Why you should study abroad in high school
Have you ever found yourself sitting in Algebra class daydreaming about some far away exotic location? Don’t worry, you are not alone. We’re here to tell you that there is a way to escape those four familiar classroom walls. It’s a little thing called high school study abroad and IT’S BEAUTIFUL.
You should be warned—doing high school abroad has many dangers. The stories of catching diseases abroad and having your social life change when you return home are all too true. Afterall, who would want to catch the travel bug or make dozens of new long-distance, life-long friendships?! #travelbuds Sounds like something the crazy kids would do. You’ll be ruined for life, especially after tasting all the culinary delights in your new home that aren’t sold at your neighborhood supermarket…
Those who choose to take the plunge to change their lives can name countless reasons to study abroad in high school, even if you’re just considering a summer program or a high school semester abroad. If you’ve been asking yourself why spend your precious high school days abroad, take a seat and let’s have a chat.
1. You only do high school once
Think of high school study abroad as a yolo moment in your life. Sure, you can always repeat college, but once you get that high school diploma in hand, it’s a done deal. The days when you can live abroad as a minor, receiving a full menu of pampering, are numbered! Think carefully about how you’ll spend your summers or even a full year.
2. Escape responsibilities before you have responsibilities
Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to study abroad in high school is the lessened responsibilities you’ll have compared to later on in your life. Study abroad opportunities for high school students usually don’t impact your grades back home either. You can focus your energy on fully appreciating your language and cultural learning, rather than stressing about your GPA.
3. Think all-inclusive spa, but better
Whether you room with a host family or bunk in a dorm, the magic of high school study abroad programs is that you are very well taken care of. There’s no need to worry about your meals, transportation, or being left in the dark, because the younger you are, the more responsible your program provider will have to be. A host family will take you under its wing to ensure all your needs are met. A bonus is getting to practice your language skills day and night!
4. Gold star on college apps
How many young adults go into college with international experiences already under their belts? Not many. High school is the prime time to begin creating your blossoming resume and truly set yourself apart. You could even incorporate some pretty wild high school study abroad stories into your college personal statements that are completely unique to you.
5. Explore potential careers
The ability to explore a wide range of career prospects and try out new opportunities is another great reason why you should study abroad in high school. Many programs have built in options to volunteer or complete internships. Scrubbing a walrus or helping out in a medical clinic might just inspire you to become a marine biologist or doctor!
6. Mom’s nagging stays home
Truthfully, you might actually miss mom or dad a ton while away, but at least you’ll get a taste before you permanently move away from home. The same holds true for them! You won’t be hearing gasps as you inch toward a cliff edge or told nonstop to eat your veggies while you’re away. Doing high school abroad allows you to get a taste of “adulting” and figure things out on your own.
7. Test out a new family
Staying with a host family means a chance at a new family. Ever joked to your family about replacing them? Well, your wish has come true and it may be everything or nothing like you imaged. Host families come in all shapes and sizes. From elderly widows to families with several other children, you may be able to live your dream of being a spoiled only child or finally getting the little brother you always wanted.
[KEEP READING: 9 Hella Rad Homestay Programs for High School Students]
8. Appreciate what you DO have
It may be something as simple as a dryer machine, but experiencing life abroad can open your eyes to make you appreciate what you do have at home. Video games or smartphones aren’t a staple in every home around the world. Not everyone has room to fit a walk-in closet and storage containers galore. Doing high school abroad will enlighten you on how your new friends, family, and people in your host community go about their daily lives. Different doesn’t mean better or worse, it just highlights the little things in your life that you may have never thought about.
9. It can look a lot of different ways.
Just like there’s more than one way to make a sandwich (like, for real, no mayo, you sickos), there’s more than one way to have a meaningful experience abroad in high school. No matter where your interests lie, what you want to do, or where you want to go, there’s a great program out there just waiting for you to be part of it.
You’re wanting to make a difference in the world around you, beef up that resume for college applications, and have the time of your life. Who says you can’t have it all? With high school volunteer programs abroad, you get to learn new skills, contribute your own talents to a cause you care about, and immerse yourself in the community and culture you’re serving. Forget that weekly geography quiz, you’re learning FOR REAL now.
