Your teenage years mark a new era where the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” loses its lighthearted demeanor and becomes stressful. This is the perfect time to escape this anxiety-inducing question and go abroad! Uprooting from familiarity and venturing out to experience life in another culture will prompt revelations about yourself and the world as you know it. Outdoor education programs are daring, exciting, and call for boldness and enthusiasm that will invite you deeper into life. Mr. Adventure himself, Peter Pan, said, “To live would be an awfully big adventure.” Deploy your passions and embark on the outdoor adventure of a lifetime!
Why Participate in Outdoor Education
If you’ve ever traveled, then you’ve probably experienced the new lease on life you gain upon returning home. Outdoor education amplifies this and pushes you outside your comfort zone, putting those difficult upcoming life choices into perspective. You also may find dreams and desires rising to the surface that you never knew you had in you! Pondering these thoughts in the absence of the pressures and expectations of others is refreshing (to say the least).
High school students nowadays have easy access to a world of information through the internet. However, they still need to be guided through the process of discovery, so that a deeper understanding of their own place in the world can be established. When wanderlust grabs a hold of you and demands an adventure, it will not settle for an imitation. Physical activity, cultural interaction, and engagement with nature are the three staples of outdoor education programs and cannot be harmoniously found within the realm of your comfort zone. If that makes your heart race then keep reading; you’re in the right place.
Best Places for Outdoor Education
It may seem overwhelming to decide where you should go for your ourdoor education program in high school, but do not fear! There is undoubtedly a place out there that is tailored to fit your personality. Outdoor education programs usually move throughout several locations in a given region, allowing high schoolers to experience a number of different places and excursions.
Explored by horseback, foot, or kayak, Costa Rica is a tropical choose-your-own-adventure land where all trails lead to waterfalls. However, Costa Rica offers a suite of outdoor adventures for high school students in every shape and size. Rainforest hikes, rushing white water rapids, world class surfing, and the rush of a canopy zip line will definitely leave you in an sundazed siesta on the beach at the end of the day.
Mexico conjures up diverse, vivid dreams of adventure that come to life. If the chili-laden cuisine doesn’t set you on fire, the abundance of adventure sure will! With jungles, volcanoes, and a long coastline strung with sandy beaches and wildlife-rich lagoons, Mexico is an endless adventure for the senses and a place where life is lived largely in the open air. Spend your days hiking Oaxaca's mountain cloud forests, backpacking through the Mayan ruins, or snorkeling the warm Caribbean reefs.
Every country in the world displays diversity, but South Africa takes some beating. It sits at the southern end of the world’s most epic continent, with more types of terrain to explore than photographers can shake their zoom lens at. Trek the West MacDonnell Ranges, Climb Mount Sonder, or cruise the Okavango Delta in a dugout canoe while marveling the raw beauty of the country.
Types of High School Outdoor Education
High school outdoor education programs 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. Homestays are the norm and fluency in the local language isn’t usually necessary, but always a bonus! To begin your search, start to think about what kind of adventure is calling you.
Calling all extreme sports junkies! Looking to get your daily dose of adrenaline? Learn to surf or take your skills to the next level during surf and service programs. When you’re not surfing, work directly with local families helping to improve their homes and standard of living. Still craving more? You’ll also have the chance to go whitewater rafting and rappel down waterfalls.
Animal lovers and tree huggers unite! If you frequently find yourself lecturing your friends about the benefits of recycling and vegetarianism, take a gander at some environmental conservation programs. Keen to learn how to identify key fish and coral species, and how to conduct reef-based research? Learn first-hand about the issues facing marine ecosystems while earning your PADI Advanced Open Water qualification. Students will gain insight into global volunteering to enrich their knowledge of the world they live in and contribute to long-term conservation projects.
If you prefer land to sea, opt for a wildlife awareness program; grow your passion for conservation and discovering nature untouched by adventuring through national parks. Students can learn to identify and track animals, survive in the wild, and navigate by the stars in the protected areas of the country. Kick-start your conservation career and grasp the opportunity to make a difference and contribute to these exciting projects! During your free time you can join in on activities like horseback riding, biking, and whitewater rafting.
More of a people-person? If you think Mother Earth is a great gal but would rather work with people, quench your thirst for adventure by helping communities in need. Volunteer to help impoverished women and children in a refugee centers. Assist in teaching sustainable skills that will help them survive and succeed in the future. You will also alleviate the social injustices faced by the children through alternative and after-school programs.
Benefits of Outdoor Education Programs
Character Building. The moment in which you realize that Spanish has a life beyond your high school textbook or when you participate in the inevitable awkward dinner conversation with your host family, that is where you earn your stripes. These character-building experiences bring out the best and worst in all of us and teach us so much.
Growth. At an age where fostering independence and personal growth is key, traveling is a real catalyst. Whether it’s learning how to navigate public transit or figuring out how to converse in another language, venturing abroad is the kind of experience that you just can’t help but grow from. You will undoubtedly return home a more confident and fulfilled person after an adventure abroad; there isn’t a parent in the world that doesn’t want this for their teenager!
Mad Skillz. Forming a sense of global awareness during your formative years will result in many transferable skills that will remain with you for life. Companies cannot find enough applicants with the requisite skills to operate in an international market place. This indicates that individuals who foster global awareness will be rewarded with a college application fast tracked for early admission or maybe a resume bumped to the top of the list.
The Parental Signature. Convincing your parents you won’t be starring in the next Taken movie may be your biggest challenge of all. One critical step required before you can start packing your bags is gaining Mom and Dad's blessing (and financial support). Do your homework and provide them with as much information as possible, especially with regards to your personal safety. Before you do so, finish your chores and remember to tell them you love them. May the odds be ever in your favor!
Resist your tendency to search for the easiest route through high school. What makes your heart race, your blood pump, and your spirit soar? The road most traveled can keep you safe, but can also be detrimental. Don’t stay on that path just because it’s convenient; experience is the best of teachers. Make the decision to travel meaningfully and adventurously!