Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How much contact will I have with ISA-HS while I am on the trip?
In addition to planned afternoon activities on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, students will also see the ISA on-site staff during weekly meetings, and daily at the ISA office when they stop by to check e-mail, use the office services, etc. Every weekend students will participate in either a day excursion or overnight excursion, both of which are led by the ISA directors. Plus, the ISA staff is always available and on call if students ever need anything, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Parents can also call the ISA-HS Austin staff if they are not able to contact the staff abroad. The ISA-HS staff can be reached by calling the office during office hours. Outside of office hours, an emergency cell phone number is provided.
Q: How many students are in each program?
Depending on which program location and dates you choose the number of students may vary from 10-50. The programs in July tend to have more students than in June and August.
Q: What kind of interaction will there be between U.S. students and the local people?
During each program, ISA-HS attempts to arrange language and/or cultural exchanges in which ISA-HS program participants are able to interact with local students. Many friendships develop from these meetings. We encourage students to make friends with the locals as soon as possible, and to try not to spend all of their free time with the other U.S. students or English speakers. Homestays will also provide a natural source of interaction with the people of the host country.
Q: Are the weekend trips included?
There are several day trips and overnight trips included in each program. They are normally scheduled on the weekends so they don't interfere with classes. Please check the excursion section of each site for details. The ISA Staff organizes all excursions which include transportation, hotel accommodations on overnight trips, and guided tours. On overnight excursions breakfast is provided, but lunch and dinner must be covered by the students.
Q: Can I travel on my own during the weekends?
ISA-HS students are not allowed to travel outside of the program city during the official program dates unless on an organized ISA-HS excursion. However, ISA-HS students are welcome to arrange additional travel before or after the official dates of the program, but only with written parental permission. There are occassional weekend free days during which students can explore the city on their own.
Q: Can my parents visit during the program?
If parents want to visit their students, they are strongly encouraged to visit before or after the official ISA-HS program dates. The ISA Staff works hard to create a healthy group dynamic among students and provide opportunities for language use and cultural experiences. In order to maintain this group dynamic and insist that students abide by the program guidelines, ISA-HS requests that parents do not visit students during the official program dates.
If a student will be traveling with his/her parents prior to the official program departure date they should notify ISA-HS and arrange for the student to meet the group on the day of arrival. If a student will be traveling with his/her parents after the official program return date, ISA-HS requires written parental permission clearly stating the date and location where the student will be picked up as well as the full name and relation of the person who will be meeting the student.
Q: Does ISA-HS provide the students with a cell phone?
Student safety is ISA’s top priority. In order to ensure fluid communication with program participants, ISA-HS requires all its students to have access to working cell phone service while abroad. Students will have the option to bring their personal cell phones with the international features activated by their provider or to temporarily rent a local cell phone while abroad. ISA-HS has trusted telecommunication partners with negotiated offers and affordable student rates in most destinations. Country-specific cell phone information will be provided prior to each program's departure.
Q: How strict are the ISA-HS Rules?
All students and parents are required to read and sign the ISA High School Code of Conduct before participating on an ISA-HS program. The ISA-HS Code of Conduct is designed to give students a clear guideline of expectations regarding student conduct. It plays a vital role in helping to provide a safe environment for the ISA-HS students abroad. In signing the ISA-HS Code of Conduct, both students and parents agree to follow the rules stated and assume responsibility for their actions in the case that the rules are not followed. Violations of the code of conduct will result in disciplinary sanctions, up to and including dismissal from the program.
Q: Will I be able to get in contact with other ISA-HS students before the program?
A few weeks before the program departure ISA-HS will send students a Student Contact List so that they can get in touch with other students on the program. ISA-HS also encourages students to connect with other program participants by joining groups and discussion boards on the ISA-HS Facebook Fan Page.
Q: Is there a group flight?
No. Due to the large number of students participating nationwide in ISA-HS programs, and the fact that many families travel with their children before and/or after the program, ISA-HS does not provide group flight arrangements. Once you have been accepted, ISA-HS will send you detailed information regarding how to book your flight.
