• What is The Catalyst Program?

    The Catalyst is study-abroad program based in Europe for five weeks each summer. The Catalyst is based on the concept of a portable learning community. Our program resides and teaches in London, Paris, Berlin and Prague. Students earn 6 hours of university credit.

  • Do students take two or three courses on The Catalyst?

    All students take two elective courses, each for 3 hours of credit. The elective courses are organized into Session 1 and Session 2. Session 1 electives are taught in London and Paris. Session 2 electives are taught in Berlin and Prague. Students may not take more than one elective in either session.

  • If I’ve already been to Europe and know my way around, am I still required to participate in Catalyst orientation functions in our cities?

    Yes. Our orientation functions are required of all students in each of our cities. There are no exceptions to this, ever.

  • Do most kids on The Catalyst speak a foreign language? Will I be OK if I only speak English?

    Most Catalyst students are not fluent in a foreign language, and indeed many speak only English. If you speak a second language, you will relish your travel and learning time wherever your other language is spoken. If English is your story and you are sticking to it? Welcome to The Catalyst.

  • Do most students on The Catalyst have experience traveling abroad? If I do not, will I be able to make it?

    Some Catalyst students will have done another study abroad program already, but this is by no means always going to the case. The new traveler will do fine on The Catalyst, especially since the program is all about teaching you how to be independent, confident and smart on your traveler’s feet.

  • Nobody in our family has traveled or ever done anything like The Catalyst before. Is this program really for me?

    Absolutely. The majority of students on The Catalyst will come from families who have never had a study abroad experience. Many are first generation college students. Some have not traveled outside of the USA. The Catalyst builds upon a student’s innate self-reliance and desire to mature while making good decisions.

  • My parents never say yes to things like The Catalyst. How should I even bring it up to them if I really want to go?

    The Catalyst is a big thing for parents to understand and support. Most of our Catalyst parents are concerned about the price of the program, whether the classes will help you if you go and how safe you will be when you are in Europe. Further, parents want to know for sure that this program really is right for you and something you are passionate about. Each family situation is different, even if many parents do share the same concerns. Our staff and professors will always tell you this: speak to your parents early in your thinking on The Catalyst and ask for their blessing and encouragement. If possible, speak to them as soon as you know that this program is what you want to do. Discuss why you want the kind of experience The Catalyst offers, how you will pay for the program, and what you yourself can commit to in terms of getting ready to go.

  • Do I need a passport to do The Catalyst? If so, how do I get one?

    Yes. All travel to Europe requires a valid passport. Go online as soon as you apply for The Catalyst and apply for a passport, if you don’t already have one. The delivery time is about six weeks.

  • My parents are worriers. What can help ease their minds so that they know I will be OK on The Catalyst?

    The Catalyst has (at least) three full-time staff people, and 6 full time professors for the 60 or so students who participate each year. We work 24/7 to ensure that you are well taken care of, and we work with you to help you gain more confidence and self-reliance. Our professors and staff won’t be your “mom” and “dad” for the five weeks of the program, but we will never treat you as a number or as someone we don’t know well. Meanwhile, we will also work to provide that extra (gentle) supervised “push” to get your confidence and competence up when it comes to managing yourself well while abroad. After you learn the basics associated with travel and learning in Europe, you won’t need or want hand holding.

  • Will there be help my parents and I can get as I count down to starting The Catalyst?

    Absolutely. In fact, we require you as a student to join our orientation sessions either in person or online. These are held in April and are always saved online, so that you or your parents can return to a session and review what was covered at it.

  • What about once we get to Europe? Will there be a lot of help for me in my first few days settling in?

    Yes. You will join all of your fellow students and faculty in an extensive orientation session in London. You will get help on everything from how to succeed in your classes, how to budget and travel, how to handle conflict if it comes up among your fellow students and how to increase your own sense of confidence when facing new challenges and opportunities. We require shorter versions of this orientation in each of our cities after London.

  • How will I get into London to The Catalyst hostel? Am I going to get lost the very first day?

    Getting into central London to The Catalyst Program hostel is simple! All of the information on getting to our hostel will be sent to you via email and also be contained within your Catalyst Program Manual. (The manual will be sent to you as a printable pdf file late in April.)

  • I have no experience traveling at all. Can I do The Catalyst? I don’t even know how to book a plane ticket for the program. How do I do that?

