Help my 18yo niece get to Asia
January 12, 2013 10:46 AM   Subscribe

What options in the USA are there for sending my 18yo niece on a trip to Asia with a group of similarly aged folks this summer.

My partner & I have cared for our niece for the last few years. She's a high school senior just about to turn 18 and headed off to university next Fall. An all round great kid. I know she would really like to travel to Asia this summer (she's in love with Japanese and Korean popular culture). Financially I can afford to make this happen and would love to do it as an 18th birthday present. However, while I would be quite happy to put an 18yo (Adult in my view) on a plane, on her own and tell her to have a blast - the rest of the family (my partner and my sister-in-law, the girl's mother) absolutely are not.

So in order to make this happen she would have to go as part of some organized trip or school or university program where I can plausibly say somebody is looking out for her. I know there are plenty of 'tourist' tours to these kind of places - but it really looks they're for an older crowd - and focus on visiting a lot of temples and gardens rather than getting into the popular culture or interacting with the local kids.

She has traveled with me to Europe several times and has flown within the USA several times on her own so I don't expect she'll have no problems navigating to wherever she needs to go. She's intelligent and responsible, but I wouldn't call her "street smart". Despite my best efforts she is not into outdoor activities so a physically demanding (biking, hiking, mountain climbing) trip wouldn't be enjoyable.

So my question is: what's out there?
posted by Long Way To Go to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) I haven't traveled with them but I'm definitely considering it.
posted by kat518 at 11:22 AM on January 12, 2013

If she's interested in a study-abroad experience, you may want to look at summer language/culture programs administered by local colleges/universities. These are usually better value-for-money compared to similar programs ran out of the United States.

Off the top of my head, I can think of the International Summer School at Yonsei University (link), and I'm sure that other schools across Korea/Japan offer similar programs.
posted by yonglin at 11:28 AM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I know people who've had good experiences with Youth for Understanding, which has 3-week to 8-week summer programs where they put you up with a host family.
posted by Jeanne at 11:51 AM on January 12, 2013

Like yonglin said, a university's Korean language institute might be an option. I went to Yonsei University's 5-week summer program right after high school graduation and met a lot of 18-22 year olds. Ewha Womens University and Sogang University are also nearby and also run language institutes (Sogang was widely considered the best at conversational Korean with a heavy dose of pop culture back in 2005). That said, please note that the Korean drinking age is basically 18, so even with dorm supervision and intensive language classes, a lot of drinking tends to happen, especially since the neighborhoods around Yonsei and Ewha function as extra-dense college towns.

She might want to pre-advertise for a local exchange partner as well. It's likely she'll meet many Japanese students in the Korean language programs, but the Korean American kids that populate these courses aren't necessarily the most reliable guides to Korean culture. I definitely spent a lot of my time at Yonsei longing for hummus and Cinnamon Toast Crunch instead of exploring Seoul proper.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:23 PM on January 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

I did a program the summer in between my junior and senior year of high school with The Experiment in International Living which is a program at School for International Training. I'm pretty sure there were students in my group who had graduated from High School and did the program that summer. I tried looking for the age range on the website but couldn't find anything beyond high school aged. I went to Japan as part of this program and it was a fabulous experience- travel around Japan with a 1 month homestay. It was life changing in many ways especially because of the way the trip was structured. It has a huge number of trips, and many different options. It is one of the oldest programs of it's type.
posted by momochan at 3:33 PM on January 12, 2013

The Rotary Club has exchange programs.

The State Department has a page on exchange programs. (I was hoping there was a version of the Congress-Bundestag program for Japan or Korea, but there doesn't seem to be.)
posted by hoyland at 3:37 PM on January 12, 2013

Where There Be Dragons is AMAZING. Programs for high school students staffed by lots of recent Peace Corps volunteers, off-the-beaten path, amazing experiences. They have trips to Laos, China, Cambodia, Nepal, etc., most of them about 6 weeks long. They're pricey, but they're very good at offering scholarships.
posted by staboo at 4:21 PM on January 12, 2013

I did a program in high school with the group AFS Intercultural Programs You stay in the home of locals so your experience is authentic, but still some what guided. There are people in the country that serve as mentors/contacts if you have a problem. For my program there were about 30 people placed into the country and 4 in my town. The first few days of what was an 8 week trip were spent with the entire group learning a little bit about the culture and language. It has been 25 years and I am still good friends with one of the women that I met in the country.
posted by Coffee Bean at 7:58 PM on January 12, 2013

I did Where There Be Dragons many years ago. I can confirm that it was amazing.
posted by iamscott at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2013

Thanks everybody. She's going to "Cool Japan" run by Meiji University. It's just a two week fun class, not too much pressure after all the hard work in high school.
posted by Long Way To Go at 11:01 AM on February 14, 2013

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