Ground transportation is provided from the international airport for students who arrive on the specified departure date and time(s) of the program. Return ground transportation is provided for those students who return on the return date of the program.
For more information on making flight arrangements, click here or contact the ISA-HS Austin staff at (512) 474-1041.
Q: Can I return on a later date, after the program ends?
Many families join their children to travel once the study abroad program has ended. ISA-HS requires written parental permission clearly stating the date, location of student pick-up and the full name/relation of the person meeting the student. Parents may choose to meet their children in their program city, at the airport, the ISA office, or at another meeting spot as long as plans and written permission is given to the staff beforehand.
Q: Will an ISA-HS Director be flying with the students?
No. Due to the fact that students arrange their own airfare, an ISA-HS Director is not able to travel with them. However, ISA-HS will send a comprehensive Flight Report to all program participants before the program departure, providing information on flight arrangements for all students so that they may plan to meet each other at their connecting airports. The ISA-HS Directors will be at the airport to meet students when they exit customs. Students will receive a comprehensive letter with detailed airport arrival instructions, including the names, photos, and cell phone numbers of the directors who will be meeting them. The ISA staff is equipped to make adjustments in pick-up plans if flights are delayed or travel plans change.
Q: Are credits transferable?
The acceptance of transfer credit is ultimately at the discretion of the receiving university and should be given equal weight as any other transcript issued by an accredited college or university. With the exception of London, credit received at any university abroad through ISA-HS will be college level credit and students receive a college transcript. In London students receive a certificate of course completion. Click here for more information on academic credit.
Q: How many semester credits can I earn?
Since ISA-HS students take courses at accredited foreign universities, students may be able transfer the credits they earn abroad to their future home university. If a student completes 40 class hours, they may earn 2-3 credits. If a student completes 60 class hours, they may earn 4 credits. If a student completes 80 class hours, they may earn 5-6 credits. Credit transfer depends entirely on the student's future university. ISA-HS cannot guarantee that credits will transfer.
Q: Who will be the other students in my language classes?
Classes in Aix-en-Provence, France; Salamanca, Málaga and Granada, Spain; London, England and Florence, Italy are taught with other high school and/or college-level international students. For all other ISA-HS program locations (Heredia, Costa Rica; Sevilla, Spain; Cusco, Peru; Shanghai, China; Maynooth, Ireland) students will be placed in classes specifically designed for ISA-HS students.
Q: Is there tutoring available?
Tutoring services are available at the ISA office during regular office hours and must be requested at least 24 hours in advance.
Q: Will my professors speak English?
Many of the university professors are multi-lingual, and they may use English in the classroom to explain certain concepts, but they teach predominantly in the language of that country. In Spain, Costa Rica, and Peru, classes are taught in Spanish. In France they are taught in French. In Italy the language class is taught in Italian and the elective art/culture course is taught in English. In China, classes are taught in Mandarin. In England and Ireland, courses are taught in English.
Q: How are the homestays chosen?
All of the homestays in Spain, Costa Rica and Peru are personally interviewed by ISA's full-time on-site staff before placing students in their homes. Homestays in France are directly monitored by the university in Aix. In addition, all students fill out a Housing Questionnaire before leaving, in order to match them with the most compatible family and roommate. All homestays are evaluated by the students at the end of the program and ISA continually updates homestay information (distance to/ from the university, members of the family, pets, etc).
Q: What if I don't like my homestay?
Requests for homestay changes are extremely rare. However, if there is a problem, ISA-HS will make sure that students are moved to a new family immediately. The on-site ISA directors are available to help the students at all times. Students are encouraged to inform their directors, immediately, of any problems and they will be resolved as soon as possible.
Q: Can I pick my roommate or live with a friend?
If you want to live with a certain person, simply request that person as your roommate on your Housing Questionnaire (you will receive this in your acceptance packet). However, keep in mind that speaking in English with your roommate in front of the host family may make them feel excluded, especially as they may not understand what you are saying. The experience of living in another country and studying at a foreign university is enhanced when students are open to meeting new people and forming new friendships. Students often remark that although they were hesitant to room with someone they didn't know, it ended up being the best experience and resulted in life-long friendships. The experience of having a roommate during study abroad is like living with a roommate in college, but for a shorter period of time.
