What is "The HOST Way"?
"'The HOST Way' is our formula for developing unparalleled high-impact educational travel, group internship and study abroad programs. It is our way of truly making a difference in the lives of our students and communities abroad. It is what sets HOST apart."
- Host co-founder, Lee Ann Silva
"The HOST Way" is a set of ten necessary elements that have been interwoven to produce the finest immersion educational travel opportunities for Spanish students and their educators. The 10 elements include: The Family Factor, 3-Way Collaborative Action Projects (3-Way CAPs), Sustainable Tourism Practices, Top-rated host families, Coursework (primarily for Study Abroad programs), Eco-adventure Travel, Hands-on Culturo-historical immersion, The Closing Reflection Banquet, The Student Ambassador Program and HOST's Continued Connections.
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HOST is a family owned and operated company. When you join HOST you join the HOST family. Co-owners Dr. Yas and Lee Ann Silva (seen at right) and HOST's program directors make it a point to connect on an individual basis with each lead educator, his or her students and parents, welcoming them individually by phone, providing them with direct lines of communication straight to the people with answers, and engaging family and friends in a real-time communication through their Facebook travel photo journals while their students are abroad.
The Family Factor.
HOST is a Fourth Sector Limited Liability Company that takes Corporate Social and Environmental Responsibility very seriously. HOST practices fair wage and fair trade in all of its programs. Material donations, for example, such as warm clothing for needy families in the Andes, are purchased directly from local artisans in the communities in which we work. (Our Alpaca-wear producer, for example, is seen at left.) HOST is dedicated to carbon footprint elimination programs through the reforestation of endangered native species, wildlife rehabilitation, literacy development, and the advocacy of women and children's rights throughout struggling rural regions of the Spanish-speaking Americas. Ten percent of HOST's earnings are donated to project development at CAP sites.
Three-way Collaborative Action Projects is a HOST coined concept that involves uniting three worlds--schools from the States, sister schools abroad and a CAP site, usually an NGO, orphanage or impoverished school. Collaboratively, all three institutions engage in project development to meet the needs of the CAP site and, in doing so, eliminate the so-called "hero factor" which often manifests itself in service learning, mission or volunteer work. 3-Way CAPs lead to the breakdown of both international and domestic socio-economic and culturo-linguistic barriers and foster a strong sense of global citizenry among all involved. HOST offers Global Citizenry Cyberpal (GCC) coordination for sister schools to connect before meeting in person--complete with GCC curriculum and online cyberpal platform.
HOST's host families are the best of the best. Each family goes through a rigorous interview and selection process, ensuring students are staying with the most caring cultural ambassadors that each country has to offer. All host families go through continuous screening and are regularly evaluated by educators and students alike on a 1 to 5 point satisfaction scale (5 being the highest score possible). HOST only continues to work with families scoring 4.5 and higher. HOST's host families embrace traveling students and educators as their own family, and often maintain communication with their "hijos" long after the trip has ended.
HOST offers coursework options, both credit and non-credit bearing opportunities at top-ranked Spanish language schools and Universities throughout the Americas and Spain. Coursework is catered to the specific academic needs and linguistic proficiency of each student. Curriculum varies, particularly among credit-bearing study abroad programs designed specifically to match pre-existing course objectives. HOST-designed coursework involves a holistic approach to learning, including engaging conversation and grammar lessons that incorporate the target culture's literature, colloquialisms, history, geography, current political climate, culinary wonders, music and folkloric traditions.
HOST students and educators have FUN on our programs. Each HOST program includes adventure activities, ranging from hiking the Andes Mountains to zip lining through the canopy of a tropical reserve, to snorkeling in a vibrant reef system. Each adventure activity is infused with contextually appropriate learning. For example, students zip lining through a jungle canopy will learn about different plant and animal species they see along the way. HOST’s latest interdisciplinary programming allows students to volunteer at famous research centers, such as the Charles Darwin Research Center, on the Galapagos Islands, and the Tambopata Research Center in the Peruvian Amazon. HOST’s most recent programming element, BioCAPS, even allows students to perform research under the guidance of renowned biologists
HOST stands for Hands-on Spanish Travel for a reason! Our programs revolve around experiential learning opportunities. When students are with their host families, they are learning to cook traditional target-country meals; when students are in class learning about regional dances, they are actually dancing; when they are learning about ceramic artisan crafts on a folkloric traditions tour, they are throwing pottery on a wheel to design their own mementos. HOST's pedagological foundation is grounded in continuous educational travel research. See HOST's latest study overview here.
The Reflection Banquet.
HOST arranges their signature Closing Reflection Banquets on the last day of each travel program. Over a dinner, students and educators, one by one, share their reflections on two very important questions: What was the most impactful experience for you on your trip? and What do you plan to take back to the States with you--how will you live/see life differently? These questions evoke much emotion, and unify the group through a common sense of shared transformation and expanded world perspective. An awards ceremony wraps up the evening, rewarding: the student who used the most Spanish, the most engaged in CAPs, the friendliest/kindest and the most adventurous.
The Ambassador Program.
HOST's ambassador program is a unique opportunity for students to develop their leadership skills, participate in professional forums and receive travel scholarships. Students who have participated in a HOST program that would like to enroll in a new HOST program enter as student ambassadors. Their role becomes particularly important during CAP development, as they lead at least one student group in its CAP progress. Ambassadors also participate in Closing Reflection Banquet award assignments. They are invited to present at top international conferences with HOST and are given complimentary registration to top venues such as ACTFL and IB of the Americas. Ambassadors have their travel program registration fees waived and receive $250.00 scholarships. Photo: HOST students and host family find the Peruvian president and his wife at a bookstore!
HOST's CAP design is highly conducive to the development of sister school programming beyond the actual trip. Often times, schools engaged in CAP development abroad repeatedly return to advance already established CAPs and develop new ones. Returning educators develop engaging real-life curriculum-based projects in schools with sister educators, establishing e-pal connections among their students and language exchanges via Skype, allowing relationships to develop throughout the academic year.
HOST takes pride in sustainable CAP development that connects communities with their respective academic centers. At left, one of HOST's sister principals shows a CAP site principal how books in one of HOST's libraries can be used in and outside of the classroom. This particular library, originally built and housed with books by HOST's sister schools, now has expanded its collection to serve as a public library for the entire community.