Graduating seniors at Binghamton University have the opportunity to host a program and be a group leader in another country through the Experiment in International Living.
The program, which has chapters in 30 countries worldwide, gives leaders the opportunity to immerse themselves in the culture of another country and help a group of American high school students do the same.
Applicants for the group leader position require a bachelor’s degree, leadership experience in working with high school students, living or learning experience in the host country and competency in the language of that country.
Stephanie Holleran, a 2007 Binghamton University alumna and leadership assistant for the Experiment in International Living, is currently pursuing her master’s degree in International Education at SIT Graduate Institute (formerly known as the School for International Training), while working with Experiment in International Living as her work-study position.
“I believe this will be an exciting opportunity for graduating Binghamton seniors or graduate students to consider,” she said.
According to Holleran, the application process for Experiment in International Living may get competitive.
“The application includes a list of the countries they’ve been to, languages they know and two recommendations,” Holleran said. “The more language and experience you have with a country, the higher the chances will be of getting accepted.”
Holleran said the application also includes a “Dear Family” letter in which the applicant writes a letter to a potential family they will be staying with in the language of their possible host country. If the applicant knows more than one language, they can submit multiple letters.
After the application is complete, there will be interviews in April and the final decision will be made at the end of May.
As a group leader, responsibilities include guiding a group of no more than 15 high school students around the country, mainly making sure all students are safe.
“Each of the students stay in different home-stays so it is the group leader’s responsibility to visit them and make sure everything is OK,” Holleran said.
Michael Roberts, who led two trips to Mongolia in 2008 and 2009, said that the biggest problem he encountered was getting students to step out of their comfort zone.
“The students aren’t used to the food. In Mongolia the food is very heavy, as it is all meat and dairy with no vegetables or fruit. Quite often students are sick,” Roberts said. “The real challenge, however, is getting them to really interact with not only their American counterparts, but their host families as well to truly experience the culture.”
Roberts, who has been to Mongolia six times and is fluent in Khalkha Mongol, led two trips revolving around community service.
“The first trip we spent time at a school painting, cleaning and teaching English to the students, while during the second trip we worked with Buddhist monks to clean out their Buddhist cave — a place monks would go to pray and meditate for days on end,” Roberts said.
For group leaders, all transportation, lodging, food, health and baggage insurance are covered by the program. In addition, group leaders receive a weekly stipend of $100.
According to Roberts, however, the most rewarding part of the trip is seeing the students being truly inspired by the country.
“Seeing their breath being taken away and how they grow and develop as people is truly amazing,” he said.
The application deadline to be a group leader is Feb. 25, 2010. More information is available online at www.experimentinternational.org/leadership.