trash huts, building bus stops, creating the floor for a hurricane shelter (and making the cement as well), cleaning up beaches, painting different walls and houses throughout the village, and clearing areas and planting them with pretty plants. It felt so good to be able to walk around the village and see the fruits of our labor on a day-to-day basis, knowing that it will stay there after we are gone and be used to help improve the lives of the locals. In addition, this program really helped create great relationships with the other people in the program. From playing cards all afternoon, to doing a fun 1984 book club, to spending nights having long discussions, we all really got to know one another and create special bonds that cannot be broken. I very strongly recommend this program to anyone who wants to have a meaningful, fun, and incredible summer.

What would you improve about this program?
The one thing that I believe can be improved in this program is the organization of service projects. I know that our group worked especially quickly and this resulted in a last minute rush to find more work to do for the remainder of our time in Dominica.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Putney Dominica hurricane relief review

My experience in Dominica helped me broaden my horizons by being forced to immerse myself fully into such a new and different culture. The people of my host town, Bense, were welcoming and kind to us from the very beginning and didn't just stop at saying hi to us, but really spent time building relationships with us any chance they got. Local teenagers played basketball and soccer with us, some showed us their local beaches and travelled with us to work and on car rides to tourist destinations, some kids played cards with us and taught us songs and games. The adults we interacted with were interested in our experiences and urged us to make the most of our time in their country. Everyone on my trip made such strong connections with the locals in our town that three weeks with them didn't feel like enough. The spirited people on the island aside, Dominica was incredibly beautiful with amazing beaches, mountains, waterfalls, and an incredible history that we got to learn about from a local historian at his home and also by visiting nearby ruins of a European fort. Putney did an excellent job of having us dive into Dominican culture in every aspect, from eating locally-cooked food every night to holding day camps for younger kids to going to a church service to picking fruit on the side of the road. I felt that my experience in Dominica was truly authentic and rewarding and I couldn't be happier with my decision to go on this trip.

What would you improve about this program?
The only improvement I would suggest is to line up some more community service jobs before hand so that leaders don't have to scramble to find more as the trip progresses.
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Yes, I recommend this program

Second time

Just for clarification, I did the Putney Costa Rica trip last year and in 2018 I did the Ecuador trip. I'd like to think this makes me experienced in this area but you make your own choice :)

After having an absolutely phenomenal time in Costa Rica last year, my expectations for Ecuador were already high. So on the first of July I eagerly carted myself off to Miami to meet my group. These people whom I would eventually call my friends were just exceptional. Each student brought their own perspective, views, beliefs, charm, aura to the group. We were such a diverse group that created some truly memorable conversations and relations with each other that no other experience or group of people could provide. You can trust that a majority of the people going onto the trip will become your best friends. Even if you don't love everyone in your group, you at least appreciate certain parts of each individual and respect them for who they are. My conversations with everyone also led me to do some self-thinking and evaluation and I now think differently and deeper about topics. I actually learnt a lot about myself through this and this was easily one of my favorite aspects about the entire group.

The leaders of our program and the Barn took very good care of us. Our two leaders were not really leaders. Sure, they communicated with headquarters, commandeered our group around Ecuador, and instructed us on day to day projects and checkups but they were not leaders. They became close friends of everyone. If you had something to say to the leader, whether it be a compliment, critique, personal problem, injury, etc. they are there for you 100%. My leaders from last year were exceptional people and worked amazingly together, and I can say the same for my leaders. (Shout out to Chris and Nina, and Gregorio and Julia <3)

Ecuador is truly a unique country. If you point at any point on a map of Ecuador and traveled to that location, I can guarantee that something gorgeous or interesting is within sight. Putney also gives the students a diverse range of activities to do when in the country. For example, we traveled to a few cities and towns in Ecuador for our weekend excursions. In one town we participated in a parade (I mean we literally walked in the parade) that celebrated all the communities in Ecuador. Walking down the street and seeing all the waving hands and smiling faces was truly an unforgettable experience. But in another town we shopped for gifts for family members by bartering in the town market. I may have gotten ripped off on a few items but whatever I got has fantastic designs and is super cool to look at.

The community service aspect of the trip is some of the most rewarding parts of the trip. Although our group worked for almost four to six hours a day on a single project, it was totally worth it. Every day we either shoveled dirt, mixed cement or wheelbarrowed up and down a hill, but we normally did a mixture of everything. It sounds grueling, and believe me it is. The places we dumped the cement were far from where the cement was being mixed and by the end of the work day everyone was sweaty and exhausted. Yet, it felt unbelievably good. I mean, my legs and arms would disagree but the feeling of doing a project that would help the community (We built multiple canals that would help the village avoid flooding in many key areas) just felt incredible. It may sound like I lost my mind but it felt good and the village loved and respected us for throwing our hearts into the project.

