[VIDEO] Study Abroad in High School is LIT

by Published

We’ve got the tea on all things high school study abroad—and no, it’s not chamomile.

If you’re graduating high school in 2018, 2019, 2020, or 2021, then you need to kick your tail into gear and start planning your study abroad. Not only will it make your college apps lit, it will be a damn good time, too. You’ll grow, you’ll learn, your comfort zone will be pushed and shoved and stretched and reshaped. You’ll come back a stronger and better person, which is why we are so excited to answer ALL of your high school study abroad questions.

Put down your Othello homework and watch this. Our teen travel experts—Erin, Jovie, Gabriela, and Michael—are not only here to share the skinny on study abroad in high school, but also to help you find your OTP (one true program). 💖


High. School. Study. Abroad. Sounds pretty stuffy, huh? I don’t know, it doesn’t even really capture all of the amazing things that can happen when you take a few weeks to travel abroad as a teen. Maybe it should be called:

  • Ensuring Your Facebook Memories Will Never be Shameful 🙈 
  • Proving that All Travel Rom-coms Pale in Comparison to the REAL DEAL 😍
  • Making Future Travel-Buds For Life ✈️
  • Realizing How Hard Life Without Mom Doing My Laundry is 😳

Case in point, high school study abroad is a pretty awesome experience, and one we’d recommend to just about any teen with an eye towards the world. So we’re here to answer ALL of your FAQs about study abroad in high school, and tell you a little bit about our own experiences as modern globetrotters.

I’m Gabriela Comp, I’m graduating in 2020 and I went on a service learning trip to Ecuador for 11 days. Hi, I’m Michael, I graduated in 2017 and I traveled abroad to Brazil in high school. My name’s Maria Peden, I’m graduating in the year 2021 and I’ve been to 38 countries in Asia, Australia, North America, and Europe. I’m Erin and I spent the summer between my junior and senior year of high school in New Zealand.

Because if we can do it, you can do it too. Here’s our answers to all of your high school study abroad FAQs.

[We’ll do your homework for you—get matched with high school study abroad programs today!]

So, how do you FIND high school study abroad programs anyway?

We got a lot of stuff in the mail. A lot.  There were dozens of brochures, all with amazing photos that I was just DYING to take myself. I didn’t even know people still made catalogs? But here they were, stuffing our mailbox. And, I had a couple people come talk to us in class at my high school. They were really, really cool, and definitely inspired my wanderlust.

So, (then) we hit the interwebs!!!

Yeah, I went online and compared all of the different programs. I checked out their websites and—duh—their Instagram accounts. Once I started sifting through the bells and whistles, I really zeroed-in on some pretty awesome experiences. Reviews definitely helped me understand the differences and find *the one.* 

teens in school uniforms sitting on wall with laptops and phones

Ditch your uniform and upgrade your backpack—it’s time to study abroad!

What kinds of high school study abroad programs are there?

There are LOADS of awesome programs out there. I was almost overwhelmed by all of the options.

There’s teen volunteer abroad — great for understanding the complexities of the world, doing some good while and having some fun, while checking off those community service hours. Then there’s cultural immersion programs, which focus on getting you up close and personal with your host culture. Never thought you’d learn the haka? Think again! (I’m not super great at it…)

Language immersion programs, because, let’s face it, Seniorita Porta is awesome, but a couple hours of Spanish a week just isn’t gonna cut it. There are homestay programs, gap year programs, outdoor education programs full of trekking and camping. And, you can even find short term jobs abroad for teens.

But, I guess the program I did ended up being a little combo of all of these. When I was in Brazil in high school, I studied Portuguese everyday at a Portuguese language academy. My trip to Ecuador was a very rewarding volunteer trip that also allowed me to really enjoy myself. I’ve volunteered in Jamaica, Costa Rica, and the Philippines.

I did get to live with a homestay. I still keep in touch with my host family, they’re incredible, and I would really recommend opting into a program with a homestay option. Tu t'es bom!