Q: Do the families speak any English?
Most members of the homestay will not speak any English. However, they are accustomed to receiving international students, and will enjoy helping you learn to communicate in their language and enjoy their culture. Some homestay members speak multiple languages or may have children of their own who are studying language, which results in a nice communication exchange.
Q: What is the food like?
The food can vary greatly from country to country; however, families are encouraged to prepare typical meals while taking into consideration any dietary needs the student may have. Be sure to let the homestay know when you like or dislike something but always be willing to at least try a few new things. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free international diet guides are available upon request.
Q: When will I find out about my homestay?
A few weeks before the program departure date ISA-HS sends students information about their homestay, address, phone number and roommate assignments. In the case of Aix-en-Provence, France it may take a bit longer to receive this information since the university directly monitors and assigns all homestays.
Q: What about the residence halls?
Homestays are designed to encourage students to use the foreign language to communicate while in their housing accommodations. Since students may participate in the China, England, Ireland, and Italy programs with no foreign language background, those sites include accoommodations at a residence hall instead of a homestay. Accommodations are on the university campus and are high-quality residence halls that are evaluated frequently by students and directors. Living in a residence hall offers students a glimpse of life as a college student while being supervised.
Q: How much spending money will I need?
The amount of money a student will spend while abroad depends on many factors including personal spending habits and exchange rates. Based on student responses from past programs, we recommend about $150 - $300 a week for Spain, Ireland, Italy, England and France, and $75 - $200 in Costa Rica, Peru and China. Keep in mind that eating out, shopping, public transportation and other personal expenses are not covered by ISA-HS and can add up quickly.
Q: How much money should I bring for traveling?
Hotel accommodations and breakfast on overnight trips are included in the cost of the program. However, you will need to bring money for snacks, lunch and dinner while you are traveling as well as money for souvenirs.
Q: Do I need a passport?
Yes. All students studying abroad with ISA-HS are required to have a valid passport.
Q: How do I get a passport?
Normally, you can find passport applications at your local post office. Find your nearest passport acceptance facility at http://iafdb.travel.state.gov/. You should allow at least 2 to 3 months to fully process your passport. More information on passports can be found at http://travel.state.gov/passport/.
Q: Do I need a VISA?
If you are a U.S. citizen, you do not need a visa for any of our program locations except Shanghai, China. More information can be found at http://travel.state.gov/visa/.
Q: What should I pack?
There will be a list of what to bring as well as packing tips in your General Orientation Handbook, which you will receive prior to your departure date. Please remember that you will be responsible for carrying your luggage as well as any souvenirs that you purchase; therefore, it is recommended to pack light.
Q: Is there a limit to the number of suitcases that I may bring on the plane?
Yes. Please check with your airline to find out more about their luggage requirements. Normally, you can check two bags and carry one bag on the plane. International suitcase weight limits are normally 50 pounds; however, this may change.
Q: Can I drink the water?
In Spain, France, England, Ireland, and Italy, you can drink the water; however, bottled water is still common. In Latin America and China we recommend that students always drink bottled water.
Q: What about culture shock?
Students may experience some form of culture shock. Reading the section titled "Cultural Adjustment" in your General Orientation Handbook, will help you understand what you are going through and, hopefully, make it easier.
Q: Can I buy books in English? Or should I bring over a lot of English books?
Books in English are available, but they are very expensive. If you plan to do personal reading in addition to your coursework at the university, consider bringing a book with you or purchasing a book in the language of the country where you are studying. The ISA-HS staff or the university professors are more than happy to recommend reading materials that are appropriate for your language level. Be sure to bring your Spanish/French/Chinese grammar book because the English explanations can be very helpful.
Q: Are there any required immunizations when traveling to Costa Rica or on any ISA-HS program?
There are no required immunizations when traveling to any of the ISA-HS program locations, however ISA-HS always recommends checking with your doctor to see if they feel it necessary for a student to receive inoculations. In Costa Rica, risk of contracting malaria is minimal but decisions about immunizations and anti-malarial medications should be made on a personal basis after consultation with your personal physician.