We also did plenty of activities within the village. We often played soccer with the young kids or watched the older kids play. The younger kids were around our level (And when I mean young, I mean the 4-10 range) but the older group just played too fast for even our best player. Other than our daily soccer matches, the independent project provided an alternate way to not only aid the community, but to interact with the locals. I personally met with the local baker, Jose Manuel, and learned the trade secrets. I spent a few mornings extensively talking with him and his family and I made bread for our group on two separate mornings. Jose Manuel and I grew very close and when we left, we were making each other cry. He even made me promise that I would return. I promised him that I would and I intend to keep it.

The two clear highlights of the trip were climbing Cotopaxi and the Galapagos. The Galapagos was fantastic, as you'd expect it to be. It's the vacation aspect of the trip so we did just that. Plenty of snorkeling, beaches and animal interactions that kept the group entertained and bonding to the very last day. The surprise highlight of the trip was climbing Cotopaxi, one of the taller mountains in Ecuador. It's a mountain, so it's going to be grueling difficult. Breathing was incredibly difficult (Making the climb up fatiguing), the weather pushed us to our physical and mental limits, and the weight of all the layers weighed us down. Despite everything seeming to be going against us, it was beautiful. Everyone went at their own pace, but was never alone. I personally liked keeping a fast pace and trekked up the mountain with a few other people and the guide, laughing and talking all the way up (I'm not sure how we managed to hold conversations, everyone was always out of breath so it probably hurt us). And when we reached the refuge it was a fantastic feeling. The sheer sense of accomplishment and unity among your friends was indescribable. Yet, I loved the feeling so much that I stripped off all my sweaty layers, and headed back out into the cold to cheer everyone else coming up the mountain. Though I eventually started to get cold, I managed to come in with the last member of the group shivering, but not in Popsicle form. There was an option to climb higher up in the mountain and we achieved the same feeling of Euphoria except it was multiplied. By 1000. And the view was a solid 12/10. I'm having trouble truly describing how I felt aboard the top of that mountain because you need to experience it yourself. If you need anymore proof that was my favorite part of the trip, you should just know that I have a smile on my face just from writing about it.

I loved this trip. Everyone I met was fantastic and I'm glad I can call them my friends. The country, activities and village were just exceptional. It was, yet again, another perfect trip from Putney. All the interactions I've had with the staff have been great just to make my trip go the right way every time. If you ever do student travel, I highly recommend Putney. Twice in a row they've provided me with summer experiences, people and memories I will never forget. I can also guarantee that I'm doing a trip next summer because I know how much fun and love I'll receive from this program.

Feel free to reach out to me with any questions you have :)

What would you improve about this program?
There were two complaints with the program.

The first is the weather. Ecuador's on the bloody Equator, yet I spent most of the time freezing. Our trip took us to very high altitudes so we ended up needing more layers than I originally thought. Don't be alarmed however, Putney did warn my family and I that it would be cold so I was well prepared but it still caught me off guard. I thought that Equator instantly met warmth but I was so wrong. It's not even a legitimate complaint, Putney can't 'improve' Ecuador's weather but it's just a forewarning for anyone considering the trip. It doesn't mean that if you live in Florida where a bad winter looks like 60 degrees, that you'll freeze. It just means you'll want to bundle up.

The only other (legitimate) complaint I have is with the food. Up in the village, we had a fantastic and filling breakfast. However, my bone is with lunch and dinner. Lunch and dinner often consisted of a main meal of soup with some rotating sides to compliment the soup. The soup was delicious about 75% of the time (And most people within our group would agree) but we just tired of soup after a few days. In addition, after long work days, it would've been nice to sink our teeth into a hard piece of meat or something. But since most of it was in soup form, it was just annoying to eat day in and out. However, this made the occasional pasta dish extra good and our final meal at the village just fantastic. The village cooked us a pig and the pork was to die for. Sorry to all the Vegetarians!
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Unforgettable Experience!

This trip was one of the best five weeks in my life. I decided to sign up because this program combined things I already knew that I would enjoy with things that I had never tried before. Not only did I have an amazing time, but I also pushed and challenged myself constantly. I overcame fears and built up strength in all different areas. This trip gave me the opportunity to do activities that I would never pursue on my own; hiking in the Dolomites, canyoning in Switzerland, and taking a bike trip throughout the Netherlands. Though it was sometimes hard, I am proud of everything that I achieved. I loved exploring the Louvre in Paris, going down the canals in Amsterdam, and grabbing gelato every day in Florence. I was able to really experience and observe true Italian culture through my homestay. My family was very accommodating and for that I am grateful. This trip also had a good balance of guided time and free time. It was a great way to give the students the chance to explore the city on their own. The food in each place was amazing, and everyone was always excited to grab breakfast, lunch, and dinner at authentic establishments. Putney not only provides students with one in a life time experiences, but also with lifelong connections and friendships. This program was incredible not only because of the places that I got to travel to but also because of the people that I got to travel with. Some of the best memories I have are from the long train rides and strolls through the cities when I got to just spend time with my friends. I never expected to create the kind of friendships that I did; they are ones that will last forever. I am so grateful that I got to go on this trip and I would recommend it to anyone who is interested. Trust me, you won’t regret it!