[Save & compare high school study abroad programs with MyGoAbroad]

How long are high school study abroad programs?

Most of my friends travel in the summertime, especially if they, like, play basketball or do other extracurriculars.

Summer study abroad for high school students is a really awesome time to travel. You can go abroad for just a couple weeks in summer, you can take your whole summer. Usually, programs start in June and run through July or August. You’d have to double check though. And they go everywhere!

And, if you’re a super bad@$%, you can do a high school exchange or full year program where you’re actually enrolling in a foreign high school. These are pretty hardcore, but if you’re gungho to truly be immersed and live abroad, they’re probably the right path. I know I spent a summer abroad and I wish that I could’ve spent a semester or a whole year. 

How do you get your parents support?

Getting buy-in from your parents is prrreeeettttty essential when it comes to traveling as a teenager. So how do you actually do it?

  • Make an in-depth powerpoint presentation? (It sounds really nerdy, but it works! I did it.)
  • Write a formal letter? (Worked for me!)
  • Compile a list of your favorite celebrities and world leaders who ALSO studied abroad (ya know, like the pope).
  • Last, but not least. If all else fails you can always get on your hands and knees and...beg them.

No, in actuality, our best advice for getting mom and dad on board is to be transparent with your goals. Ok, wait—the first step is to actually have goals. And not like, frilly ones, like petting a koala or having a lit Snapchat.

(But let’s face it, that’s definitely going to happen).

But serious goals, like you want to check out this type of work as a potential career path. Show them how you plan to connect your travels to bigger picture goals.

We’re talkin’ ‘bout COLLEGE. COLLEGE! This is a great time to show them and tell them that having study abroad experience in high school looks DOPE on college applications. It basically writes your admissions essays for you!

It’s also important that you invite your parents into the planning process. They want to be involved and support you, so let ‘em! Because, you know, they’re your biggest fans. They want you to succeed and they want what’s best for you in life. 

[4 Template Letters to Convince Your Parents to Let You Study Abroad]

How do you pay for study abroad in high school?

My mom and dad definitely had to help me out. Shout out to Poppenheim [my dad] for helping me pay for my high school study abroad experience. YOU DA BEST! Well, for my trip, I used a FundMyTravel account, through which I raise $1,500 to pay for my airfare. 💰

Do you want to—and you should—apply for scholarships and grants. And, hopefully get some of that cold hard cash so it’s more affordable for you to go abroad!

girl smiling, taking selfie in front of purple flowers

Your selfie game is strong, sure, but what if it could be… stronger?

How did your friends and family feel about you going abroad as a teen?

Yeah. A lot. Yes. Almost everybody I meet. In fact, bragging is probably my favorite thing to do when I come back home from a trip.

It was pretty fun to surprise my family and friends with the news that I was going to travel. They all loved it and were super happy for me.

There were…My teachers, my parents, my friends’ parents, people from my church, guidance counselors, college advisors, employers—I can only assume future employers are going to be really stoked to see that I’ve had this experience—Steph Curry, college admissions recruiters, my volleyball coach, my piano teacher, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick-maker, my band director, my grandma, Kimmy Schmidt—actually, believe it or not, my uncle, (and) Barack-freaking-Obama. (I’m just kidding, I wish! Barack, if you’re watching this...I love you and I hope you’re impressed that I did study abroad in high school.)

What about FOMO? 

Pffffft. What about it?

I mean, okay. So, it is tough to be away from your friends for a whole summer and that was probably one of the hardest parts for me. But, it was still sooo worth it.

Studying abroad for a few weeks may feel like dog years in time away from friends, but it’s only a few weeks. Plus, not that you don’t have super cool friends, but like, you’ll survive without them and probably won’t miss them NEARLY as much as you think you will. (Sorry, Becky, it’s just true! Still luv u tho.)

And, FOMO is in all in your head! There’s going to be be plenty of things to do, and parking lots to hang out in, and Snapchat streaks to start over when you return. Plus… You can start NEW snapchat streaks with your study abroad buds! SNAPCHAT. STREAKS. ACROSS. OCEANS.

