Founded in 1963, the International Camper Exchange Program has enabled teens to enrich their cultural knowledge and experience while learning to be a responsible member of a group. The ICEP experience is designed to broaden each participant's appreciation of differing cultures in a way seldom achieved by tourist excursions. ICEP is not about traveling to a specific destination, but rather about self discovery and building connections with a local culture. Every ICEP program incorporates the following components: leadership development, youth-to-youth interaction, homestays, community service, and educational/cultural travel.
The ICEP program requires a high degree of commitment, as each participant will be challenged mentally, physically and socially. Keep in mind that this program is very different from the in-camp experience at Chimney Corners Camp and Camp Becket. By the very nature of the experience, campers must be able to exercise a higher degree of decision-making and accept greater responsibility for their own personal actions. Only the most mature and responsible teens should apply.
In collaboration with the host organization, ICEP participants will assist with service projects designed to benefit the local community and help them connect to the local culture. Projects may involve manual labor, such as cleaning a beach, collecting firewood, restoring a historic site; or human service, such as working in a day camp, visiting a nursing home, teaching English, or working with local volunteer organizations. All of the ICEP service projects are organized by our in-country program partners. Each ICEP program differs slightly in the types of service projects - some are heavily weighted towards social service, while others are much more balanced between physical and social. More information about the service projects unique to each program will available for applicants in December.
The TSP summer is about helping participants transition from the role of camper into the role of leader. It is our hope that while on TSP, participants learn to identify their own personal leadership strengths and work to develop skills that will help them in their futures. During orientation, participants will meet with their trip leaders to discuss their strengths and weaknesses and set goals for the program. Each participant will be given the opportunity to serve as Leader of the Day at some point during their trip, where they will be responsible for leading the group with the guidance of their trip leaders. Outside of Leader of the Day, participants will consistently be asked to step up and support their group. Opportunities may include helping to organize a service project, meeting with the ICEP host to learn about the day's itinerary, making sure the group wakes up on time, and showing general active-followership.
While ICEP groups travel to some of the world's most beautiful locations, our programs are focused less on the tourist experience and much more on true interaction and engagement with the host country. Instead of visiting the highlights of each country, participants will spend more time engaging with local youth groups, taking cultural classes like cooking and dancing, and learning the local language. ICEP participants will return home with a greater sense of global community having developed strong relationships with host teenagers and homestay families.
Each participant will live with a local family for an extended period ranging from 4 nights up to 12 nights, depending on the program. Participants will spend evenings and nights with their homestay family, then meet up with the ICEP group during the day to continue with programming. Homestays have been a true highlight of the ICEP experience - participants consistently tell us that homestays are the best way for them to experience family and community life first-hand. Homestay families are selected by our YMCA partner and are typically families who have a strong connection to the host YMCA.
All ICEP participants will take part in two days of orientation at the Becket-Chimney Corners YMCA prior to departing on their journey. During this time, ICEP participants will develop group-building skills and learn how to be ambassadors for the YMCA and our country. The group will discuss the basics of international travel as well as potential cross-cultural situations. They will become acquainted with fellow group members and discuss program goals and regulations, thus setting the standards for the success of their adventure. Participants will review how to pack their luggage, communicate with another culture, lead cabin chat, and effectively participate in community service projects.
Once accepted as an ICEP participant, individuals will be assigned to specific program destinations. While each applicant is encouraged to identify his/her most favored options from the countries offered, there are four other factors considered before the final assignments are made. These include:
TSP offers ICEP programs to 9 different countries. Current programs include:
ICEP participants will engage with local youth and community members, further strengthening their travel and cross-cultural knowledge. Participants will also have the opportunity to learn and practice techniques of positive leadership in group situations, while clarifying personal and societal values through discussions and activities. Good physical health and a positive attitude are essential. Independence, responsibility, cooperation, achievement, fun... these qualities, and more, are the essence of the ICEP Program.