Sending Alex Abroad: Deciding the Budget

In this series, Aspire by API’s very own Jill Denton writes about preparing for this summer’s Salamanca program from her unique perspective as a mom.

In general, a parent’s budget for a high schooler’s abroad experience will vary widely depending on:

One of last year’s tastier cultural activities involved learning how to cook tradiitonal Spanish paella.

1) Type. Is the program abroad a service-learning, adventure, or study abroad program? Some volunteer programs can be less expensive than study abroad programs.

2) Location/ Program Length. This is the largest determinant of the program price. Most teen programs are 2-4 weeks in length. Typically, but not always, a program in Latin America is going to be cheaper than a European or Asian program.  However with the euro at two year lows against the dollar, European prices are improving.

3) Program depth. Various aspects of a program offering can be more expensive including:

  •   Quality and type of housing
  •   Student insurance included in program price or not, and quality of insurance
  •   On-site support and native speakers as part of the group trip
  •   Number of adult guides to teens ratio
  •   Number and scope of daily cultural events
  •   Number, type and length of excursions (overnight or international)
  •   Meals optional or included in program price.

The budget we set for our teen’s experience was $6000 for a four week study abroad trip, all expenses included.  Expensive sounding!

Last year’s Aspire students took surfing lessons during their excursion to Santander

But is it really that expensive for all that is packed into an international, academic, lifetime experience? Many of the nation’s domestic overnight summer camps for teens range between $4000-$6000 including airfare. Arguably, a language immersion experience overseas seems the richer experience.

Here is what the Aspire program included:

  • Airport reception in Madrid
  • A free mobile phone (we would only pay for the minutes Alex used)
  • On-site staff members (including both Americans and native Spaniards), who will accompany the group on the excursions and activities, and are available at all times in case of an emergency
  • Housing in a residence hall with staff supervision—although older students could also opt to stay with a host family
  • Almost all meals
  • Medical and life insurance
  • Tuition fees (some students 16 years or older can even earn college credit)
  • Several overnight excursions and day trips—aside from Salamanca, Alex would be visiting six other cities while in Spain, including an orientation in Madrid and an international excursion to Portugal
  • Social networking opportunities
  • Daily cultural/recreational activities (aside from class, at least one activity was offered per day, but often two or three were included)
  • A student-to-director ratio of 7:1


With so much packed into Aspire’s teen study abroad program, we felt like it was an incredible value, and that really helped us arrive at our decision.  Next week, we’ll talk about how Alex plans to manage her own expenses while in Salamanca.

Until then!

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  1. Will having Spanish staff members help to heighten the experience for Alex by giving her a diversified profile do you think?

  2. Having both American and Spanish resident staff members as part of the support staff for Alex’s teen group offer many advantages including:
    1) Both a female and male American staff will help facilitate the transition both into and out of Spain. As much as we would like teens to immediately embrace and immerse into Spanish culture and customs, we realize that on short-term trips such as this, the transition should be facilitated.
    2) Having a Spanish resident staff member with the group will facilitate academic orientation with the schools, facilitate communication between host family or residencia and any teen issues that may arise, be available to facilitate communication between Spanish doctor and teen should there be a need to visit a doctor or the hospital, as well as facilitate emergency procedures in the most expedient and safest way possible in the host country.

    Teens are in this highly unique position of wanting to be in charge of their own transition, but lacking some experience in matters such as safety. The great thing about ASPIRE by API’s staff is they recognize this, and try to enable teens to make the choices, but with the benefit of some guidance, including guidelines for a safe experience for all.

  3. That’s wonderful the way this is set up. I hope your daughter thoroughly enjoys her whole experience.

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