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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Got Questions?

    You'll find answers here to general questions about Sustainable Summer. If you don't see your question to the left, please check individual program pages for specific information about a destination or just give us a call!

    If you have already applied or enrolled in a Sustainable Summer program and are looking for answers to FAQs, please check our Participant Resources section.

  • Questions about Eligibility and Application Process

    You must be at least 15 years of age and no more than 18 years of age on the program start date to participate.

    We are able to accept students from any location worldwide, although if you are applying from outside the United States there may be special visa and insurance requirements as part of your participation. Please email international@sustainablesummer.org prior to submitting your application.

    Application Deadline: We recommend that interested candidates apply at the earliest possible time and no later than April 1st to secure a place in a program. We update our Compare Programs page with current availability.

    Application Process and Fee: There is a $35 non-refundable application fee for applications received prior to April 1st. After April 1st, the application fee increases to $70. Applications will be reviewed on a weekly basis, and students and parents will be notified via email of the acceptance decision. We base our acceptance decisions on the applicant’s ability to demonstrate interest in sustainability issues and to contribute positively to our community of students. As part of the application process, we conduct a short telephone “interview” with each student. Please see our application policies for more information.

    Enrollment Process and Deposit: Enrollment information will be provided with the acceptance decision. A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to secure enrollment in the program and is applied against the cost of tuition. Enrollment deposits can be made online by credit card, Paypal, e-check or bank transfer. Please see our application policies for more information.

    Tuition Payment: An invoice for the balance of tuition will be sent to the billing email address provided upon enrollment. The balance of tuition is due by April 1st if enrolling before March 15 and within 2 weeks of enrollment if applying after March 15. Payment plans are available on request. The tuition balance is payable online by check or e-check drawn on a US bank account. Credit card payments for the tuition balance will be assessed a 3.0% processing fee (NOTE: there is no fee for credit card payments on the application fee and initial $500 enrollment deposit). International students must pay by wire transfer. Please see our application policies for more information.

    Refund Policy: All tuition payments less the $500 non-refundable enrollment deposit are fully refundable up to April 1st. Tuition payments less the $500 non-refundable enrollment deposit and a $500 cancellation fee are refundable up to May 1st. There are no refunds after May 1st. Please see our application policies for more information.

    No Spanish is required to participate in the program; however, students with a basic command of the language will find numerous opportunities to practice their Spanish with native speakers. Students who have not previously studied Spanish will get a crash course in ‘survival’ Spanish during our orientation. Because all course instruction is in English, students who do not speak Spanish should be able to participate fully in the program.
  • Questions about Health and Safety

    Costa Rica and Ecuador are typically considered among the safest countries for travelers in Latin America. See individual program pages for more information about regional safety considerations for our programs.
    We expect that every trip will run smoothly and without incident, but we plan for the worst. Sustainable Summer has invested in the quality of its risk management practices by participating in the Risk Management Training offered by the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), an organization with over 40 years of experience managing risk in wilderness environments.  As a result of this training Sustainable Summer has developed a risk management strategy encompassing all levels of our organization. In order to mitigate the risk that is inherent in all international expeditions, we have invested time and resources in these practices because the health and well being of our participants is of the highest priority. All Sustainable Summer programs feature experienced staff using established risk management best practices to guide every decision. All trip leaders have CPR and Wilderness First Aid training, and at least one leader possesses advanced medical training.

    All participants are required to be enrolled in a comprehensive medical and travel insurance as part of their program tuition. (You will be given the option of having Sustainable Summer purchase a plan from our preferred provider on your behalf when you enroll in the program.) We use private transportation when traveling between locations. We work exclusively with experienced local operators who have been vetted by our team. We conduct training with all trip leaders and establish clear protocols to mitigate risk and effectively mobilize resources in the event of an emergency. Please see our Safety page for a more comprehensive overview of our approach to student health and well-being. If you have specific questions about your situation, please contact us to discuss. Answers to some common questions about health and safety are below:

