A Cheat Sheet for *CAN’T MISS* High School Travel Programs

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So, you want to travel overseas during high school, do you? Forget the summer family vacations and school field trips around the block, though. We know you’re craving high school travel programs that are off the beaten path, emancipating, extraordinarily unforgettable, and simply gratifying. Rather than coming away from your travels with just virtual piles of social media-worthy unfiltered photos, you can have countless more gigabytes of stories to tell behind each picture.

Cant Miss High School Travel Programs

High school travel programs are a diverse lot. From learning Greek cuisine to Mandarin Chinese immersion, programs range in size, type, duration, and in just about every other component you can think of. Chances are you can’t catch ‘em all, but you still be the very best by choosing the program that fits just right. We’ve got all the inside deets on programs for everyone from the language buff to the outdoor adventure junkie.

To give an idea of all the juicy escapades you could be up to during your high school career, we’ve whipped up this cheat sheet for *CAN’T MISS* high school travel programs. You won’t be tested later, but we still suggest you take notes! 

Save the world through community service and volunteering.

Cambodian girl grabbing photographers hand
Get drawn into the international world of philanthropy.

Community service and volunteering high school travel programs may have just fallen from the heavens themselves. Volunteer work coupled with international experience is the ultimate cherry on top of your college application, flashing your global prowess, goodwill, and development of additional skills such as medical care or service work. While your own high school and organizations back home may provide opportunities for local community service, volunteering abroad will expand your scope so you can start helping those outside your immediate area.

Pros:

Volunteering high school travel programs can get you a substantial number of community service hours. Additionally, developing new skills abroad can introduce you to a potential career field. Working in a medical clinic, caring for orphans, or organizing financial workshops can be the stepping stone to your future profession. 

Cons:

Research carefully into each volunteer program to make sure they know their stuff. If your program provider exists just to make sure participants have a good time and considers the volunteer mission secondary, that should be a red flag. When volunteers aren’t adequately prepared for or informed about the work they’ll be doing, they may not have any positive impact at all. 

Suggested programs:

Go soul searching on a gap year.

Friends laughing on a ledge
High school graduation is where the learning begins—on a gap year.

What’s the rush to go straight to college right after catching your graduation cap before it touches the ground? Join the spreading movement to savor your youth and slow life down before inevitably spending the rest of your years working an 8-5 in a cubicle. The dawning truth is that retirement is becoming more of an unknown rather than a given, and you never know when you’ll actually be able to take substantial time off to do something amazing abroad. Taking a gap year before college allow you to explore the world a bit before plunging back into the current of life and being swept away forever. Okay, a bit dramatic, but why not volunteer, study, or learn abroad for a year?

Pros:

Let’s face it, very few incoming college freshmen know exactly what they “want to be when they grow up”. Even a good portion of graduating college seniors haven’t made much progress in that department. The diversity of opportunities in the job market are only growing, so how do you decide what you’ll dedicate your life to? A gap year abroad gives you some extra time to decide and can expose you to some options abroad that you never knew existed. 

Cons:

If you’re college bound and have already accepted offered, you might not always be able to pull off a deferment to attend the following year. Be familiar with your preferred universities’ policies and what scholarships you might be able to secure after coming back from your gap year abroad. 

Suggested programs:

[Need program advice? We’ve got your back.]

Achieve fluency with language immersion programs.

Chinese women chatting at an orange vendor
Learn to barter like a pro with your new mad language skills.

We all start learning our first language (even second or third) through immersion, soaking in the words whizzing around us and unconsciously decoding grammar patterns that we pick up on over time as we grow. Why should learning a new language be any different? Being able to practice a language outside of class allows you to solidify your gains and gather a knowledge of slang and colloquial speech that you simply can’t learn in a classroom. Obtain a language from the source and use every opportunity to practice!

Pros:

Regrettably, English speaking countries are, for the most part, not so big on bestowing the gift of foreign language fluency upon students starting at a young age. With a year or two of repeating verb conjugations in high school, there’s really no hope to become proficient in a language. High school travel programs for language immersion can catapult you into fluency and make up for lost time. 

