Students participating in an Aspire by API program won’t take on the world empty-handed. Aspire programs are all-inclusive, so budgeting is easy. Housing, group flight options (summer programs only) and ground transportation, in addition to cultural, social and recreational events and more are all included in the program cost. Some programs also include daily meals. Most importantly, Aspire provides trained, professional on-site staff whose first priority is the students’ health and safety.
Aspire staff members guide students and parents through the administrative process of preparing for a travel or study abroad program. Students and parents may contact Aspire staff as often as they desire with questions about pre-departure preparations, group flights, academics, transfer credits, on-site logistics, special needs, visa procedures, and more. Aspire staff members, in turn, are frequently in touch with students and parents regarding program updates, essential travel tips, and recommendations for having a successful experience abroad.
All Aspire students and their parents receive an orientation handbook containing practical information to help students prepare for their study abroad session. Aspire also holds regional pre-departure orientations that both students and parents can attend together. This way Aspire program participants can meet each other and Aspire staff members prior to the program and have your questions answered in person.
Group Flights and Airport Reception
Aspire provides summer program participants the option of a group flight. With a group flight, students can travel together accompanied by Aspire staff, reducing anxiety that students may feel about traveling overseas on their own. While group flights are not available for gap year programs, Aspire can often connect program participants from the same geographical area so they can make arrangements to travel together. All Aspire students are met at the airport by Aspire on-site staff on the program start date. If students have alternate travel plans, Aspire can help arrange an airport-hotel transfer service so that independent travelers can meet up with the group on-site. Students receive detailed flight instructions upon their acceptance into the program and should wait to purchase a flight until receiving more information post-acceptance.
All Aspire students in Europe can receive a free phone (only the SIM card has to be returned upon completion of the session abroad) with discounted calling packages. With these cell phones, parents, Aspire on-site directors, family and friends at home and abroad can communicate with students and more easily contact them in the event of an emergency. Students order their cell phone online prior to departure, providing a credit card for billing purposes. If ordered at least two weeks before departure, Aspire pays for the shipping and handling fees. The phones are mailed to students in the U.S. so that they have the phone and phone number before arriving in the host country. When in the host country, incoming calls are free for students. Outgoing calls incur a per minute charge, and text messages also carry a fee per text. Unfortunately, this option is not yet available for Costa Rica.
Aspire has created social networks for students to connect with each other and learn about Aspire program offerings, including a Facebook page (facebook.com/AspireAbroad), a profile on Twitter (twitter.com/AspireAbroad), and photo groups on Flickr (flickr.com/AspireAbroad). These networks provide students with the opportunity to communicate informally with other outbound students and Aspire staff members, as well as to be notified of upcoming events and program developments.
Each year, Aspire awards thousands of dollars in scholarships to high-achieving students. Students must have a minimum 3.25 G.P.A., submit an accompanying essay, and demonstrate financial hardship as well as extraordinary academic merit. The scholarship application can be found on the Aspire by API website.
Aspire has highly-qualified, trained and experienced English-speaking on-site staff available to students throughout their program abroad. Aspire’s on-site staff work together with the U.S. based Aspire staff to provide students with constant support throughout their stay as well as practical information and insight about the new culture. They are available in case of any personal emergency and are ready to implement the Aspire emergency response plans if needed.
The on-site orientation takes place upon arrival in the host city. Aspire orientations include tours of the host city, as well as practical information about life in the host city, including health, safety, and local culture. The orientation is designed to minimize adjustment difficulties upon arrival and gives students a chance to get to know other participants in the program.
Housing, Meals and Laundry
With Aspire summer and travel programs, housing and most meals are included in the Aspire program fee. Meals for gap year students vary according to housing choice and may or may not be included. Depending on the program, students are housed with host families, in residence halls, or, in some special cases, in hotels. Host families have been carefully screened by Aspire staff and provide laundry service and two to three meals per day (except for when students are on excursions). Most residence halls provide access to coin-operated washing machines and a kitchenette where students can prepare their own meals. In the case of hotel and residence hall accommodation on summer programs, Aspire on-site staff will reside with the students. Breakfast is provided at the hotel when students are on overnight excursions.
