Global Immersion Summer Programs for Teens - Summer 365

1.29.20 by

5 Reasons Why a Global Learning Summer Experience May Just Be The Perfect Next Step For Your Camper

By: Adam Aronovitz, Director of Global Routes

Let’s face it…camp is magical. There is nothing on earth like feeling so at home, so welcomed, and so embedded in an intentional community of caring individuals. But the real magic of camp is being immersed in an environment that gives us support and space to grow, try new things, expand our horizons, and solve interesting real-life problems. It opens up our universe, illuminates our core values, and encourages us to be joyful, compassionate, community-minded, generous, curious, creative, and courageous. 

Camp raises the bar for our daily existence and how we view true friendships. But at a certain point, it’s essential for camp-lovers to take their journey to the next level, by moving out of the camp bubble, and back into the magic beyond the comfort zone to put those skills and values into action out in the world.

Since the age of 6, I’ve spent almost every summer either attending or working at a summer camp, or designing and leading international immersion programs for students that have aged-out of camp. As the Director of Global Routes, and a 9-time global immersion leader myself, I work with countless former campers each year that are making the leap from the waterfront to the world. I want to help you make the leap in a way that will best support the continued growth of your camper!

Top 5 Reasons Teenage Campers should make the leap to a Global Immersion Program

  • Prepare to excel in college and beyond: Build critical 21st Century Global Competencies that are central to thriving in college and beyond.
  • Demonstrate your desire to Learn: your continued track of seeking growth, openness, challenge, and understanding different perspectives. Build on your camp experience by taking the courageous step to seek out experiential learning in a new and challenging environment. Show admissions teams that you are always growing, expanding, and trying new things.
  • Show your Commitment to Service: Demonstrate your commitment to be an active, engaged, and compassionate member of your community. Some programs, including Global Routes, can award the Presidential Volunteer Service Award to particularly dedicated students. Colleges are seeking students that are going to positively impact their college community. See what Vanderbilt Admissions Counselor Jan Suter has to say:
  • Inspire your interests and passions before you graduate high school. So many students enter college with very limited understanding of what they really want to study, and lose out on the opportunity to make the most of an incredible education. Real-world experiences in high school help students identify areas and topics that truly excite them. This allows students to enter higher education with energy and focus and inspires students to seek out courses of study they are truly passionate about. This is an essential step in building pathways to a fulfilling and meaningful career. 
  • Meaningful Mentorship: Camp counselors are heroes to campers. International immersion educators and instructors provide continued inspiring mentorship to aspiring leaders at just the right time. Program leaders are dynamic, caring, experienced staff who have followed their dreams across the globe. Leaders will support and push students to stretch their comfort zone, cultivate core values, and center in on areas that ignite passion and deep interest as students are contemplating the world and their role as global citizens. The teenage years are a critical time to connect with motivational mentors that will support students as they grow and launch into adulthood.

Of course, the most valuable perspective here comes from life-time campers who made the leap from camp to global immersion programs when they were in high school and now have had several years to look back and assess the value of those experiences.

Here are reflections from Jillian Gray and Kaleigh Mangiarelli. Jillian attended a month-long 2017 global immersion program and Kaleigh attended 3 month-long global immersion programs from 2008-10. 

How was your global immersion experience the perfect next step after many years at camp?

“My experience allowed me to become a more confident leader. The LIT program at my summer camp served as a basis for this confidence, and my program in St. Vincent helped me put these skills into action. The purpose of our trip aligned with the goals of my camp in many ways. Being able to travel with a group and have a common goal helped make the experience even more valuable to me. In many ways being a camper and being an international traveler are very similar. In order to fully embrace either experience, one has to be willing to keep an open mind and be willing to make mistakes. It is all part of the process.   -Jillian

What would you say to a teenage camper who was considering transitioning from camp to a global immersion experience? 

“DO IT. I cannot stress enough how important seeing the world outside of your “bubble” is. International travel is so important in opening your eyes. The people you come into contact with, the history you learn about, the new activities and foods you try are all so extremely valuable in helping you see what life is truly like. When you actually get to see these places in person, you are gaining a much deeper appreciation for the world around you.” -Jillian

“Just do it.  You absolutely will not regret it.  It will change the way you look at your life, change the “things” you value, and ignite a spark for travel and learning about others that you never knew you had.” -Kaleigh

How did your global immersion experience help prepare you to be a confident global citizen?

“It helped my empathy grow to be more than just about other people’s feelings, but about others circumstances as well.” -Kaleigh

“International travel is so important in making us more aware of the world around us. Being more aware helps us become more empathetic and informed. I became more aware of myself and the impact I can have on the lives of others just as other people can have a similar impact on me. Realizing how interconnected we all really are is emphasized through international travel.” -Jillian

What was the biggest impact of your global immersion experience?

“Truly it is the people. These people have come to shape my perspective and have allowed me to become a better version of myself. I think that learning from other people is the most powerful tool we have, and the Global Routes experience allows you to form those connections to people you would never expect to be friends with at first.” -Jillian

How were the values you learned at camp reinforced on your global immersion experience?

“The ‘Full Value Contract’ explains it all.  Putting the group members in charge of creating the rules, not just the authority making those decisions. This is a way that both camp and Global Routes teach young people to hold each other accountable, but in the most positive of ways.” -Kaleigh

How did your global immersion experience help you make the transition to college?

“The group living aspect of the Global Routes experience was particularly helpful to me in making this transition since it taught me some of the most valuable lessons about cooperation and collaboration. I know that my parents have said before that they didn’t have trouble picturing me going to a school far away because they knew of the independence I gained from this program. I am loving my experience in college already and I am thankful that I was able to feel right at home here almost immediately because I have already had such wonderful experiences being so far outside of my comfort zone.” -Jillian

Anything else you’d like to share?

“It is hard to put into words how life-changing it is.” -Jillian

Tips from Adam to find a great program fit:

  • Smaller, more intimate group sizes are going to be the best way to continue the magic of camp group dynamics. I recommend finding group sizes no larger than 18 as beyond this number, the group no longer feels like a family and can splinter into cliques.
  • Longer the better. It takes time to settle into a global immersion experience. We recommend seeking out programs that are at least 3.5 weeks, similar to the length of many camp sessions. 5 weeks ideal. It can take almost 2 weeks to truly feel comfortable and at home in another country. And it can take another 5 days to prep for re-entry and reverse culture shock. So 3.5 weeks is really the appropriate minimum.
  • Get out of the cities! The true perspective-changing experience happens away from the hustle and bustle of cities. Get off the tourist track and seek out opportunities to really soak in the rhythm of daily life in rural host communities.
  • Safety, Safety, Safety!! Be sure any provider you’re looking at has been around the block and has been running programs for decades. Look up reviews on, an open review platform for abroad programs and ask for a reference list. Ask about the minimum age for leaders, and what training they’ve received. We have an awesome and thorough list of safety questions you should be asking about any provider right here.

Please note that Global Routes offers free webinars this February for families that are hoping to learn even more about global immersion experiences. Learn more here.

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