Cons:

In language immersion programs with many other English speaking participants, English could become a default crutch to communicate with your new friends. Look for programs that make a point out of immersion, such as ones that accommodate participants in homestays and have rules in place to only speak the target language. 

Suggested programs:

Discover your inner Tarzan with adventure travel.

Girl watching hot air balloons
Staying in shape while traveling has never been easier when you have to hike up mountains for a view.

...and we don’t mean go discover how you were raised by gorillas in a secluded jungle. Burning off some energy in nature in a remote corner of the world is definitely a tempting venture, and adventure high school travel programs can make all the magic happen in a safe environment. Learning to surf, white water rafting, and tearing up snow on the slopes are just some of the exhilarating activities you can do. Apart from a colorful spectrum of world cultures to explore, every earthly landscape is just begging to be appreciated. 

Pros:

Many adventure programs involve overlapping components from other types of high school travel programs, such as language immersion and homestays. This double, triple, or even quadruple whammy of perks means that you’ll grow in tons of different ways. There’s no FOMO over not experiencing the other types of travel, because you can get a taste of it all.

Cons:

A short-term program means a packed itinerary that will constantly have your body and mind entertained. There’s no time to feel under the weather or a little lazy, because you might end up missing out on half the fun.

Suggested programs:

[Use MyGoAbroad to simplify choosing your program]

Taste the local culture through experiential learning.

Ruins in Rome, Italy
When in Rome…? Experience it for yourself.

Make your travel destination a living museum by seeing culture and decades-old traditions unfold first hand. Experiential learning is like sightseeing to the extreme, allowing you to learn through all five of your senses. Taste legendary Swiss chocolate for yourself or listen to the thumping beats of Japanese taiko drummers in village festivals as you take an in-person journey through a different way of life.

Pros:

Experiential learning gives a huge blow of concentrated cultural enlightenment in a condensed few week period, leaving you shellshocked (in a good way) for life. This kind of high school travel program is perfect for those only having a limited amount to work with,  but still wanting to experience a substantial part of a culture. 

Cons:

A jam-packed, structured itinerary can be a double-edged sword. One the one hand, you are constantly involved in activities and learning something around every street corner and at every meal. However, not every thing on the menu may be to your liking. A strictly planned program can mean there are some activities that you quite frankly couldn’t care for at all. 

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Gain an adopted family on a homestay.

Street in Guatemala
Stop wondering what it would have been like to have a different family and opt for a homestay.

The quickest way to immerse yourself in a new country and lay down roots that you’ll be able to nourish and revisit for life is to live with a host family. Not only do you get instant access to the inner workings of a culture through family life, you also get the added benefit of an entire network of extended family, neighbors, and friends of your homestay hosts. Take the jump straight into the heart of a new culture, and opt to be an honorary member of a family abroad that will inevitably become a second family. Who says you can’t choose family?

Pros:

Learning about a culture through a homestay is about as organic as immersion comes. Participating in community events, family birthday parties, and everyday conversations at the dinner table are invaluable moments that will give you the insider’s perspective. Other housing options can be isolating or leave you feeling like you’re an outsider no matter what cultural activities you take part in. 

Cons:

Homestay experiences vary dramatically between countries and individual host families. Even within the same community, families can function very differently so it’s nearly impossible to predict how your homestay experience will go. The bottom line is to remember a few ground rules for living with strangers, namely to always stay respectful and abide to the household’s rules, no matter how strict they may seem.

Suggested programs:

There you have it! Our fave high school travel programs

It’s never too early to kickstart your global career and forge international relationships left and right. High school travel programs facilitate experiences with the perfect recipe of fun, learning, and guidance to steer you in the direction of cross-cultural understanding and language acquisition. An adventure abroad will ripen you up for your next life chapter and equip you with valuable lessons to apply to the way you see the world. 

Make a shortlist of programs to show your parents here <3