Choosing a Summer Program

Many Hotchkiss students will spend part of the summer with travel and study abroad organizations outside of the school. These organizations offer opportunities for community service, research, travel, and language study which can shape or enhance students' personal and professional interests.

The number of options available can be overwhelming, however, and an organized research process can help ensure a rewarding experience with a summer program.

We hope that the following questions will be helpful to our students and their families. Additional guidance and information is available from the International Programs Office.

Framing Questions

  • Where do I want to go?
  • How much time do I want to spend away?
    (Programs can be as short as a week and as long as 8 weeks)
  • What type of program is most appealing: Travel, adventure, cultural or language immersion, academic, community service, leadership skills?
  • Might there be a summer program that will contribute to my Hotchkiss experience and build on a skill or interest that I have?

Researching Your Options

  • After answering the questions above, request information from programs that meet your initial criteria - the questions below may be helpful when talking to the programs.
  • Ask the organizations you are researching for references from people who have recently participated in the same opportunity. By asking these references open-ended questions (“Why did you chose this organization?” “What were some of the highlights?” “What were some of the challenges?”) as opposed to specific questions (“Was it worth it?” “Would you recommend this program to someone?”) you are likely to hear the answers to your questions in their responses.
  • If you hope to travel internationally, make sure your passport is valid for six months after the end of the program. If needed, apply for or renew a passport as soon as possible, and apply for any required travel visas.
  • Attend the annual Summer/Gap Year Opportunities Fair, which Hotchkiss usually hosts in January. Representatives from some 20 programs will be on hand to answer questions and conduct interviews.

Researching Specific Programs

Students and families will need to determine if the program meets their criteria for content and organization, and the following questions can help organize this research process.

  • What type of organization is it and what is their history or reputation?
  • What kind of application is required and what are the criteria for acceptance?
  • What is the itinerary and what will your daily experiences be like?
  • In what country and what type of region (city/rural) will you be?
  • What forms of communication are available: cell phone, email, etc.?
  • What kind of health care is available?
  • What are the living arrangements: Youth hostels, family homes, dormitories, hotels, tents?
  • What forms of transportation will be used? Are you expected to take public transport, ride a bike, in the back of a pick-up truck or on the back of a motorcycle?

In addition to the questions above, the following information about preparation might be helpful.

Preparing for Summer Travel

No matter what your plans, it is important to know where you’re going - and why - and understand the risks of the location and activities you will be doing. Students and their families should work together to research the itinerary in order to have a clear understanding of the summer program you have chosen.

Logistics and Itinerary:

One of the basic principles of risk-management is to have a well-thought-out itinerary. Knowing the reasons for going someplace or engaging in an activity can help a traveler decide on the costs and benefits of each aspect of the itinerary. This process of risk/benefit analysis can not only help choose a summer program, but also identify support services (such as suitable clinics and hospitals, or transportation, or banks), and ensure that there is a means to access them.

Cultural and Personal Preparation:

In addition to these practical considerations it is just as important to prepare yourself for the experiences you have identified to help you reach your goals. Whether you intend to do meaningful service or commit to learning about a culture or language, it is critical to reflect on your motivation, identity, and opinions. Consider the impact you may have on the people and place and what you will leave behind. What do you gain from these experiences and how are you benefitting others, if at all?

In addition, identify what skills will help you have a successful experience, and what can be done to build those skills before leaving home; reading and learning about destinations before leaving can make the travel more rewarding.

During planning, think hard about the baggage - both physical and emotional - you take with you. Make sure you are packing the right items and are well-equipped for the anticipated experiences. Below is a short checklist to get you started on your preparations.


  • Registering with your country’s embassy or consulate can be helpful in the event of an emergency - ask whether the summer program will do this for you.
  • Research country-specific information including local laws, crime, health, transportation options, geography, etc.
  • Research the country’s culture, including style of dress, behavior, gender roles, language, religion and traditions.


  • Research disease and infection issues in the location/s to which you are traveling; the Center for Disease Control and World Health Organization websites are good resources.
  • If you are traveling abroad, consider making an appointment with a travel medicine specialist several months in advance of your departure.
  • Understand entry requirements for medications and pack adequate amounts of prescription medications.
  • Inform your program of your medical needs so that they can best support you in the event of an emergency.
  • Ensure that you have health insurance during your time abroad; your program may very well provide this or have recommendations.


  • If you are traveling abroad, make sure your passport is valid for 6 months past your return date and that there are enough blank pages for your intended travel.
  • Work with your programs to apply for required visas (most likely several months in advance).
  • Ensure that your family has an itinerary.
  • Identify strategies and discuss frequency of communication – cell phone (with international calling), email access, Skype, mailing address, etc.
  • Pack thoughtfully – appropriate clothing for culture and climate, toiletries, gifts for others, etc.
  • Set a Budget – discuss finances, research access to money, contact home banks to alert them of travel, develop a back-up plan for emergencies.


  • Plan for journaling throughout your summer program – writing, blogging, photo documenting, filming, painting, etc.
  • Begin journaling before departure about goals, expectations, identity, etc., and continue throughout the experience.