High School Programs in South America

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A Guide to High School Programs Abroad in South America

The twelve countries of South America present an invaluable opportunity for high school students to appreciate and embrace another culture amid vibrant and hospitable locals. Though the entire region boasts a proud heritage, passion for rhythm, and numerous pristine landscapes, each culture reflects its own storied past and brings a unique experience to the table. Whether enhancing academics, expanding language skills, or pursuing a cultural adventure, a high school program in South America is sure to leave a lasting impact on any high school student.


While high school programs can be found in the majority of South American countries, the five most popular destinations, offering the widest variety of options, include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru.

Argentina. Pristine forests, waterfalls, wetlands, salt flats, and the infamous Patagonian peaks are just a few of the awe-inspiring natural wonders of Argentina. Not to be outdone, Argentina’s city life will likewise impress students, most notably via high school programs in the capital city of Buenos Aires. With all its bases covered, Argentina offers the full package no matter which type of high school program students choose to pursue. It’s no wonder Argentina remains one of the most popular countries for high school programs in South America, as students are sure to find endless opportunities for growth, adventure, and the experience of a lifetime.

Brazil. Students who are seeking a Latin American experience, but are not completely sold on learning Spanish, will be thrilled to spend their summer or semester abroad in Portuguese-speaking Brazil. Home to nearly half the continent’s total size, in both landmass and population, Brazil has much to offer, including an incredibly biodiverse ecosystem unrivaled by any other collection of plant and animal species worldwide. Students will enjoy seeing the sites, learning to samba, and embracing the passionate people of Brazil during any high school program here.

Chile isn’t one to be second best for anything it seems, boasting nature on a colossal scale, the most prosperous economy of South America, and crazy good vibes (buena onda) to boot. Chile is one destination that is sure to give other South American contenders a run for their money! Whether exploring with new friends or unwinding over a round of maté tea, students will learn to enjoy the journey and expand their horizons during high school programs in Chile.

Ecuador. This treasure of a country makes for an ideal destination for students who fantasize about walking down cobblestone streets past 17th century churches, amid Spanish colonial architecture. The generous, kind-hearted natives will ensure high school students feel right at home in a country where volcanic islands, sunny beaches, Andean peaks, and the exotic Amazon rainforest present endless exploration opportunities within close reach.

Peru. Incredible Inca ruins are not Peru’s only claim to fame, high school student foodie’s will revel in the eclectic, tasteful cuisine, which brings international attention to this desirable destination frequently. Students can trek the Inca trail, immerse in village life, or help those less fortunate during a high school program in Peru. High school students won’t fail to be impacted by the history and colorful natives of this fascinating country either.

High School Programs in South America

Academic, outgoing, and outdoorsy students alike will find a high school program in South America to fit their personality and goals in going abroad.

Study Abroad. High school students primarily interested in boosting their academics will most benefit from student exchange programs in South America. Students who choose this route will have the opportunity to take classes directly at local private or public high schools. Living and learning alongside local peers will provide high school students with an unparalleled opportunity for complete cultural immersion and language skill development. Students concerned about lengthy commitments or missing classes back home may opt for shorter summer stints, while those seeking to directly supplement their academic courses may choose to complete a semester or year-long exchange program in South America.

Cultural Immersion. Students interested in experiencing a new culture, but not necessarily partaking in structured schooling, may lean more toward cultural immersion-focused programs in South America. While language classes are often included in cultural immersion programs, the time spent in a classroom is much more limited, as additional activities generally take place during afternoons. Depending on their individual areas of interests, students have the option to choose from a range of programs which offer a variety of cultural or service-based activities, such as tours, outings, or volunteer opportunities with children, animals, construction, or conservation projects. The duration of immersion programs is typically shorter than study abroad programs, but these programs can still last up to several months.

Adventure Travel. Outdoorsy, nature-loving high school students will most likely enjoy adventure travel programs in South America. Adventure-focused high school programs in South America will still be supervised and have scheduled itineraries that lead students to various locations throughout their country of choice. With little classroom action, students will spend most of their time exploring the country first hand by performing a range of activities, including anything from kayaking and trekking in the Andes to surfing the Pacific or horseback riding in Patagonia. Compared to cultural immersion programs, which run regularly throughout the year, and study abroad programs which are based on the academic calendar, adventure travel programs usually have specific, pre-set start and end dates. 

Scholarships & Costs

As a whole, the countries encompassed by South America are economic destinations, with an average cost of living lower than that of North America and Europe. High school program costs will vary depending on the type of program students choose to participate in and the resources they decide to utilize. Generally speaking, upfront fees paid to partake in a high school program abroad in South America will include basic amenities such as: 

  • Accommodation
  • Some meals
  • Transportation to and from the airport (not including airfare)
  • Pre-departure orientation and in-country support

Scholarship options and eligibility will likewise depend on the type of high school program students will be participating in. Study abroad programs are the most common program that offers financial aid for students, which can usually be applied for on their own, through their home school, or through their specific student exchange program. Students should always check with their specific provider for available financial aid options and to find out steps they can take to take full advantage of fundraising opportunities.

Accommodation & Visas

Homestays are by far the most common form of accommodation provided by high school programs in South America for a number of reasons. Not only are they a source of home-away-from-home comfort for students venturing abroad by themselves for the first time, but living with a host family is an extremely beneficial language-learning tool and often provides yummy, authentic home-cooked meals! There are a few exceptions to the homestay monopoly, including certain adventure trips, where accommodation types may vary, and select programs that may involve communal student housing.

Visa requirements for students participating in high school programs in South America are generally pretty lax. In many cases, the only requirement to enter a country in South America will be a passport valid for six months beyond the length of your stay. If a visa is required, students can generally obtain a visitor visa upon arrival which will be valid for stays between 30 and 90 days, depending on each country’s regulations. In the few cases where extra measures need to be taken, like requirements to directly enroll in a local school system, your program provider will assist you with whatever steps are required.

Benefits & Challenges

Language Learning. Learning a foreign language is an indisputably beneficial skill. Spanish is the official language of most South American countries; although students may encounter Portuguese, Dutch, or French, be it spoken or taught, during high school programs in South America as well. Depending on your proficiency level in Spanish, the language barrier may prove to be challenging. However, thankfully, your time in South America will likely break down that barrier and put you well on your way to fluency in no time!

Pristine Landscape. South America hosts the largest river, longest mountain range, driest desert, largest rainforest, and highest commercially navigable lake in the world, and that is just the beginning! With a long list of natural wonders, high school students who choose South America will marvel at the pristine landscapes that makes up the region (and coinciding activities will be the cherry on top!).

Musical Life. With passionate people and sensual dance, music makes up a large part of life in South America. Whether it’s the salsa in Colombia, the samba in Brazil, the tango in Argentina, or Andean folk music, students can add some flavor to their high school program in South America by learning a bit of their host-country’s rhythm of choice.

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A Guide To
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