    All trip leaders have current first aid and CPR certifications, and can treat basic medical situations on-site.  Sustainable Summer has clearly defined protocols in the event of a health/medical emergency.  All participants are required to be enrolled in a travel health insurance plan whlie traveling on the program. Policies that cover emergency health and medical evacuation while traveling abroad are inexpensive and Sustainable Summer can purchase a plan on your behalf when you enroll in the program. In the immediate areas we will be visiting, medical clinics are available for a broad range of health issues, but participants with more serious needs will be transported to the nearest major medical facility that adheres to similar standards and practices as medical facilities in the United States.
    Sustainable Summer is eager to accommodate medical or dietary needs, as circumstances permit. We are not able to provide alternate meals since most of our food is served ‘family-style’ from locally harvested sources. We will typically eat whatever is fresh that day, so students with dietary restrictions should plan to speak to our program directors before enrolling to ensure we can accommodate their needs.  Programs also require a certain level of physical capability, so students with any concerns about their fitness should contact our office to confirm this is an appropriate program for them.
    Healthy ecosystems depend on insects and other “critters” for balance.  You should look at the FAQs for the individual programs to get a better sense of the types of “critters” or vector diseases (malaria, Dengue, etc) you might encounter while traveling. We will review prevention measures during orientation and have standing medical procedures in the unlikely event of an incident. We take these risks seriously and will provide you with our pre-program guide, that covers our student health policies in more detail, after you enroll in the program. Please call us with any specific questions.
    Please see our travel health page for some more information.
    There are two to three Sustainable Summer trip leaders on each program. All Sustainable Summer trip leaders are professional educators. Trip leader bios are available on individual program pages. We also work very closely with our local partners. English-speaking guides, specialists, and instructors will be with us throughout the program. The student:staff ratio will never exceed 6:1.
  • Questions about the Program (accommodations, facilities, food, travel, curriculum)

    Sustainable Summer is not for everyone. In addition to the age requirements (15 – 18 years old), in general, you should have a strong interest in environmental sustainability and the requisite physical and emotional maturity to handle the experience of traveling with your peers in a developing country for 2 to 4 weeks. Use our Compare Programs page to help you assess which Sustainable Summer is the best fit for your interests and comfort zone.
    Sustainable Summer trips typically consist of 15 students, ranging in age from 15 to 18. Most students do not enroll with a friend, but pairs of students are welcome to come together.
    Sustainable Summer will organize a group flight from the United States, which all participants are strongly encouraged to take. This flight will be chaperoned by a trip leader. More information about securing a seat on the group flight will be provided upon enrollment in the program. Once in country, all travel will be by private coach when we are traveling any significant distance, although we may occasionally use other transport when traveling locally. This can range from a cattle truck to the local bus. Traveling like a local is part of the experience!
    No Spanish is required to participate in the program; however, students with a basic command of the language will find numerous opportunities to practice their Spanish with native speakers. Students who have not previously studied Spanish will get a crash course in ‘survival’ Spanish during our orientation. Because all course instruction is in English, students who do not speak Spanish should be able to participate fully in the program.
    We are looking for intellectually curious and academically motivated students. However, there’s also plenty of opportunity for rest, relaxation, and fun. Activities on our programs include surfing, hiking, rafting, kayaking, and horseback riding, just to name a few examples. We also think bouncing down a dirt road in a cattle truck to visit an indigenous tribe or spending the day learning the basics of permaculture on an organic farm, to name a few educational examples, is pretty fun, too.
    This program is not explicitly intended to be a “community service” trip. All of our programs feature partnerships with local organizations with a strong commitment to improving and sustaining the local community and we will actively engage in a day or two of community service during the program. Sustainable Summer will provide documentation of the program fundamentals and community service hours.
    Communication via cell phone or Internet is often not possible for several days at a time during programs. When we are out of cell phone range, we always have an immediate means of reaching emergency assistance should it be needed, for instance, via short wave radio. However, students should be prepared for the reality that they may not be able to place or receive calls or check email for long stretches during the program, up to one week at a time. Internet access at several points during the program, so students can plan to check in with family and friends intermittently throughout the trip. In case of emergency, family members will be able to reach our 24 hour hotline to communicate important information to their students in as timely a manner as is practical.
    The short answer is “yes” and yes.” See individual program pages or call us for more information about your specific dietary considerations.
  • Questions about Tuition, Enrollment, Payment, and Scholarships

    All students must complete an online application at SustainableSummer.org/Apply. A $35 non-refundable application fee will be required to submit the application. Applications will be reviewed on a weekly basis, and students will be notified via email of the acceptance decision. Enrollment information will be provided with the acceptance decision.
    Tuition starts at $2995 for a 2-week program. Please see specific program pages for tuition amounts.

    Tuition includes all accommodations, meals, group activities, entrance fees, curriculum and instruction, ground transportation, domestic airfare in host country (where applicable), chaperone for suggested group flight, and contributions to service projects. Scholarships and financial aid are available.

    Tuition does not include international airfare, travel insurance, and personal expenses such as laundry, snacks, souvenirs, and internet or international phone calls.

    A $500 non-refundable deposit is required to secure enrollment in the program and is applied against the cost of tuition. Enrollment deposits can be made online, or by check or wire transfer. The balance of tuition is due by April 1st and is payable by check or wire transfer. All tuition payments less the $500 non-refundable enrollment deposit are fully refundable up to April 1st. Tuition payments less the $500 non-refundable enrollment deposit and a $500 cancellation fee are refundable up to May 1st. There are no refunds after May 1st. Please also see our application and enrollment policies page for more information.
    We have a limited amount of financial aid and other scholarships available. Please see our scholarships page for more information.