High school, for many, is a period of concentrated self-development, a time where the realization begins to take place that there is a great big world around us. There is nothing that can put into perspective the challenges and successes of your own high school experience like going abroad. In uprooting from familiarity and venturing out to experience life in another culture, you will realize many valuable lessons about yourself and wherever it is that you call home. What are you waiting for? Start looking for the perfect high school program abroad now!
Step 1: Choose a Location
High school programs are available for international students all over the world. It may seem overwhelming to decide where you should go abroad, so here are some helpful factors that are important to consider.
First, the language barrier. While high school programs abroad don’t usually require students to be fluent in the local language, the ability to communicate with locals will make a major difference on the overall program experience. If you are in the process of learning a second language, such as Spanish, French, or Mandarin, you should seriously consider going abroad to a place where you can practice your language skills by conversing with locals daily.
Another factor to take into consideration is cultural difference. If you don’t have much travel experience or haven’t had very much exposure to other cultures in your life, you may be surprised (and even shocked) at how drastically different social norms can be across the world. It is important to be sensitive to cultural difference as you are developing a new appreciation for both the similarities and differences between your host country and your home country. Consider traveling somewhere very similar if you are a newbie traveler to avoid too much culture shock upon arrival, or if you are ready for a big challenge, take on a destination very culturally far from your own.
A third factor that will greatly influence the type of experience you have during your high school program abroad is whether you decide to travel to the developed or developing world. If you have grown up in an industrialized country, traveling to a less developed country is bound to exponentially increase the degree of culture shock you may experience (the same goes for traveling to an industrialized country from a developing country); this can be an incredibly valuable life-learning experience, so do not shy away from stepping outside of your comfort zone!
Some of the most popular locations for high school programs abroad include Australia, China, France, Spain, and Costa Rica. In the end, the most important factor to consider when deciding where to participate in a high school program abroad is quite simple; go to a country that excites and intrigues your intellectual curiosity! From South America to Africa to the Asia and everywhere in between, the world is at your doorstep!
Step 2: Select a Program
There are several different types of travel high school programs abroad to choose from. While specific programs will vary significantly in their structure and itinerary, here are the main types of programs available for high school students abroad.
High school study abroad programs are a great way to immerse yourself in one location while learning all about your surroundings through both coursework and extracurricular activities. Study abroad programs for high school students will often grant students academic credit, either at the high school or collegiate level, for a wide range of subjects. Students typically live in homestays, attend daily classes at either a local high school or university, and study for anywhere from two to eight weeks in high school study abroad programs.
Volunteer abroad programs for high school students are similar to study abroad programs in duration and accommodation options. But, the major difference is that students spend the majority of their time engaging with locals through a variety of community projects. Students can volunteer abroad in a wide array of placements, ranging from working at an orphanage in India to monitoring sea turtle populations in Costa Rica. It all depends on where you want to go and what you want to take away from the experience!
Language immersion programs are a third type of high school program abroad that is quite popular among students. If you are in the process of studying a language at your home school, you will be amazed how quickly and drastically your comprehension will improve by studying the language in its home country. Language immersion programs are similar to traditional study abroad programs in structure and duration, only courses and extracurricular activities are more exclusively oriented toward language acquisition.
The last major types of high school programs abroad are surround cultural exploration and/or adventure travel. These programs usually move throughout several locations in a given region, allowing students to experience a number of different places. High school programs focused on exploration are typically shorter, usually lasting only a few weeks, but include jam-packed itineraries with activities ranging from community service to lessons in cooking and dancing to group trekking. The activities you will participate in all depends on where you go!
Step 3: Seek Out Funding
High school programs abroad come in all shapes and sizes, and so do their price tags. Some organizations will advertise affordability as a main perk of their programs, while others will cost upwards of thousands of dollars, but include a range of inclusions.
Upfront program fees usually cover general expenses, such as transportation, housing, food, and tuition, for the duration of the trip. It’s important to explore a wide range of high school programs and providers, in order to get a good gauge of price ranges. Since high school programs abroad are constantly supervised and generally have stricter agendas, most on-the-ground costs are covered by up-front program fees (i.e. you will not have to worry about paying for rent or meals while actually in the country). Regardless of program fees, wherever you choose to travel to for your high school program abroad will obviously have an effect on how expensive the trip is; India will be far more affordable than Norway, for example.
Luckily, there are many resources to help students raise money to cover the costs of high school programs abroad. Some program providers will even have their own financial aid available. Any high school student can check out GoAbroad’s scholarship directory, which lists numerous external scholarship opportunities available for high school students who want to go abroad. Outside of scholarships, fundraising among family, friends, and at school is another great way to help make high school programs abroad a reality; you might be surprised by how much your community is willing to help out!
Step 4: Learn & Grow
Education Beyond the Classroom. Going abroad in high school will expose you to a valuable fact of life: education can take flight far beyond the walls of a classroom. Traveling will teach you a whole lot about the world that you could not learn from even the most prestigious academic institution.
Boost Your College Apps. For those planning on pursuing further education, having an experience abroad to include on your resume and write about in your college applications is another huge perk of high school programs abroad. Although this will come later down the line, it carries immense value nonetheless.
Build Perspective. Lastly, traveling the world will leave you with a refreshing outlook about just how big the world is, and how small many of your worries in high school are. You may be surprised by how small home feels upon your return!