    Although some Catalyst students will have had experience traveling before they do the program, many will be totally new to the experience. By the time they have done the program, they will have “the travel bug” for life and be able to go anywhere they want. One key lesson of The Catalyst is about knowing how to “keep calm and carry on” like a travel pro when things inevitably get frustrating. You can and will mater travel on this program, starting with your first assignment, which will be to track down the best international plane ticket you can find online to get you going on The Catalyst. As you search for your ticket, be sure to check the search engines at kayak.com and elsewhere for deals on what is called a multi-city fare. (This kind of fare lets you fly into one city and home out of another, and in that it is different from a roundtrip airfare.) Once you’ve found the search engine you like best, be sure to remember to book your ticket departing the USA for London and home out of Prague. Please confirm your travel dates with The Catalyst calendar and email or text us if you have any questions on these dates. Your travel arrangements internationally are your own responsibility.

  • My family isn’t rich, but we don’t qualify for great financial aid either. Is The Catalyst out of my reach?

    Our students will finance all or most of their Catalyst summer through financial aid. Our average student will spend no more than $3000 more for The Catalyst than the program price of $6799. The extra funds will pay for Acceleration Travel, dinners not covered by the program, and other miscellaneous expenses.

  • The Catalyst is going to cost more than what studying at home for the summer will cost. What does my program price get me?

    Your program price pays for 6 hours of tuition, housing in London, Paris, Berlin and Prague, breakfast each day in our classroom cities, one program dinner in each city, all required museum visits and events for your courses. The program also includes your required Tube, Metro and U-Bahn travel related to our class sessions.

  • What will our Catalyst cities be like to live and learn in? Are they safe places?

    All 4 of The Catalyst cities are known to be among the most exciting, dynamic and safe urban centers in the world. Public transportation abounds in each of the cities, with subways, trams, busses, rental bikes, canal taxis and pedestrian-only streets being facts of daily life for all European who live in cities. We will walk you all over each city, too, just like European do every day. And while we will remind you regularly about basic safety guidelines for life in major urban areas, we will also see as you do that Europe in general is known to be a far safer urban place than our own cities in the USA.

  • Do I have classes on weekends on The Catalyst?

    We do not keep to a “normal” academic calendar on The Catalyst. Your academic calendar will be posted for you to review and plan around well before we leave for Europe, but do not be surprised to find your classes sometimes meeting on Sunday but not meeting on a Tuesday. We organize our program so that our free days in each city usually fall on Saturday, so that you can experience the full range of each city while its locals are having their “day off” too. (Plus you can have a fun Friday night and not worry about early class on Saturday.) We organize our travel and exam days on a schedule that’s constant for the whole program, so that you can plan your Catalyst energy around a calendar that’s reliable.

  • Do we have host families on The Catalyst? If not, how do we meet locals during the program?

    The Catalyst does not use host families, given how much mobility and dynamism are at the program’s heart. To help you meet locals in each city, The Catalyst faculty will orient you to each city on your itinerary and otherwise help you to get out and explore in a deep and meaningful way the places you will call home this summer.

  • I like to volunteer. Are there volunteer or service opportunities on The Catalyst?

    Service learning and civic engagement are critical parts of most college students’ lives today. On The Catalyst, however, you will move so fast and so far with your focus turned toward almost constant learning that our five weeks will likely not feature the volunteer and service learning experiences that characterize your home campus experience.

  • What are The Catalyst hostels like?

    All of our Catalyst hostels are centrally located, safe and clean. Most of them feature group sleeping rooms, which aren’t separated by gender. In some cases, rooms will be triples. But mostly our rooms are large and will host most of the program in 3 or 4 rooms. In some of our hostels, we share our rooms with other travelers and learners who are in Europe to experience what our students seek, too. Be flexible and embrace a mantra of “no drama” and high flexibility. You will be well rewarded as your Catalyst roommates and fellow travelers you meet on the way choose to do the same.

  • Can I choose who I room with on The Catalyst?

    We book large rooms with multiple bunks for The Catalyst, sometimes with 15 or more beds to a room, and don’t do roommate assignments.

  • My parents and maybe even my boyfriend might want to visit me on The Catalyst. Is that possible?

    You will be so busy and so motivated to travel with your Catalyst compatriots that having folks from home visit and travel with you during Acceleration might be a negative. Your professors and Catalyst staff won’t stop you from having friends travel to see you from the USA, but we will discourage you from planning these visits. Your whole life lies ahead to travel with dear friends and family. Take these five weeks for yourself and The Catalyst.

  • Is there Wi-Fi at The Catalyst hostels or at other important places we will go and see in Europe?

