Wondering how to know whether or not that third-party provider is a match made in faculty-led program planning heaven?
Here are the Top 10 Ways to Tell If a Third-Party Provider is The One:
1. They have years of experience specifically working with student groups. If you want the best Thai food in town, do you choose the Thai restaurant that has been making Thai food successfully for years? Or do you choose the “Asian” restaurant that serves sushi + Chinese + some Thai dishes? You get your Tom Yum from the Thai restaurant and your faculty-led programs from the faculty-led programs provider!
2. They customize the program to your needs and budget. If they only offer “cookie cutter” programs, you’re going to get the same c̶o̶o̶k̶i̶e̶s̶ programs as everyone else. But you are not everyone else and your students are searching for something special. If you want a customized program, work with a provider that shares your values and vision for creating a unique, unforgettable, educational experience.
3. They offer add-ons that only an insider could. If the provider is as well-connected as they profess to be, has spent time building relationships around the world, and are committed to creating a special experience for you and your students, they will offer to set up specialty visits – such as a private meeting with a local artist, home cooking with a local family, or Q&A with a well-known business.
4. They provide destination-specific pre-departure materials and support. You already have your hands full, managing multiple programs for your institution. A third-party provider that is truly The One will offer destination-specific pre-departure materials to best prepare your faculty and students. Bonus points if they are willing to come and provide a Q&A session on your campus (Yes, we do this. Just ask!)
5. They are flexible, prompt, and personable in their communication with you. Are they friendly and fun? Or do they sound like robots spewing copy and pasted, canned replies? Do they offer to coordinate a chat by phone, email, or Skype at a time that’s convenient to you? How they treat you o̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶f̶i̶r̶s̶t̶ ̶d̶a̶t̶e̶ in the planning stages can give you a good idea of how they will treat you once you are on the ground, in-country. And if an emergency arises, you want to know that they will be prompt and personable in their handling of that, too.
6. They listen and pay attention to details. Faculty-led programs have a lot of moving parts. And you probably have some special requests, questions, and concerns. Be sure the provider is detail-oriented, genuinely listens to you, and makes helpful suggestions on how to get the most out of your program – such as recommending a different route to save time or a local restaurant you hadn’t considered.
7. Others are singing their praises. The provider doesn’t necessarily have to be a big name company you’ve heard of (some spend more of their time and money on program development, and less on marketing!). But they do need to be able to easily provide you with testimonials or a list of references of faculty/admin they have worked with at other institutions. One of the best ways to find out about the quality of the programming is to ask someone who has worked with the provider. Don’t ever hesitate to ask for references. The One will be happy you asked and more than willing to provide them.
8. They are educated on sustainable/responsible/ethical travel and actively incorporate it into their programming. Every program need not be “service”-based. But every program should consider the impact it will have. Study abroad is a collaborative experience at all levels, and it is our responsibility as Education Abroad professionals to consider not only the students but the local communities and environments the group will visit as well. Ask the provider what their policies are regarding responsible travel. The One will be prepared to answer and provide examples of their efforts to incorporate ethical travel into their programming.
9. They are fun to work with. Many schools start planning faculty-led programs months – and sometimes years – in advance. That is a lot of time to work with someone, so be sure you partner with a provider you are compatible with.
10. They are knowledgable about the destinations they work in and they care about your professional development. How familiar are they with the destinations? Do they have close relationships with the team members and communities on the ground? Can they advise you on when and where to go? How to avoid crowds? What restaurants to eat at? Are they willing to share their secret spots and favorite finds? Are they open to organizing a site inspection/visit to help you see for yourself what’s possible? There is perhaps no better way to get to know a destination and a provider than to travel with them.
Want to know if AEA is The One for you? Send your questions and program inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a Program Request and let’s find out!