The Mom Guide to Sending Teens on a GLA Program

Made for moms, by moms!

At Global Leadership Adventures, we’re a mixed group of professional educators, travel specialists, advisors, mentors and program directors. But many of us are also moms, and often we’re guided first and foremost by our own maternal instincts as we design and run programs each summer.

We understand that sending your child overseas, to a country where maybe you’ve never even been, gives you the Mama Bear jitters. That’s why we put together this guide—from our mom network to yours—that hopefully reduces the nervous voice in your head to a dull roar (it doesn’t ever completely go away, does it?).

Mom’s Guide to Picking a Program
Mom’s Guide to Preparing for Travel
Mom’s Guide to Spending Time Away from your Teen

Mom’s Guide to Picking a Program

1. Search by Program Length

If your teen is one of the many who has SAT prep, off-season sports practice, theatre camp and that epic family reunion to go to this summer, first of all, we applaud you, Supermom. Secondly, viewing all our program offerings by length and date should help with the decision-making process (note: some sessions may be waitlisted). We’ll be glad if GLA gets a small slice of the pie!

2. For every waitlisted session, there are several others still enrolling for Summer 2018

We understand getting hung up on the “perfect program” and being obsessed with studying a certain culture. But any experience abroad is bound to impress, and is better than moping all summer about what could have been. Check with our Enrollment Advisors on which sessions are still enrolling for Summer 2018.

3. Don’t be afraid to call us (+1 858-771-0645)

You won’t be speaking with a generic phone operator, you’ll be assigned a member of GLA’s small but mighty team of Enrollment Advisors. Develop a relationship with your Advisor, and don’t be afraid to ask all your questions upfront—the obscure, the obvious and all the questions in between. We talk to countless parents and teens seven days a week about all the nitty-gritty details of volunteering abroad (in other words, we’ve heard it all!).

4. Check third-party websites for objective opinions

“Do your research” is an obvious tip. You know that. But did you know there are third-party review websites (think Yelp) specifically for volunteer abroad programs? Read these completely objective reviews of our programs, by parents and students. The more comfortable you are now with the program your teen is going on, the better you’ll feel when he or she is away.

5. Choose a program that suits your teen’s interests

Interests don’t have to be a future college major or career path—they might be as simple as a love for water, fascination with a certain culture or budding interest in a language or hobby.

“My daughter picked a trip that had Spanish classes in hopes to expand her language skills, and it really did make a difference. Not only did her skills improve, she was know more interested in becoming fluent than before! Immediately after her trip my daughter was happy all the time and talked about Guatemala non-stop! In the long run, she was more involved with global affairs and had a new perspective on what was happening around her.” - Mom of Beate, who traveled with us to Guatemala

Mom’s Guide to Preparing for Travel

So your teen is enrolled already for this summer’s adventure. Congrats, Mama! You should have access to a dedicated Student Coordinator and the GLA-exclusive Travel Portal, with a wealth of tips and resources written specifically for the country your son or daughter is going to.

6. Follow the packing list

An important (and fun!) part of the Travel Portal is a packing list specific to your teen’s trip. Follow the list! Your teen may not think they will wear unfashionable water shoes or need fragrance-free shampoo, but if it’s on the list, it’s there for a reason. (And on how flattering long, lightweight pants for respectful service and sun protection can be? We say, very much so).

Conversely, don’t pack too many extras that are not on the list, like fancy clothes or electronics. Kids are responsible for their possessions. The more they take, the more they can lose during travel.

7. Students can fly together

“I was definitely nervous about Zoe flying to China, but when we looked in the Travel Portal and saw that two other kids were flying out of the same airport, I wasn't as nervous! The parents of the other student got in touch with me and the kids were communicating even before the trip. The experience turned out great, GLA was in contact with me right when she landed. She was always with kids so I wasn't worried because she was not alone! One thing I would definitely recommend is flying with other kids, if possible!” - Lauren, mom of Zoe, who traveled with GLA to China

8. Be honest when filling out forms

Part of our enrollment process is getting to know our students. We need to know if your teen has any medical or emotional issues—anxiety, ADHD, food allergies etc. Parents may worry their teen will be pre-judged or feel their teen can “handle it”, but programs can only provide a safe experience when they know what they’re dealing with, and all form content is confidential.

With travel, food allergies can be a big issue if not noted in advance. For example, if a student has an allergy to fish or peanuts that program staff aren’t informed about, a trip to Thailand can be hard to manage or hazardous (and downright unenjoyable!). But with staff preparation, requests can usually be taken. In extreme cases, we can also suggest many other trips such as the Dominican Republic where severe allergies to these food groups can be easily accommodated.

9. Don’t expect perfection

We’re talking weather, having air conditioning in the jungle, and returning from Southeast Asia without a few (harmless, but itchy) bug bites. Before your teen leaves, remind them that travel is rarely 100% smooth sailing. Part of the adventure is learning how to manage minor obstacles and handle things independently… and laughing about them later! Encourage your teen to reach out to their Program Director or Mentor, who are experienced, caring professionals, with any issues.

Mom’s Guide to Spending Time Away from your Teen

10. Take a deep breath

Baby birds flying away from the nest! The thought makes us want to hug and kiss our own, too. Our advice is to check our program blogs regularly (updated near-daily by student themselves), and take comfort in the fact that GLA’s 5-Point Safety System has let us lead trips effectively for thousands of teens over the last twelve years.

11. Find community with other parents

Join the GLA Parent Facebook Group, which is an exclusive resource for current and prospective parents of GLA teens. We’re all moms and dads who want the best for our kids. Hearing from other parents who also have a student abroad can help make the waiting more bearable!

12. To call or not to call

While throughout the year, we as parents are used to communicating with our kids periodically each day, try to avoid setting a call time schedule or suggesting a daily check-in. They are there to immerse themselves in their program. Let them have this chance to enjoy their experience and be really present. Which leads to …

13. No news is good news

“Throughout my own daughter’s trip I decided to try to live by this mantra. If I hadn’t heard anything negative (or anything at all), she must be too busy having too good a time to call me—which is the reason I sent her in the first place. When she comes home, she will have plenty of time to tell me all about her adventure.” - Becky, mom of Serena, who traveled with GLA to the Dominican Republic

14. Be prepared for your child to return more grown up

“GLA programs offer kids a chance of a lifetime to experience another culture, interact with the people, and better their communities in a fun and safe environment. Like most upper middle class American children, my daughter left home agonizing over if she would have good cell phone reception. She returned with new friends from across the country, incredible stories, fantastic photographs, a desire to make a difference, and an overall newfound maturity that I hadn’t expected. She is a better person for having been a part of the program.” - Mom of Nikky, who traveled with GLA to Guatemala