All students are required to pay a $250 security deposit. This deposit is refundable at the end of the program less any amount for housing damages or other outstanding balances due. Housing for all year students during the period between the fall and spring semesters is not included in the Aspire program fee. Most students take advantage of this time to return home to the U.S. or to travel around their host country. In most cases, Aspire can arrange between-term housing for students in their host city for an additional fee.
Tuition and College Credit
Some Aspire programs include a fixed number of U.S. college credits that a student can earn per session while other offer multiple course options. If the program is for U.S. college credit, the amount of credit to be earned will be indicated on the program information page.
Language tutoring is available free of charge for all Aspire students (approximately one hour per week for each student). Arrangements can be made with the Aspire on-site director. Should additional assistance be required, aspire on-site directors can help students arrange additional tutoring for an additional fee.
Community Involvement and Volunteer Opportunities
In many Aspire locations, organized community involvement and volunteer opportunities are available. Gap year and gap semester students have expanded service opportunities available and should contact the Aspire office to explore opportunities available in different locations.
Medical and Life Insurance
Medical and life insurance is provided for all students during the program term. This insurance coverage includes medical evacuation and repatriation, as well as 24-hour support services for medical issues.
Overnight Excursions and Day Trips
During the program, students have the opportunity to broaden their classroom education through organized excursions, which are included in the program price. Overnight lodging, breakfast, entrance fees, and transportation to and from the excursion locations are included. To find out which excursions are included in the program, visit the specific program page. Although excursions are subject to change depending on availability, weather and other factors, students are provided with an itinerary for their program, including the program excursions, prior to departure.
Social, Recreational and Cultural Activities
Aspire programs are fun as well as enriching! Summer students are offered several Aspire-sponsored social, recreational and cultural activities per week, including welcome and farewell meals, outings to movies, sports activities, concerts, theater performances, museums, cultural tours, visits to local attractions and more. All entrance and transportation fees are included in the Aspire program price, reducing the amount of out-of-pocket money needed by students on-site. Gap year and gap semester students are offered several group cultural activities per semester, and are encouraged to get involved with the host community by participating in volunteer opportunities. Aspire gap year coordinators also provide assistance to students who desire to pursue specific personal interests while abroad.
Reducing Your Impact - Carbon Clear
Aspire has partnered with Carbon Clear, one of the world’s largest providers of carbon offset credits, to offer students the opportunity to address the environmental effect of their study abroad travel. All of Carbon Clear’s projects contribute to environmental sustainability and have measurable social improvement as a primary goal. Aspire has chosen projects that students may elect to sponsor (for a contribution of $15), including a methane capture landfill project in Valparaíso, Chile, and energy efficient railways in Delhi, India.
Aspire places great value on post-program evaluation from students. At the end of each session, students are asked to complete a confidential evaluation of their program. These evaluations are submitted directly to the Aspire Texas office and ensure that students receive the best service possible.
Returning students have the opportunity to join the Aspire alumni network. The Aspire alumni network helps students stay in touch with their newfound friends and stay informed about the latest Aspire program developments. Aspire alumni will receive Aspire newsletters, and often serve as a resource for future Aspire students and Aspire staff, helping to keep our pre-departure information relevant and student-focused.
Many Aspire programs offer students the opportunity to earn U.S. college credits. Upon completion of the program session, an official transcript from the foreign university documenting these studies will be sent to the Aspire office. While a copy will be sent to each student, an official transcript will be kept on file at the Aspire office. When students have determined which university they will attend, we will send the official transcript to the student’s university along with a letter of translation (if necessary). Aspire by API encourages students to discuss their academic choices with their guidance counselor or advisors at their future college if possible, to determine how credits reflected on the transcript can be transferred toward their degree plan.