7 Reasons Youth Travel Programs Are Awesome

by Jannan Poppen

If you’ve become tired of the same ol’, same ol’, and you really don’t want spend your summer babysitting your little brother again, perhaps it’s time to shake up that routine and embark on a youth travel program abroad. Heading abroad on travel program especially for youth is way more fun than that lame school dance, and it allows you to expand your perspective, meet friends, and see famous sights while beefing up your college applications. Put that Spanish class into practice, start checking off those seven wonders, and start livin’ life beyond standardized tests!

Fluorescent lit hallway lined with blue lockers
Ditch those “hallowed” high school halls and embark on an adventure abroad instead

Like playing the piano or mastering algebra, traveling like a pro takes practice. Even if you’ve traveled before, you’ll likely be going at least somewhere new, which means you probably have a lot of questions. What is the food like? What language do they speak? Go ahead, ask it: What is the toilet situation?

Here are seven reasons why, if you’re not planning to join a youth travel program abroad, you’re missing out:

1. Perfect for first-timers.

Youth travel programs offer a balance of fun and learning, structure and freedom, in a challenging, yet supportive environment. The beauty of youth travel programs is that you will have guidance every step of the way; you won’t be alone. All those questions you’re dying to ask have been thought of by previous students in previous programs. Most youth travel programs have dedicated staff who know how to have fun and keep you safe. They handle all the nitty gritty details, so you can focus on soaking it all in. Traveling with other teens means you’ll instantly have a bond, which will grow stronger as you traverse and learn together.

Two girls sitting on a mountainside taking a selfie at sunset
Check those seven wonders off your list and make new friends

2. Meet new people.

If it hasn’t already been drilled into you, one huge benefit of youth travel programs is the amazing people you’ll meet. This includes not just the other teenagers, but your trip leaders and local people as well. The more you engage with the community you’re visiting, the more you will learn about how people live within it. This lesson is one you will likely carry with you well beyond the end of your travels. To fully maximize your experience abroad, live in a homestay. Conversations shared over dinner with host families give the chance to truly get to know what it’s like to live in your host country, and most teens report that living with a host family is the highlight of their time abroad.

3. See the world.

The world is literally your oyster when it comes to youth travel programs abroad. If you’ve always wanted to see the Eiffel Tower, do it. If you feel a tug to Tokyo, go there. If you have absolutely no idea where to begin, consider a few of the highlights below. Or just spin a globe and pick a spot.

In Spain, you can clap and stomp alongside flamenco dancers, gasp in awe at a bullfight, surf along the north coast, or soak up the sun in the south, and then indulge in an afternoon siesta to recharge. Head to the heart of Central America and experience the pura vida of Costa Rica and see what it means to live life to the fullest. Or, up your cred factor and venture to China, where you can see the Great Wall, a legit world wonder.

Sunrise view from an airplane
For first-time flyers, a youth travel program is a great way to get your feet wet in international travel.

4. Learn a language.

Improve your skills and increase your confidence by speaking another language every day with native speakers. The act of simply being in a foreign language environment will do wonders for your speaking ability, but if you formally study the language abroad as well, you’ll advance by leaps and bounds. You might even learn enough Spanish (or French or Bulgarian) to strike up a conversation with that cute international exchange student at your school.

5. Get a Boost for College.

A number of youth travel programs offer formal courses that allow you to get a jump start on your college degree. Language credit is quite common, but you can pursue any interest under the sun for credit. Once you’re in college, you’ll have saved yourself precious time and moolah. It’s also way more fun and engaging to study human civilizations by visiting ancient ruins rather than hunkering down at your local community college.

University campus building covered with vines
Make your collegiate dreams come true after a summer abroad
Traveling not only sets you apart from the hoards of college applicants, but gives something meaningful to put on your resume and talk about in college essays and interviews.

6. Shake up the routine.

During youth travel programs, every day will be different. High school can feel like it’s dragging along, and traveling can get you out of the rut. Getting a taste of just how big our world is, as well as its beauty, history, and diversity, is enough inspiration to knock out that senioritis; what’s more, these programs offer endless options! Pick the perfect program by considering your goals and interests. Whatever you choose, be sure to plunge into something beyond the typical tourist traps; this is your opportunity to do something meaningful and unique.

Woman overlooking mountains
Get ready to take on the world!

7. Learn what you’re made of.

This is like a challenge and benefit in one. There’s no question you will have fun on your trip, but it will also be challenging. You may get lost or take the wrong bus. You may be trying to say you’re embarrassed in Spanish, and accidentally say that you’re embarazada (males will receive especially odd looks for that one). You may feel culture shocked for longer than you’d like. The point is, mistakes happen, and you will be completely out of your comfort zone at times. But the cool thing is, that’s where the growth happens. You’ll find the right bus, you’ll laugh at yourself, and you’ll figure it out; and that’s pretty empowering.

Take a leap and delve into an unforgettable youth travel program. Beyond the chance to expand your worldview and your friend list, you’ll come out on the other end more confident, capable, and ready to take on the world.