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Alumni Interviews

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

Why did you choose this program?

I choose Putney's Community Service Costa Rica program because it sounded like the best combination of the things I was looking for.

I wanted a program that provided an active and interactive experience with the community we were in, and Costa Rica and a few other programs fit that description. However, Putney offered the chance to play sports with the local children, sleep in their homes and get to know the natives on a personal level, rewarding community service work and so much more.

Not only did they make the time in the village sound special, but they also offered other activities outside the village in addition to the village. Whitewater rafting and horseback riding were activities that I had not experienced but had always wanted to try, and I was able to do both in Costa Rica.

With a lot of exciting opportunities in the Community Service Costa Rica program, I decided that it was the program for me. Thinking back on it now, it not only hit everything on my checklist, it excelled in every area.

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

Putney helped me time my flight to Miami (which is where a majority of the group were meeting) so that I'd arrive at the designated time at the lowest price. They had found a few different options for me to take and recommended me to choose the best flight.

Once we were in Miami, Putney took care of the rest. They also gave us an extensive list of items that were recommended for the trip. Of course, we made our own decision in choosing what to get, what wasn't necessary, etc. but the list was super helpful in general.

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

Learn a bit of Spanish! The primary language of Costa Rica is Spanish, and not a lot of English is spoken. If you know some Spanish, you'll be able to connect and talk to the locals on a personal level, and they greatly appreciate when you try and speak Spanish.

However, this doesn't mean you won't have a great time if you only know English. In fact, a majority of the people I went with knew no Spanish at all, and they still had a great time! They either had to play charades to communicate what they were saying, or ask someone to translate for them.

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

  • 6:30 am: Wake up. If you are the designated leader of the day, you wake up at 6:00 to help prepare breakfast.
  • 7:00 am: Breakfast. Traditional breakfasts were prepared by student leaders and the village, which were so tasty.
  • 8:00 am: Begin work. This is the community service you complete in the village which could be mixing and placing cement, digging, building, etc., whatever projects the village has prepared is what you will help with.
  • 10:30 am - 10:45 am: Brief fruit break. If one group needed more students to help work on a project, some students would transfer to said project.
  • 10:45 am: Continue Work.
  • 12:30 pm: Lunch. Fantastic food prepared by the village.
  • 1:30 pm: Continue work and/or have free time. If the weather was bad, then work was canceled for the rest of the day and we were given free time. Work ended at 3 pm. Our free time was spent talking to the villagers, playing sports, helping prepare dinner, working on independent projects, etc.
  • 6:00 pm: Dinner. More great food, nothing to complain about.
  • 7:00 pm: Relax. We return to our sleeping area and hang out with the members of our student group, playing cards, talking and so on.
  • 8:00 pm: Group meeting. Talk the day through with the leaders, who give their input for the day. They might suggest what the group could do better, or highlight an individual for an action. Other than that, they talk about the day tomorrow and what to expect. Once the meeting is over, everyone starts getting ready for bed: shower, brushing teeth, etc.
  • 9:00 pm: Lights out. 9:00 is the specified bed time for everyone, but a majority of people go to bed as soon as the group meeting is over.

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

My biggest fear was the food. Before I came to Costa Rica, I was a very picky eater. There were just a lot of foods I did not like (I wasn't allergic to anything, just didn't like the taste), so I thought once I got to Costa Rica, I would live on rice for the next three weeks.

That was not the case. Once I tried the food, I couldn't stop eating. The food was absolutely fantastic and I often asked for seconds (and occasionally thirds, that's how good the food was!). By the end of the trip, I missed the food the village made, it's just completely different from what's offered in America.

Is Costa Rica dangerous?

I know this question is for the parents who might worry themselves when their child is away and the answer is simple: No.

Putney always took us to the safest parts of Costa Rica so the safety of a child is never threatened. However the most worrying parts of the trip are: insects, theft and injury.

The group is in the middle of the forest in Costa Rica, there are a lot of insects always around so bring repellent! Occasionally we travel to places (such as the beach) where things might get stolen. As long as you are smart (like don't leave an iPhone X sitting around), nothing will get lost. Also, our group put all of our belongings in one place and had a few people watching over our stuff to further prevent theft.

Injury is also a minor concern. If anything goes wrong, the leaders can take you to a hospital and care for you but this is rare. You might be sore after work or have a blister, but that's about the extent of an 'injury.'