High School Programs in Sri Lanka

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A Guide to High School Programs Abroad in Sri Lanka

“The Pearl of the Indian Ocean,” Sri Lanka, is an epitome of diversity. Between the Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians who’ve lived here, and the Portuguese, Dutch, and British who fought over its control, Sri Lanka is brimming with a wide palette of sounds and beliefs. European colonizers targeted Sri Lanka for its spices and gemstones, and now, visitors come to enjoy the spicy curry, beaches, elephant spotting, and more. High school programs in Sri Lanka will give students the chance to experience cool animals, chill out among cinnamon fields, and expand their education into an international context.


Sri Lanka is a small country, but it has a lot to take in. Until 2009, Sri Lanka was amidst a civil war that raged for nearly 30 years. Today, the government has stabilized and tourism is gradually booming. When it comes to high school in Sri Lanka, all you have to do is see what looks best to you and jump in, and you are sure to have plenty to discover!

As the commercial capital and largest city in the country, Colombo offers much to do. Tour the art and historical artifacts at the Colombo National Museum, walk near Beira Lake, or catch a game of cricket (the country’s most popular sport). One of the biggest pastimes here is to watch the Sri Lankan national team play; in fact, even businesses shut down for the latter special event. After a game, take a stroll along the Galle Face Green, a promenade along the Indian Ocean, or visit the Gangaranya Temple.

Negombo is a city with a no-frills vibe. Join the locals who walk in the tree-lined streets for shade in the noontime heat, admiring the colonial architecture as you stroll along. On the way to the beach, pass by sights of handicraft boutiques while smelling aroma of freshly caught fish. If you’re feeling adventurous, go on a fishing trip or go diving to explore a nearby 50-year-old shipwreck. After sightseeing, you’ll be hungry. Dig into some spicy curry and rice cooked in coconut milk; just watch out for sambols (pastes), made of scraped coconut mixed with chili peppers, dried fish, and lime juice.

How sweet would it be to visit Kandy, the island’s second-largest city? Major corporations and IT centers have branches here, and the city’s many program opportunities attract high schoolers seeking programs that involve teaching, legal work, and business. In your downtime, head to the Temple of the Tooth Relic; it’s not just a UNESCO world heritage site, it’s one of the most sacred places of worship and pilgrimage in the Buddhist world. If you decide to travel to Sri Lanka in August, check out the Esala Perahera Buddhist festival, during which decorated elephants and dancers parade through the streets.

High School Programs in Sri Lanka

Whether it’s elephants or Buddha that you want to chill with, Sri Lanka offers plenty of good company in a variety of high school programs. Just pick what sounds most interesting (or beneficial) and get studyin’!

Sri Lanka is an animal-lover’s dream, as it boasts the highest biodiversity density in Asia. A notable member of this diverse population is the Sri Lankan Elephant, which you can get up close and personal with through an elephant conservation project. High school students who decide to volunteer in Sri Lanka with elephants can help resolve human-elephant conflict by tracking elephants’ feeding and roaming patterns, conducting surveys, and teaching environmental sustainability in local communities.They say an elephant never forgets, but you’ll never forget that time in high school when you volunteered in Sri Lanka on an elephant conservation project.

After a hectic year of high school, going on a Buddhist meditation retreat is a relaxing (though surprisingly challenging!) opportunity in Sri Lanka. Seventy percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist, and many of them view silent meditation as a way to replenish their souls. Cultural exploration programs in Sri Lanka are a great way to enjoy your surroundings and not worry so much about those college admissions essays you’ll need to write. Not to mention that simple meditation skills will make you a more resilient traveler and student, so get om-ing!

There’s no better place to learn Sinhalese than in the country where it’s spoken. Intensive language courses last at least two weeks and include about 15 hours of class per week, and local language teachers adapt lessons to your interests and level. If you plan to work with a Sinhalese population in the future, you can’t go wrong with a crash course in the language.

Most high school programs in Sri Lanka don’t require students to speak Sinhalese, as English is a recognized language. All high school programs in Sri Lanka hire support staff to assist students throughout their stay and take safety measures very seriously. Since Sri Lanka typically undergoes two monsoon seasons a year, the best time to visit the west and south coasts and hill country is from December to March. If you’re headed for the east coast, visit from April to September. 

Always remember, joining a high school program in Sri Lanka, no matter which type you choose, will help you hone in on what makes you tick, setting you of for success in the future!

Scholarships & Costs

Unfortunately, there’s a price attached to basking in paradise and hanging out with some of the coolest cats in the world (while gaining valuable bullet points to insert into your future resume, of course). High school programs in Sri Lanka are worth every penny though, and there are options to help lessen the strain on your wallet; check out this list of scholarships or research fundraising opportunities to raise money for your trip. 

Rampant inflation over recent years means that Sri Lanka isn’t as cheap to enjoy as it has been in the past, but prices are comparable to those in other Southeast Asian nations. Staying on the beach in a cheap cabana and grabbing food in budget cafés will run you about $20 a day. One thing you should know before venturing off on your own in your free time is that tourists will be charged more to enter archeological sites and national parks. For example, a day-ticket to Sigiriya, an ancient rock fortress, costs around $30 for foreigners and about 25 cents for locals. 

Sri Lanka is an affordable country to travel within, but getting there is another story. Most high school programs in Sri Lanka don’t include flights in packaged program costs, making program participation fairly expensive. Also, high school programs in Sri Lanka with more hotel stays and travel between different sites will usually be pricier. So what do program fees include? High school programs in Sri Lanka usually include housing, on site transportation, and meals for participants for the duration of their stay. 

Accommodation & Visas

There are many options as to your future bedroom layout. Regardless of the composition that most appeals to you, rest assured that staff and past participants have all vetted the accommodations to make sure that high schoolers have safe, comfy places to crash.

During most high school programs in Sri Lanka, students will stay either with host families, in dorms, or in hotels, depending on how mobile the program is. If you choose to stay with a local host family you’ll get to practice a new language and enjoy a lot of great homemade food (they might also be able to smuggle you into a few native fares, if you get really lucky). For a higher degree of social independence, opt for a dormitory arrangement, where you will be sharing close living quarters with your fellow program buddies. This is a great option if you enjoy company but also value the possibility of hopping out and enjoying a Sri Lankan sunset all to yourself from time to time.

Regardless of nationality, you will need to get a visa to travel to Sri Lanka. Most high school programs in Sri Lanka don’t include visa fees in packaged costs, but they will coach you through the process. Refer to GoAbroad’s Embassy Directory to be best informed on requirements for visas.

Benefits & Challenges

Since this is a small country, the distances in between the beaches, ruins, and wildlife reserves are minimal. It will be easier to explore an entire country without being overwhelmed by options while still having enough to see. The short distances between cities will also keep out-of-pocket travel costs low. A bus ride from one end of the island to the other will set you back only $20. 

Communication might be a bit trickier to master than exploring the country. You might not be used to the ways in which people express themselves. In Sri Lanka, when someone shakes their head from side to side with a slight wiggle, they aren’t saying “no” to you, but “yes.” Getting used to the language will be an adjustment. If you’re frustrated with the language, but want to get a good laugh out of the locals, say ella kiri (pronounced ala-ki-ri) to them as much as you can. It means “awesome”, but translates literally to “cow’s milk”. You can thank us later for that tip.

After your high school program in Sri Lanka, you’ll think of cultural diversity and biodiversity in new ways. Signing up for a high school program in Sri Lanka will be a great history lesson as you’ll learn how the past, present, and future of a country is shaped by its people and their customs. Become a part of the adventure.

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