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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Participant Resources

    Here you will find answers to frequently asked questions and resources for enrolled participants. If you're already signed up to go on a Sustainable Summer program, you'll find useful information here that will help you prepare for your summer with us. Don't forget to check out your MySummer account for all of the participation forms, our Program Preparation Guide, and other important info.

    Please give us a call or email if you can't find what you're looking for or have any questions.

  • Questions About Participation Forms, Flights, and Other Pre-Program Logistics

    Where can I find participation forms? Forms and other participant information are accessed through your MySummer account.

    Where can I find information about the group flight, airfare, travel insurance, visa requirements, and other travel details? Download our Travel Bulletin from your MySummer account.

    How do I pay my tuition invoice? We sent you a link to an online invoice shortly after enrolling with the subject line: New invoice from Sustainable Summer. Please check your email, ask us to resend, or access your invoice in your MySummer account.

    How do I return forms to the Sustainable Summer office? You can upload them to your MySummer account or email a scanned copy of each form to forms@sustainablesummer.org or mail to Sustainable Summer, 212 S. Oxford St. #3A, Brooklyn, NY 11217. Don’t worry about including any special subject lines, cover letters, or other information when you submit forms. We’ll figure it out.

    Can I fax you forms instead? Really? We’d prefer not to dust off the old fax machine, but if for some reason you can’t get us your information any other way, call us and we’ll sort it out.

    How will I know if you received my forms? You’ll get a confirmation email from us. You can also check your MySummer account a record of all received and outstanding pre-participation items.

    I have a question about my participation forms. Who should I talk to? Call us at 646.504.5046 or email info@sustainablesummer.org. We’re glad to help.

  • 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.
  • Should I bring my computer and cell phone?

    Students should not bring a laptop computer or tablet device.  Smart phones or other handheld devices with wireless capability can be useful for the occasional email correspondence when we are in locations with wifi access. It is okay if students would like to bring their smartphone for the purposes of checking email via wifi, listening to music, etc., but all participants will be required to turn off the cellular signal on their smart phone at the start of their program and limit the use of technology to designated times. However, there will also be internet cafes in in some of the locations we visit, and it is emphatically not necessary to bring any type of internet capable device to communicate with home. Please note, even if students disregard our “no cellular service” policy and set up an international calling or data plan, they should be aware that cell service and/or Internet may not be available for several days at a time. In general, we may be in a “communications” blackout period for as many as 7 days at a time. Our staff will always have an emergency communication device available and the means to coordinate a rescue with emergency professionals.

  • How do I do laundry?

    You will not have regular access to laundry facilities during your program, but you will typically have the opportunity to do laundry once or perhaps twice during the trip when we are in a larger town with laundry services. It is the student’s responsibility to pay for laundry. The price will typically range from $1/kg to $5/kg. Our packing list will provide more information on this topic. We find that a “laundry prevention plan” coupled with occasional hand-washing works perfectly fine for most students.

  • How do I get to my host country? How do we travel in country?

    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 use local transport for day trips and excursions.

  • How much spending money do I need?

    All meals and program-sponsored activities are included in the cost of tuition, so students will only need spending money for souvenirs, laundry, personal items and incidentals. 

    Ecuador uses the US dollar as its currency, so we recommend students withdraw cash prior to leaving the United States, as ATMs can be few and far between where we will be traveling.  $100 should be more than sufficient for most participants, unless they plan to purchase many souvenirs for family and friends.  We recommend students also bring an ATM card, in the event they need to withdraw additional funds.

    Costa Rica uses the Colone, although the US dollar is also accepted in many places. However, to get the best rates, we recommend using Colones. Bringing $100 in Colones to Costa Rica is an easy option, although there are numerous ATMs that will dispense Colones at a better exchange rate in Costa Rica. There are several ATMs and a money exchange at the airport that students will be able to use. $100 should be sufficient for most participants, unless they plan to purchase many souvenirs for family and friends. We recommend students also bring an ATM card, in the event they need to withdraw additional funds.

  • How do we stay in touch?

    Students should not bring a cell phone with the intention of making/receiving calls or text messages during the program. Typically about once a week, students will have an opportunity to email home, make a Skype call, use Facetime, etc. over a wifi connection. We will encourage all students to check in with family during these times. We will also maintain a program blog with photos and trip updates. We are usually able to update this every 2 to 3 days, but sometimes as much as a week will pass before we can access an appropriate internet connection. 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.

  • What vaccinations do I need?

    Certain inoculations may be advisable, depending on the program. A detailed itinerary will be shared with you on enrollment that you should review with your primary care physician or a travel medicine specialist. Please also see our travel health page for more info.

  • How many participants are there? Should I come with a friend?

    Sustainable Summer programs typically consist of about 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.

  • What should I bring?

    We will provide a detailed packing list upon enrollment.