12 Unique Countries to Travel Abroad for High School Students

by Julia Zaremba

If you really want to impress those future college recruiters (or you just want a really good excuse to escape the bell schedule and hop on a plane), international travel programs for high school students are the perfect solution. While your friends are volunteering at the local animal shelter or getting a lifeguard certification at the community pool, try something a little bit more exotic. Find a host family in a Zulu hut, take care of street children in India, or hone in your green thumb on an organic farm in Latin America.

Below is an alphabetic list of great opportunities to expand your high school career outside of the classroom and develop into a classy global citizen. During these formative years, volunteer, study, speak, or adventure your way to greatness abroad.

Port in Puerto Madero, Argentina

Puerto Madero, Argentina

Argentina

If you want to improve your Spanish language skills, traveling to Argentina is a good choice! As the biggest Spanish-speaking country, Argentina is highly urbanized with a rich diversity of wild landscapes: the sharp peaks of Patagonia, the desert ghost towns around Salta, the lakes of Mendoza, the splendor of Iguazu Falls. It’s also rich in culture (tango with me?) and culinary creations (not only can you pig out on empanadas, but you can treat yourself to a steak dinner every night). Select your favorite high school program in Argentina, then go befriend gauchos and penguins.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Projects Abroad, Sol Abroad, Mente Argentina

Australia

As the world’s smallest continent, Australia is still home to more than 22 million people (and a whole lot of kangaroos). It’s not all just tarantulas in the desert either: there are grasslands, rainforests, mountains, and a verrrrrrrrry long stretch of beach. Whether you want to learn about environment and sustainability, work on a ranch, or see how “barbie” can become a man’s toy, there’s a corner of educational paradise just waiting to be explored. Forge yourself (or not) on vegemite and see which high school program in the Land Down Under is right for you, mate!

Particularly Awesome Programs: Campus Education Australia, Rustic Pathways, Putney Student Travel

Church in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

Brazil

In Brazil, you’ll experience the enthusiasm of fútbol fans, tease your taste buds with traditional cuisines, and learn new dances (samba, zouk, and forró, to name a few). In your free time, go on a trek through the Amazon, join in on “the world’s biggest party” at the Rio de Janeiro carnival, or just kick back with a cup of locally-grown coffee. Discover the diversity of the world’s fifth largest country with a high school program in Brazil!

Particularly Awesome Programs: CI Experience Brazil, CIEE, The Experiment in International Living

Canada

Join the long tradition of migration to North America and become part of the multiculturalism that defines this nation. With ten provinces to pick from, the hardest part will be deciding if you want to wear bounty boots or Eskimo mukluks… or just run around barefoot if you opt for one of its many beaches (it has over 164,988 miles of coastline, don’t ya know?!). Broaden your horizons, grab some pancakes (with extra maple syrup) at a diner, and put globally-recognized academics on your transcript while mingling with entrepreneurs and building widespread connections. See which high school program in Canada will bring you closer to saving the world.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Edu-inter, Language Vacation, Earthwatch Institute  

Taj Mahal, India

Taj Mahal in India

India

As the cradle of the world’s oldest continuous civilization, India has a pretty impressive history of innovations: chess, the number system, martial arts, yoga, and samosas. It also has the highest bridge in the world and the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers (that’s a lot of persuasive reasons to try out on the parents!). Whether you want to trek the Himalayas or follow the steps of Gandhi, India’s ready to welcome you with its sights and colors. See which high school program in India tickles your taste buds.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Rustic Pathways, Lifeworks India, GVI

Israel

The diverse culture and geography of Israel has created a unique blend of customs and traditions, flora, and fauna. It is the only country where daily life revolves around the Hebrew calendar, and the population:college degree ratio is the highest in the world. While Israel is frequently in the international spotlight, its true personality can only be explored first-hand. The country goes way beyond the headlines: there are bus stop libraries to peruse through, endless fields of flowers to admire, and the Dead Sea to float in (on?) between program activities. Pick your favorite high school program in Israel and find your next adventure!

