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What to Do After High School Abroad

by - Published June 30

Welcome back from your high school abroad program! Whether you were abroad for a few weeks, months, or an entire year, you’ve just returned home from a mind-blowing, life-changing experience that you’ll carry with you for the rest of your life. 

Passport from the us

You’re back and your passport is full of stamps. What now?

After having such an incredible time abroad in high school it can be difficult to get used to life back home, and even things get even more difficult when your friends and family start asking you, “What’s next?”

You’re one of the few who’ve been lucky enough to travel at a young age.

Having the ability and taking the opportunity to travel in high school is huge. You did something big at a young age, and now it may seem like all eyes are on you to keep doing big things. But before you go into panic mode because you don’t have even the slightest resemblance of a plan after high school study abroad, take a chill pill.

Plans are overrated (trust us, we’ve learned the hard way), but having options is always a good thing—although you may think contrarily when you first return to a U.S. supermarket and have a reverse culture shock meltdown because there are 800 varieties of cereal to choose from. But before we get to some options about what to do after studying abroad in high school, there are a few things you need to take care of right away after you return home from high school abroad.

Now that you’re back…

1. Think about how you’re going to share your story.

Tell everyone about the amazing time you had—but don’t skim over the hard stuff. You owe it to the people you met to speak truthfully about their culture. Always remember to put the most focus on what you learned and find a way to commemorate your high school abroad experience in a creative way! Whether you’re old school and like to scrapbook, you’re trying to be the next Spielberg with a video compilation of your adventures, or you decide to write reflective essays or blog posts, channeling your energy in creative ways will help you document your time abroad and give you a medium to share your story. What better way to relive your experiences and tell people about your adventures than to show them?

2. Hug your parents and help with laundry.

After high school study abroad, always give yourself a few days to rest, get back in the swing of things, and love on your parents when you return from high school abroad. Help with laundry, cook them dinner (maybe a new recipe your learned from your travels), hug them until they’re sick of you, and find as many other ways as you can to say thank you a million times for allowing you the freedom (and probably the funds) to go abroad in high school.

3. Eat something tasty!

Maybe it was your mother’s famous lasagna or that one dish they serve at your favorite hometown restaurant that you were craving the entire time you were abroad in high school. Sometimes there’s just nothing better than the sweet taste of nostalgia after returning home from traveling.

4. Have a friend-hang because Becky missed you.

After you’ve loved on your parents to the point where they’re ready to get rid of you again, have some serious friend hang time. And while your friends will be excited to hear all about your adventures, don’t forget they had lives too while you were gone. Just like you’re dying to tell everyone about your time abroad, your friends and family probably want to tell you about their summers/semesters/year as well! Don’t forget to ask about their lives and show them that you care. Their experiences are important too.

5. Organize your travel photos and print your favorites.

Souvenirs after high school abroad

Organize all of your souvenirs and put your most treasured ones in a safe place.

Wishing you could go back already? Cue picture time. Organize all of your travel photos and be sure to back them up. Print and post your favorites and be sure to follow all your new friends on Insta (if you haven’t already).

6. Write your host family/trip leader a thank-you note.

Sure, an email will suffice but do you want to go through life just sufficing? A handwritten thank-you note is an unexpected and welcome surprise amidst the credit card offers and Bed Bath & Beyond coupons. Timeliness is key here, so post the note ASAP after high school study abroad (within the first week of being back home). A thank-you note connotes thoughtfulness and an attention to detail that is in short supply but high demand.

7. Review your program to help future travelers have a ball abroad.

Reviews are critical for both the program and future travelers. After you’ve had some time to reflect on your experience, put it into words and leave a review that will help the program better itself and will give future travelers the inside scoop on what they’re in for.

8. Beware reverse culture shock!

Reverse culture shock is no joke and it can have detrimental effects if you just sweep it under the rug. It’s hard to come home! Readjustment takes time, so don’t be afraid to ask for help and talk to someone about your feels. And even though you may not want to, make sure to communicate with your parents about what you’re going through.

Looking ahead…

1. Finish high school (a must)

Group of high school friends studying

Be sure to finish up your high school diploma! I wish we could promise no group projects in college, but it’s just not so…

Now that you’ve just completed the biggest, most adventurous, and most impactful time of your life, it seems difficult to just fold right back into “business as usual.” That includes going back and finishing high school. You’ve learned so much about yourself and the world around you. Maybe that has you ready as ever to hit the books and get your diploma, but maybe your time abroad still has you feeling a little apprehensive about academia.