I did miss catching up with my friends all the time, but putting down my phone and just enjoying the trip was completely worth it. 

[Why I Wish I’d Studied Abroad in High School]

Here’s the Big Q— Would you study abroad in high school again?

ABSOLUTELY. I would absolutely do it again. In fact, I would sign back up in a heartbeat.

Yeah! I would do it again. It was awesome! I had a great time, learned a ton about Brazil and myself as a person. I’d recommend it to anyone. The memories I made and the experiences I had just can’t be had back home. It solidified so much of where I want to go and what I want to do with my life, and I wouldn’t have known that had I not studied abroad in high school. 

To summarize AKA the Spark Notes

It’s AWESOME! Do it. And, if you don’t do it you might regret it and it’s really not as scary as it sounds. It’s actually something I’m really passionate about, and want to inspire other people to go abroad— JUST. LIKE. YOU.

Next steps to study abroad in high school 

Now that we (hopefully) have you wanderlusting and ready to start planning your EPIC high school study abroad trip, here are some great tips and resources to help you do just that:

The world is ready and waiting for you— go out and experience a little bit of it already!

Close up of four teen girls walking with arms around each other

High school study abroad is a bond 4 LIFE.

5 awesome programs to help you study abroad in high school

Here are some high school student study abroad programs to inspire you and get you well on your way abroad.

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1. The Experiment in International Living (EIL)

With three to five week summer programs, the Experiment is all about connecting deeply and engaging meaningfully with your host culture, and the greater world at large. 

You’ll get to explore your host country through hands-on experiences in local communities and through the lens of a specific theme.

Want more?: Read EIL reviews | Visit their site

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2. SPI Study Abroad

SPI Study Abroad encourages students in spending their academic year abroad to enhance and develop lifelong skills while gaining global perspectives and learning another language. 

Your usual classroom takes a back seat to exciting activities around the city, conversations with locals, and weekend trips to places where history, art, and culture come to life.

Want more?: Read SPI Study Abroad reviews | Visit their site

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3. Putney Student Travel

Putney Student Travel’s range of summer programs are all about doing, not just seeing—having fun, getting off the beaten track, creating lifelong friendships, and having meaningful interactions with people we meet. The maturity, self-confidence, global perspective, and sensitivity towards others that you will develop comes from the close friendships, personal discovery, and the tremendous satisfaction of conquering new challenges.

Want more?: Read Putney Student Travel reviews | Visit their site

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4. Youth For Understanding

Youth For Understanding programs promote intercultural understanding, mutual respect, and social responsibility through study exchanges for youth, families, and communities. 

Their global network, consisting of partners in more than 70 countries, is united by the belief that full cultural immersion is the best way to gain skills needed to thrive in an increasingly multicultural, interconnected, and competitive world.

Want more?: Read Youth For Understanding reviews | Visit their site

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5. Travel For Teens

TFT believes that teen travel should be both enriching and fun, offering a full range of travel experiences that you can choose from to create your own ideal international experience. Their motto is "Travelers not Tourists," and the itineraries are designed to reflect this. While you’ll still have the opportunity to visit mainstream attractions, this program also provides insider opportunities and experiences, giving you the opportunity to explore the culture beyond the tourist perspective.

Want more?: Read Travel For Teens reviews | Visit their site

Extra thirsty? Check out this gap year program

6. Winterline Global Education

This gap year program is a skills-based program for anyone with an adventurous spirit and an interest in the world around them. Winterline believes that you will be much better prepared for college—and for life—if you take the time to explore a wide variety of interests and learn real-world skills. The global skills gap experience is specifically designed to help you discover what makes you tick, and what you want to do more of while our shorter programs our focused on more specific skills and countries.

Want more?: Read Winterline reviews | Visit their site

But like, seriously… do it. 

You really don’t have to take our word for it. Just sign up for a high school study abroad program and see for yourself. What...Scared it’s going to change your life? We dare you to find out.

Find high school study abroad programs