The same ol’ homeroom just isn’t going to cut it anymore. You want out of that mundane Jill-likes-Rob-but-Rob-likes-Samantha-but-Samantha-likes-Chris-who-likes-Jill tetrahedron of petty drama and selfies and pop quizzes. You want to take your learning experience out of your old classroom and into a new country! Jump ahead in the cafeteria line of life with a student exchange abroad. That way, once college applications do roll around, you’ll know exactly what you want to do and have the confidence to totally rock university life. Heck, you might even want to get your whole degree abroad after a semester student exchange!
Forget 42 minutes a day with Madame Michele, you want tout le pacquet! Language immersion programs are awesome because they incorporate intensive language learning with a homestay. For those of us less math-inclined, here’s what that looks like:
Homestay + Intensive language school in country + you = MAGNIFIQUE.
Take your language skills next level with a fully immersive experience abroad. Pretty soon any anxiety you had about arguing over dinner in French completely melts away like butter on a fresh baguette.
You don’t want the ‘rents breathing down your neck about assignments, college applications, and extra curriculars, but you still want a nice home-cooked meal and a nice family outing or two. Enter: Homestays. The perfect combo of independence and family fun! You get to live with a whole new family (holla at that built in support system) and really immerse yourself in local culture. You might have been tired of Dad’s jokes and Mom’s jeans, but now you’ll be craving Host Mom’s paella and your Host sister’s seriously awesome collection of eyeshadow palettes.
10. Get a reality check early
Maybe you’ve already sailed the seven seas and seen all five continents before you’ve hit high school. It’s also possible you’re a small town fella who hasn’t ventured out of state lines. No matter your background, getting out and living in a new part of the world among a whole new people and culture is a life learning experience. You’re guaranteed to never forget some of the smallest interactions you have with your new friends and family abroad.
Gaining knowledge about how others live and think first-hand is a humbling experience that not many people on Earth can say they’ve done. Doing high school abroad is a potent way to combat prejudices and stereotypes early.
A few amazing study abroad opportunities for high school students
From summer stints in Tuscany to year-long immersions in Kyoto, there are countless ways to spend your prime years overseas. These few high school study abroad programs are just the tip of the iceberg to get you thinking of all the thrilling things you could be doing!
YFU’s presence spans around the globe, with immersion programs offered in over 40 countries. For a summer, semester, or year you can live under the roof of a family somewhere else in the world, attend high school abroad, and truly experience life as a teenager in a different country. If you have a specific language or culture in mind that you’d like to explore first-hand, chances are YFU has probably got the opportunity already set up!
2. Sol Abroad
Do you have your high school study abroad sights set on a Spanish-speaking country? Sol Abroad has study abroad opportunities for high school students in Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain and other Latin American countries. Programs come packed with tons of resources to help you understand the culture and gain fluency in Spanish, including excursions, language classes, and cultural activities.
If you’re instead dead set on exploring the far eastern reaches of Asia, LanguBridge has some pretty sick ties to make that happen. With summer immersion programs in Japan, China, and South Korea, you can stay with a host family, get your mind blown by knowledge in classes, and make friends from all over ther world! These beefed up summer camps will beat the s’more filled campfire nights you may have grown up with.
For over 70 years AFS has created its reputation as a reliable international education organization in dozens of countries around the world. Spend anywhere from two weeks to a year expanding your mind as you do high school abroad. Depending on the program, you will either be paired up with a carefully screened host family or put up in a cozy dorm with other international students. Explore a vast array of international high school programs and get the ball rolling!
The Experiment in International Living sends high school students off on adventures of a lifetime for three to five week programs during summer. The focus in the Experiments’ high school study abroad programs is to promote a deeper understanding of local communities abroad through hands-on activities and cultural excursions. This organization has some pretty deep roots in the world of international education, and certainly has a way to prove it!
High school study abroad is the start of an internationally minded future
You smell that? It’s the smell of your high school days ticking away and inevitable graduation. Football games and homecoming dances are all fun and games until you realize you could be taking the London Tube to school everyday or being a part of a lantern festival in China. The world is only as small as you make it, so why limit yourself to a hometown bubble?
Take control of your future, and dare to be different!