  • Pros: After navigating the topsy-turvy waters of another country, culture, and probably another language, high school will be a piece of cake.
  • Cons: Reverse culture shock can really start to show its true colors once you’re plopped down back into the nitty gritty of “normal” high school.
  • More info: Shockproof Tips to Overcome Reverse Culture Shock

2. Apply for college (abroad???)

If you’re yearnin’ for some more learnin’ and getting ready to apply to college after high school abroad, why not consider applying to some colleges abroad? For most degree-seeking students, studying abroad is a brief stint bookended by long years of more traditional studies. But why not kick it up a notch and instead of limiting your education abroad to a summer or a single semester, enroll in a full degree program at a foreign university!

  • Pros: From increasing your hireability and impressing employers to saving money on tuition, there are countless advantages to be reaped when you apply to college after high school abroad. Depending on your country of origin, other countries may offer the same degree in a shorter amount of time. Saving both time and money. Many foreign universities have cheap or subsidized access to their degree programs, which can be a huge perk for students fearing towering debt.
  • Cons: It’s hard enough to pick a school in your own home country, let alone apply to college after high school abroad and choose a degree program among a few hundred other options! There are many factors to weigh as you hone in on your school of choice, but location and area of study should be at the forefront.apply to college after high school abroad
  • More info: 9 Things to Know Before Studying Abroad for Your Entire Degree
High school football

Soak up every sweet minute of your high school life. It might not look it now, but these are some seriously fun years!

3. Take a gap year

Regardless of the years of lectures you’ve endured about the linear path of life you’re supposed to follow, everyone grows at their own pace. There is not one track you must unswervingly stay on to achieve “success.” So if you’ve finished cleaning up your high school graduation party decorations, and aren’t quite ready to beeline to college graduation, a gap year program may be just what your wanderlusting soul needs.

  • Pros: Taking a gap year is a priceless investment into yourself. Your global background will shape you into a stronger, more well-rounded person. And, you’ll gain unparalleled life experiences making you a boss traveler, student, intern, or employee. After taking a gap year, you’ll be crushing it no matter where life takes you! 
  • Cons: Gap years aren’t free, so you’ve got to figure out your finances. Program fees can cover visas, airfare, accommodation, transportation, food, trainings, and more. So you’ll need to do some comparing and figure out what type of program you can afford. 
  • More info: 7 Great Gap Year Programs for Ambitious Teens

4. Join the military/do public service

Serving others is way more profound than just a vacation or an excuse escape the “real world.” Joining the military or doing public service abroad is diving headfirst into the real world. Joining the military or doing public service abroad are both solid options with a lot of reward, but there’s also a lot of risk and downside that counterbalances that reward. 

  • Pros: It’s a meaningful experience that provides you with important things to do, places to go, and people to see, while giving you with something much more significant than passport stamps and Instagram likes.
  • Cons: These options require a LOT of dedication, both physically and mentally. Getting dirty, sweaty, sore, and emotionally involved is something that’s not exactly exalted in Western culture. But doing the kind of soul-satisfying hard work that makes you hungry for lunch and ready for bed at the end of the day is boundlessly rewarding. When you remind yourself that you are working toward something greater, that nugget of wisdom will provide you with a new inner strength to keep on keepin’ on that you may have never known before.
  • More info: Guide to Veteran and ROTC Study Abroad Opportunities

5. Find a job you love

As Confucius said, “choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It’s great advice, but it’s not always that simple—it can be difficult to figure out what you love and how to parlay that into a viable job. But you already know you love one thing: traveling. So what to do after studying abroad in high school? Why not find a job you love abroad?

  • Pros: The list of advantages is practically endless: broadened horizons, new skills, improved independence, new friendships (and business relations), a new language added to your repertoire, and a boost to take your career dreams to the next level.
  • Cons: Jobs abroad typically pool applicants from all over the world. That’s a lot of competition. Whether you are interested in teaching children in Africa, building harps in Wales, or researching coral reefs off the coast of Australia, you really need to put some effort into showing how you stand out from the crowd.
  • More info: 8 Well-Paid Summer Jobs Abroad

Here’s to a lifetime of travels!

Girl planning to do more travel after high school abroad

TRAVEL MORE. We know you’re hooked. Your next great adventure is out there!

As a high school student, you’ve really set yourself ahead of the game by going abroad at such a young age. Most people who study abroad go in college, and often wish that they could do it more than once! Because you’ve already gone abroad before you can legally vote, you still have years of travel ahead of you that you can fill by studying abroad in college, or maybe by volunteering, interning, or even teaching English abroad.

So don’t fret about what to do after studying abroad in high school. Now that you’ve gotten a taste for the incredible world of cultural exploration and adventuring, you’ll be hooked for life and will definitely go abroad again. Welcome to the world of travel-addicts! It’s a jet-lagged, awe-inspiring, tapas-filled life, and here’s a hint: you’re going to love it.

Help Future Teen Travelers & Review Your Program →