Itching to travel, but still in high school? Looking for ways to get to the top of that pile of admission essays at your dream university? Explore your options through student exchange programs for high school students.
Escape the bubble of AP classes, pep rallies, and humdrum locker room talk and start learning about life and about yourself in the real world. It’s time you to explore what an exchange program in high school can do for you.
Signing up for an exchange student program abroad will change your life. And trust me, high school exchange programs are way better than the movies! You will discover how other teenagers around the world learn, think, and play. If you’re trying to learn Spanish, you’ll learn much more than your average “¿Dónde está la biblioteca?” if you actually live in a Spanish-speaking country. You’ll also learn what the buzzword "immersion" really means.
Before signing up for student exchange programs...
First things first, where do you want to study abroad? Do you want to study in an industrialized or developing country? Do you want to go to schools where English is the native language or are you feeling more adventurous? How long do you want to study abroad? Two weeks, a semester, or (gasp) a whole year? Do you want to earn transferable credit during your time abroad?
If you’ve never traveled alone before, maybe you should check out how much support each program offers. Do they offer 24/7 help in your native language? Do they help with visas and offer orientation before and during the program? Are they easy to get a hold of if you have an emergency? Does the program encourage meaningful travel that will allow you to connect more deeply with the people and culture? Does the program have good ratings?
Top notch high school exchange programs
Ready to dive in? Here are eight stellar student exchange programs for college-bound teens.
1. High school exchange in Sydney, Australia with Campus Education Australia
Pack a brown bag with Vegemite sangers because you’re heading to Oz! Why not study in the land down under with Campus Education Australia (CEA)? This continent remains a popular destination for college-bound teens who want the exchange student experience without the hassle of learning a foreign language. When classes get too much, go walkabout on the weekends in the outback, in the cities, or along the coastline. Programs run all year round and last as short as nine weeks to as long as 12 months. Bonus: with CEA, you can choose your host family and the high school you want to go to!
2. Study abroad in France with AFS Intercultural Programs
Go to high school in France with AFS Intercultural Programs but think beyond Paris. France has so many places to explore: sprawling cities, small towns, and picturesque villages, from the Alps to the Mediterranean. Stay with a host family to pin down the je ne sais quoi that makes French people tick. For year-long and semester programs, students need to have at least one year of French.
3. Performing Arts Abroad Program to study musical theater in England
Work those jazz hands by signing up for a high school musical theater training program in London with Performing Arts Abroad. Take acting, singing, auditioning, dance, and stage combat classes in some of the West End’s most famous studios. Learn from the pros by workshopping with people who actually work in the theater district. Bonus: get a backstage tour and tickets to see at least three shows every week and perform for a top West End agent at the end of the program!
4. Do a high school exchange and volunteer in Costa Rica with Nacel International
Nacel International offers students the chance to live with a host family and help the environment at the same time. Study at a private high school that has its own INBio (Instituto Nacional de Biodiversidad) park! Transplant trees, work in the butterfly farm, and collect and prepare seeds. Note that this program is only available to high school students (13 to 17 years old) who have at least two years’ of Spanish language classes.
5. Spend a semester in the Andes and the Amazon with Where There Be Dragons
With Where There Be Dragons, you can combine travel, living rough with the locals, and education in two of the most fascinating countries on the South American continent: Bolivia and Peru. Spend three months in the mountains and the jungle soaking up español, developing leadership skills, and learning about real-life issues like environmental activism and social justice. Warning: this program will change your life forever.
6. Do a Youth for Understanding High School Exchange in Ghana
Sign up for an exchange student program in Ghana with A Youth for Understanding USA (YFU). Programs include year-long and semester academic programs with weekly community service programs with local organizations. Scholarship opportunities are also available. Programs can last from as little as five weeks to one year.
7. Learn Chinese in China with Go Abroad China
Struggling with Mandarin? Go Abroad China offers immersive language classes which include conversation with native speakers. Eat real Chinese food (think beyond kung pao chicken) with a host family and get a tutor for extra language support. You can choose from one-on-one programs to small group programs for beginners or more advanced students. GAC also lets you rest easy with round the clock support.
8. Travel the World with Think Global High School
Think Global School is a traveling high school where students can live and study in a different country each semester. Imagine getting schooled in four countries over one year! This is the perfect opportunity to study and apply what you’ve learned in the field. Locations include Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, China, Ecuador, India, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Tanzania, and the US.
Are you ready for student exchange programs?
Keep reading and arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to find the right exchange programs for you. We recommend you settle in with a cup of something warm and then click around on the following articles as you conduct your research:
- 7 Questions to Ask Before Choosing a High School Study Abroad Program
- Is Studying Abroad in High School Right for Me?
- Up & Coming Travel Destinations for High School Students
- Bookmark, compare, and select teen exchange programs with MyGoAbroad
And some light reading for your ‘rents:
- A Parent’s Guide to Choosing a Study Abroad Program
- How to Empower Your Kid to Have a Successful Experience Abroad
- The Inherent Risks of Study Abroad (and How to Prep for Them)
These student exchange programs are yours for the taking
Before you grab an exchange student program by the horns, take some time to choose a program that suits your needs. Check out 7 things that separate great high school study abroad programs from average/just meh programs. When you’re done with that, explore the rest of our website, reach out to different program providers, talk to program alumni, read unbiased program reviews, and compare programs side by side with MyGoAbroad!