How to HAGS (Have a Great Summer): Study Abroad

by Laura Jelich

You did it, another year is nearly in the books. It’s almost time for every student’s favorite time of the school year: summer vacation. Excitement is tangible as the final days of the semester wind down. School work is replaced with talk of pool parties, sleepovers, and driving each other around with your shiny new licenses, blasting music with the windows down. Again.

Girls laying on the grass

Unfortunately, after the hype of the first few weeks wears off, you are likely to spend this summer eerily similar to last year's...which involved way too many reruns of Friends and way too little actual summer adventure.

While there’s nothing wrong with being stuck on over-kill high school drama, who has the best beach body, or how to successfully sneak out of your parent’s basement, why not forego the same lazy summer days and instead decide to go bigger? Show your crush, who was *supposed* to be your sweet summer romance but instead simply wrote a hardly heartfelt “HAGS” in your yearbook that you WILL, in fact, HAVE A GREAT SUMMER #thankyouverymuch.

Travel your way to greatness.

Let this summer be the one that dares to pursue high school study abroad programs. You never know, it may just rock your world. Read on for six ways a summer study abroad stint will ensure you actually HAGS.

1. Have winning social media accounts.

When you venture abroad this summer, you will inadvertently find yourself ruling your social media realm of influence as a result. Without even really having to try. Prom court royalty? #solastyear. The play-by-play updates of your awesome experiences will be the envy of all your friends while they live vicariously through you from the comfort and monotony of their own living room. Not to mention, upon your return, you will never struggle to find a share-worthy #tbt, #fbf, or stellar profile pic again. Congratulations, you now own the internet. At least until next summer.

No one wants to see that selfie of you in your bedroom…again…so do the world (er, your social media networks) a favor and switch it up this year by taking your prowess abroad.

Boys skating in the park

2. Obtain a valuable college resume boosting experience.

There it is, the buzzword of high school upperclassmen across the globe: resume booster. In today’s global economy and competitive job market, the importance and value of having international perspective, experience, and awareness cannot be overrated. At the very least, it will set you apart from all the other 4.0 GPA / honor roll / student athletes applicants. There’s plenty of value added to your college apps if you’ve traveled abroad, not least of which is the possibility of your study abroad program opening up a world of previously unknown possibilities (to help orient your college, life, or career path!).

3. Get a personalized summer experience.

With programs lasting from one week to several months and a range of scholastic intensity and topics, any kind of student is sure to find their perfect program fit. While staying at home would mean gambling your precious summer days on tentative plans that may or may not fulfill your definition of “fun,” when you choose a summer study abroad, you can take matters into your own hands.

Whether you feel like taking golf in Scotland, learning Spanish language and cuisine skills in Spain, or earning college credit in China, you’re in control of your own summer destiny. None of those sound cool? Take your pick. Nearly every country has high school study abroad program options, from Japan to England and beyond!

4. Engage your adventurous side and boost your confidence.

Not to sound too 2013, but YOLO, no?! There’s something to be said about those who actively take charge of challenging themselves and putting themselves in situations outside their comfort zone. It’s totally normal and OK to be nervous when entering into uncertain scenarios - the important thing is that you do it anyway.

And why wouldn’t you? Not only will high school study abroad summer programs ensure endless excitement, but it will also build self-confidence, competence, and independence. Sure, there might be scary and stressful parts, but being able to handle any situation that arises while abroad will feed your sense of accomplishment and desire for continued growth in a way that nothing else can.

A man traveling

5. Fight (...and inspire) some serious #FOMO.

With the all-too-accessible stream of social media portrayals constantly throwing everyone else’s perfectly constructed lives in your face, the unintentional comparing of your life to others is a very real thing. While it’s important to recognize that no one’s online presence accurately reflects their reality (it’s only the aspects of it they choose to share), it can be extremely difficult to not get distracted and discouraged by all the cool things literally EVERYONE else seems to be doing.

You’ve likely seen posts and pictures of others fueling their adventurous side and felt the inevitable pang of jealousy in response. Wouldn’t it be nice to to not be on the receiving end of it for a change? Don’t let your days be filled with shoulda, coulda, woulda. Instead of wishing you had their guts, let Nike lead the way this summer and just do it.

6. Come to understand that the world is bigger than your Facebook feed.

We’ve talked a lot about social media in this article. It’s a very real part of our lives, but honestly, it’s a gag. Social media often seems like an endless contest of who is hanging out with who, who is doing the most interesting things, or even who is eating the most beautiful food. It can be easy to forget to actually LIVE your life while you’re so busy posting about it. And in fact, if you’re main motivation for traveling this summer is to be the most popular kid in all the Facebookland, you probably should stay home and do some serious thinking.

Don’t lose sight of the bigger picture while staring at streams of tiny instantly-grammed ones. There is so much more to see, do, learn, and experience. Traveling abroad in high school will not only enable you to see a new reality and learn about other cultures, but may even end up challenging your own set of norms, customs, and assumptions. You cannot accurately view your own world until you’ve stepped outside of it for awhile. You may even start to recognize your neurotic obsession with your smartphone, too.

Taking selfies

Trade in your yearbook for a passport.

You don’t need a half-hearted “LYLAS” or “KIT” to really “HAGS.” You need your passport, an airplane ticket, and a desire to see the world.

Though a journey abroad may seem too far away or like too much effort at first, it only takes one step at a time to reach incredible places and find eye-opening experiences. This summer, take that first step and simply decide to spend it abroad. Do whatever it takes. Find high school study abroad scholarships and financial aid. Get the support of your parents (these template letters will prove handy). And above all, follow your dreams beyond the confines of your high school walls.