Particularly Awesome Programs: Free Spirit, Young Judaea, AmeriSpan

River view in Florence, Italy

Florence, Italy

Italy

Whether it’s the food, the architectural wonders, the Tuscan sun, the snow-capped Alps, the sexy accents, or the rainbow of gelato flavours, Italy is anything but bland. Learn about pasta shapes with a cooking class, sign up for a hiking tour of the coast, or study politics in Rome, the center of Western civilization. Whatever you decide on, you’ll discover an Italy even greater than all of its clichéd descriptions put together. When you’re ready, pick up some Italian hand gestures à la Joey Tribbiani with a high school program in Italy.

Particularly Awesome Programs:  Travel for Teens, SPI Study Abroad, Academic Programs International (API)

Japan

Did you know that Japan has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world? Maybe heading there for a summer (or semester!) will sprinkle you with a few drops of its elixir of life. Blending ancient traditions with modern technology, Japan is a roller coaster of discoveries that stretch well beyond manga and sushi. Meditate in shrines between classes or improve your karaoke skills in the evenings while studying in a country that will offer you the tools to become future leaders in a growing global community. Go slurp some noodles out of respect with a high school program in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Andeo International Homestays, LanguBridge Education Center, Greenheart Travel

Santorini, Greece

Santorini, Greece

Greece

Western Philosophy, the birthplace of democracy, the Olympic Games, gyros… sounds like Greece has it all figured out. When you’re not in the classroom or office, take advantage of the weekend to climb Mount Olympus or hop around the Mediterranean islands. Teenage travelers will combine ancient history with modern advancements and natural beauty. If blue beaches, white houses, and golden sunsets sound like a pretty cool setting for study sessions, find a high school program in Greece and start packing for your own odyssey.

Particularly Awesome Programs: GoEco, 360 Student Travel, The American Farm School

México

The most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, Mexico also recognizes 68 indigenous tongues as national languages. This mixture of ancient cultures leads to a spicy palette of colors, sounds, smells, and tastes. Explore the Mayan feat at Chichen Itza (one of the new Seven Wonders of the World), find buried pyramids under Mexico City, take a dive in a cenote, or explore the colonial fairytale of Oaxaca, all while expanding your perceptions beyond tacos, sombreros, and cacti. Find your next best amigo with a high school program in Mexico.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Global Vision International, Sol Abroad, AmeriSpan

Russia

As the world’s biggest country (with a surface area larger than Pluto!), Russia has more than 140 million people, spans nine time zones, and encompasses a range of natural environments. Whether you’re interested in figuring out Russian noun endings, mastering folklore dances (or ballet!), getting your toes into the oil industry, or taking really long train rides, Russia will not disappoint. Get creative with your potato and meat stew recipes after you have picked the high school program in Russia that sounds most exciting.

Moscow, Russia at night

Moscow, Russia

Particularly Awesome Programs: Center for Study Abroad (CSA), AFS Intercultural Programs, Youth for Understanding

South Africa

South Africa is the only country that raised two Nobel Prize winners from the same street – go check out what all of the street smarts are all about! This country has some of the oldest archeological fossil sites in the world, the floral wonderlands that is Table Mountain, three of the five fastest land animals in the world (cheetah, wildebeest, and lion), and a lot of macadamia nuts. From community service projects to cultural immersion, high school programs in South Africa will open your eyes to the world around you.

Particularly Awesome Programs: Enkosini Eco Experience, Projects Abroad, Broadreach

Defy the lazy, angsty teenager stereotype, explore a new land, and make your passport the highlight of your high school transcript.

Regardless of where you end up, a transformative experience (like those often found in high school semester programs) will offer a healthy dose of maturity, personal growth, and cultural appreciation. If the above didn’t satiate your thirst for life abroad, check out GoAbroad’s high school program directory for even more destinations and travel abroad programs for high school students!