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The International Inspiration phase of our program includes an opportunity for student participants to travel abroad to Ecuador or Thailand for approximately one month.  These impacting experiences are led by experienced International Team Leaders (ITLs) and an In-Country Coordinators (ICCs), and are composed of two parts: a learning journey and a family homestay experience.

During the learning journey, students travel to different parts of the country as a group, meeting with indigenous and youth leaders and other changemakers addressing social justice issues. Students also visit places where changemaking activities have proven successful. During the homestay, participants live with carefully selected families and are immersed in daily life, building lasting relationships with people of different cultures, backgrounds and beliefs.

Below is a list of frequently asked questions that are often expressed by parents, families and community members during our orientations and family nights. If you have additional questions after reviewing the information below, please email us at or call (503) 517-8999.



1. Does The Pangaea Project know the local families who host students during the homestay experience?

The Pangaea Project has been working with the same host families in Ecuador and Thailand for several years. The families understand the interests, needs and challenges of Pangaea Project students, and they offer warm, supportive households. Each student will have a partner or “buddy,” so there are always two students staying at each home.  Students will live with the family and learn about local customs and lifestyles by sharing meals and participating in conversations, leisure activities, and basic daily chores. Participants often develop close bonds quickly with their host families, and many stay in close touch after returning to the United States.

Homestays occur during the second half of the trip after roughly two weeks of traveling and learning about social justice issues, grassroots leadership, culture, and basic language skills. Through this experience, students continue to develop their leadership skills by functioning outside of their comfort zone, communicating and working with people from a different background, and representing their own culture.

 2. Who do I call if I have questions or concerns about my student while s/he is traveling?

While your student is abroad, we have student-family liaisons that will be on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week to respond to emergency calls from parents in the States and from teams traveling abroad. Families will receive contact information for your liaison at Family Night prior to the group’s departure. In case of an emergency, you will be notified immediately, and otherwise the student-family liaison will call you on a weekly basis to give you an update about the group’s journey.

If you ever have serious concerns about your student(s) while s/he is traveling, you have access to call our student-family liaisons. For general concerns, we ask that you call The Pangaea Project office at (503) 517-8999 during regular business hours Monday-Friday 9am-5pm.

3. Is it safe to travel? 

We take great precautions when planning our trips abroad.  The health and safety of our participants is of utmost importance, and one of the many reasons Ecuador and Thailand are our destination countries is because of their reputation as accommodating, welcoming and traveler-friendly.  In both locations we have hired exceptional In-Country Coordinators who organize the international program components and travel with Pangaea Project students in the summer. Our In-Country Coordinators are strong leaders with solid English skills, and vast knowledge of the country’s social and environmental issues.

Any concerns or warnings regarding travel in Ecuador or Thailand are posted on the U.S. State Department’s Travel website, and we check this site frequently before and during travel.  Aside from having excellent in-country connections in Ecuador and Thailand, The Pangaea Project chose these host countries because they are safe places to travel with students.

4. What vaccinations will my student receive before traveling?

Each Pangaea Project destination requires different vaccinations in order to enter the country. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website houses all of the up-to-date requirements.

Before traveling, students are required to have had the following vaccinations or show proof that they have had these vaccinations within the last ten years. The prevalence of each of these diseases is very low. Prior to departure, The Pangaea Project organizes a visit from a specialized travel nurse to administer vaccinations and educate students about health issues and basic sanitation needs while abroad in order to help them remain healthy while traveling.

For Ecuador, the vaccinations recommended by our travel nurse include the following:

For Thailand, the recommended vaccinations are:

In addition, students traveling to Ecuador will be distributed doxycycline, an antibiotic used as a malaria prophylactic to be taken daily before students enter an area with a malaria risk, and for several weeks after exiting that area. There is no risk of contracting malaria in the capital of Quito or other larger towns. In the Amazon there is a small risk of contracting malaria; however, our students are protected by mosquito nets while sleeping and are encouraged to wear pants and long-sleeved shirts and to use insect repellent. The Pangaea Project has never had a student contract malaria or another communicable disease while traveling with our organization in any country.

5. Will my student be covered by health insurance in the event of a medical emergency?

Yes, all of The Pangaea Project participants are covered by insurance while traveling. This includes medical emergencies and emergency evacuation as a result of any accident or incident.

6. How much money should my student take with her/him abroad?

The Pangaea Project recommends that students bring about $200.  This will allow them to buy small souvenirs and other incidental items like beverages or snacks.  The Pangaea Project covers the cost of all travel, lodging and three meals per day while we are traveling.  We would prefer that students limit the amount of money they bring as increasing this amount can create a liability and make loss or stolen money more likely.  The Pangaea Project is not responsible for the students’ individual spending money.

Ecuador and Thailand have ATM machines scattered throughout the larger cities, and students may wish to access spending money this way rather than carrying large sums throughout the month. Ecuador uses the US dollar, and Thailand's currency is the baht.

7. What will my student being doing in Ecuador?

Our trip to Ecuador commences with a learning journey where students have the opportunity to see some sites while also beginning to learn about social justice issues that have impacted communities and their environments. Students will start in the capital city, Quito, where they start to develop a global perspective while venturing into the market place, trying new cuisine, and visiting the equator.  Afterwards, students will venture into smaller communities by bus, boat and small airplane to observe social justice issues and ways in which communities have organized in solidarity. Specifically, students will be exposed to the issues around copper mining, oil extraction, and agriculture, while also observing ways in which indigenous communities have organized to initiate change through grassroots leadership and sustainable business practices. Students will see pristine areas of the rainforest where, in just two acres of land, there are nearly as many tree species as in the US and Canada combined. While at the same time students will observe those same areas that once boasted the same biodiversity but are now are occupied by ponds of oil waste, pipelines transporting oil through communities, and toxic chemicals leaching into the water table of communities.

The last eight days students will spend their time with a homestay family. Students will be paired with one other student while they live, eat, and work with that family unit. This opportunity allows students to develop a stronger sense of cross cultural understanding by interacting on a daily basis with a people and a history different from their own. The homestay takes place in Yunguilla, where, formerly, people survived through unsustainable practices that threatened the integrity of the surrounding nature reserve. After recognizing the deleterious effects of their actions in the late 1990s, the villagers initiated community-based enterprises and community tourism as alternatives sources of income generation. Pangaea students participate in daily activities and tasks related to the enterprises such as jam making, cheese production, and cow milking.

8.  Who travels with my student?

Each student group is lead by an International Team Leader (ITL), an Assistant International Team Leader (AITL) and an In-Country Coordinator (ICC).  These three adults are hired based on their extensive international experience, youth leadership skills, professionalism and personal knowledge of the countries they will lead students through.   Additonally, the In-Country Coordinators that we hire, and with whom we have worked for several years, are from either Ecuador or Thailand and are fluent in both their native language--Spanish or Thai---and English.   The ICC's provide guide and translation services to our groups throughout our journey and are invaluable members of the leadership team.  Brief bios of all these individuals are available on the Staff Page of our website.

9.  How can I contact my student while they are traveling?

Each week our group will go to a major city or town where phone and internet access are available.  Students will be able to purchase phone cards to call home and we strongly encourage students to make this weekly contact.  Internet/email is a cheaper, more regular way to contact your student and we recommend that both students and families get free email accounts before we travel so that they can communicate that way. Additionally, you can read about our adventures on The Pangaea Project's Student Blog, which is updated each summer.

10. What should my student pack?

We have an extensive packing list that has been proven over the course of five previous trips to Ecuador and two previous trips to Thailand, and your student will receive a hard copy of the list. If you have any questions about specific items, feel free to contact us.

11. What are the behavior polices my student must adhere to while traveling?

We have an extensive list of policies that we ask students to respect during his/her visit to Ecuador, and your student will receive a hard copy of the list. If you have any questions about specific policies, feel free to contact us.

12. How can I support my student while they are traveling?

There are 4,879 miles between Portland and Quito (Ecuador’s capital city) and 7,530 miles from Portland to Bangkok (Thailand's capital city) we will be abroad for one month.  Although they are often thrilled by all that is new and exciting, our students often feel homesick during this time.  When you speak to them on the phone or exchange email, there are many ways to support them.  Here are a few tips:

  • Ask them about their experiences—what are they doing; who have they met; what are they eating; what has been their favorite _____ so far; how are they traveling around the country; what new words are they learning in Spanish or Thai; what’s the weather like; etc.
  • Show excitement in your tone of voice or word choices for their travels and new experiences
  • Emphasize what a great accomplishment it is that they are traveling internationally
  • Let them know what’s going on at home so they don’t feel too out of the loop
  • Encourage them to email as often as they want, let them know it’s good to hear from them

Sometimes you have to be strong too, because you miss them.  It is important to help them focus on where they are and what they are doing, rather than what they are missing out on in Portland.  Stay positive and feel free to contact the local, Pangaea staff person if you need further assistance with your student’s homesickness.

13. How can I support my student when they return from traveling?

When people leave their environment, comforts, and familiar symbols by traveling to a new environment with completely new social cues/cultural practices they are confronted with a phenomenon known as culture shock. This shock brings a set of emotional reactions unique for each individual as people are forced to assimilate to a new culture without having time to decipher a way to adapt.

Feelings associated with culture shock could include: helplessness, irritability, anxiety, fear of being cheated or robbed, stress reactions, and a desire for home and friends. Over time individuals develop a framework with an understanding of how to deal with these differences and feeling therefore effectively navigating this shock of the transition to a new environment. Students should be reminded that culture shock is not something new. We have all experienced change to some extent and over time we have developed strategies to cope with that change. For example a student may have switched schools before, lived in different home environment or perhaps even lost a family member, and in all these situations we are forced to deal with this change.

When people eventually come back from their travels, they are once again confronted with a new shock of transition. They are now back in their familiar cultural environment but perhaps impacted by the changes they embodied while exposed to another culture in another country. It is here where your students will need support as they begin to re-acculturate to Portland. Sometimes there is confusion for students while other students experience nothing except excitement in returning home and sharing their experiences. To provide support to your student you can:

  • Show you are interested about their trip. Ask them about their travels and experiences. Practice being an active listener by asking for examples, how things made them feel, what did the food taste like, what they liked most or didn’t like, etc.
  • Encourage/Compliment them for being brave and taking the chance by traveling.
  • Let them know what’s been going on at home and that they were missed. Try to avoid letting them know that they missed out on something by going abroad.

Two days after our return, students will participate in re-acculturation activities with the Pangaea staff, to assist in processing these emotional reactions and feelings. Our intent is in providing assistance for transitioning successfully, back to the home environment.   

14. Can I read about my student’s travels while they are abroad?

Yes!  Please visit and bookmark The Pangaea Project's Student BlogWe welcome your comments and please share the link with friends and family.


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