    Yes. But be prepared to use Facebook and the Internet in general less than you do at home. Not only are our classes and your travel plans going to keep you busy, but the cities will call loudly to you and ask you to leave your room, get out and meet your new neighborhoods. All of our hostels will have Wifi in their common rooms and lobbies. Some will likely have it up in the bedrooms as well. Wifi is available in most cafes in Europe.

  • What will my Catalyst hostel rooms be like?

    Prepare for basic, safe, centrally located and spartan. You won’t be disappointed. Our hostels are in center city, which means that they are small and not elaborate. Your room will be shared with friends from The Catalyst. Bathrooms will be shared, down the hall, and separated in most cases according to gender.

  • Should I take my US phone on The Catalyst? What about my laptop?

    Contact your US cell carrier and find out about what plan you can get for basic coverage overseas in case of emergency. Then bring your U.S. cell for setting up skype calls or purchase an inexpensive pay-as-you-go phone in one or more of our Catalyst cities. If you own one or can buy one before the program, bring your tablet, iPad or laptop with you. Before leaving home, be sure to synch all of your course content to your devices. And don’t forget your iPod, which can hold most of the lectures and other segments that are required for your courses. Get these loaded onto your iPod as soon as possible, so that you can already have the material down before you arrive in Europe.

  • What about meals that the program price includes? What are they like?

    The program provides a group dinner in each city. We will try to find foods that are customary and cool in each city where we live on The Catalyst. Otherwise, you will have a range of street foods, simple dinners, pizza joints and other foot options to choose from in our cities. Those extra meals will be yours to pay for, beyond The Catalyst Program price.

  • Does The Catalyst have internships during or after our session?

    You won’t intern during of after The Catalyst in a formal way that the program oversees. If you seek out and get an internship and would like help from Catalyst faculty or staff, just ask us and we will do what we can do.

  • If I get sick on The Catalyst or something happens to me health wise, what do I do?

    Our faculty and staff will help you to get medical attention. We will offer you help remotely if a medical issue arises while you are traveling on Acceleration.

  • How safe will we be in general while we are in our cities and traveling?

    The Catalyst will ask you to take your own safety very seriously. Our professors and staff will work with you over the course of your five weeks in to think carefully and smartly about how to be safe when you are on your own. We will help you to understand how to be safe in a group, how to manage yourself in cafes and bars, where to watch for possible safety issues and how to make careful travel plans. Our goal will be to teach you awareness and vigilance, as you move with us in our cities and prepare to do your Acceleration Travel. Beyond the counsel and coaching you will get from us, Finally, we will counsel you carefully about what to do in the event of any international incident that might occur while you are traveling.

  • What do we do on our travel break and why is it called Acceleration?

    Your travel break on The Catalyst is called Acceleration because it’s your own “real deal” trip to dream up, plan for and execute. You will travel where you want, with whom you want, and according to our own interests and budgets. What we do to help you lift your trip to something higher than a vacation is to invoke the idea of the Romantic quest, to help position your travel as a fundamental growth experience in the journey of lifelong learning.

  • What is a visa and do I need one to study on The Catalyst?

    A visa is a government document that allows you to live, study and sometimes work overseas for an extended period of time. Because The Catalyst is a program that does not exceed 90 days in Europe, you do not need a visa.

  • How hard is it to learn how travel in Europe if I’ve never done it before?

    Travel in Europe is easy to figure out and affordable to execute. Take a look at www.raileurope.com or download the incredible app that your faculty use at www.trainline.eu just to get a quick idea about the range of travel destinations you can choose to get to by train. To compare the best way to get from one European city to the next during Acceleration, use www.goeuro.com and get their app to show you if bus, train or flight will be your best mode of conveyance.

  • What about flying around Europe? Do people do that a lot or do they mostly use trains?

    Students used to only buy Eurail passes and travel that way. Our students in recent years, though, have used trains less and have not recommended Eurail passes. Why? Because Europe is now linked all over with low-cost air service, so many students now travel both by trains and by plane. The following sites can help you get an idea of the options and prices available for air travel: Ryan Air – www.ryanair.com, Easy Jet – www.easyjet.com, and Aerlingus – www.aerlingus.com

  • Where will I stay when I travel on my own? Are there hotels or what?

    Hostels are all over the place in Europe, and students can stay in them for usually not much more than about $20 a night, sometimes less and sometimes a bit more. The Catalyst will help you learn how to book hostels and figure out the most inexpensive ways to use them well. Start with some of these helpful websites to scout out accommodation while you’re traveling for Acceleration: