Traveling abroad can be scary - even for fully grown adults. Nobody would blame a high school student for feeling a bit nervous about the idea of studying abroad.
But you really should consider it. While studying abroad can be fun at any point in life, it can be especially fun during high school. Why? Because you get to explore your independence, say goodbye to the norm (at least for a little while), and say hello to new ideas and insights about what you would like to do in life after high school.
Another major advantage of doing so at this stage in your life is that you’ll have a safety net. Nobody is just going to throw you, a young person, into a new country and expect you to survive on your own. Programs normally place you with a host family, so you’ll have a homely set-up to come home to at the end of the day. There are other checks and balances in place to ensure you are taken care of and prepared for any challenges that may arise, including emergencies.
You'll Find Out if You Enjoy Being Far from Home
It’s a reality of life that you’ll (probably) leave home one day and move away from your parents. While some students opt to attend college near their hometown, others prefer to go much further afield, perhaps to another state or the opposite side of the country.
Studying abroad in high school can be a way to figure out whether you thrive in an unfamiliar environment. If you choose a shorter program (such as a summer camp) rather than a long-term one (like the whole year) you have the safety of knowing that you’ll get to go home soon if you are homesick.
You Can Learn a New Language
Knowing a second language is a great skill, and can be useful in so many ways. It’s best to learn languages while you’re still young and your mind is flexible, and immersion through studying abroad is a great way to improve language skills - or to pick up new ones.
Whether you choose to study abroad and learn a common international language like German, French, or Arabic, or something a little more niche like Polish, Thai, or Maori, learning a new language through a high school study abroad experience will open up new worlds.
Learning another language boosts high school students' cognitive skills, increases achievement in other academic areas and produces higher standardized scores. It gives high school students a competitive advantage for colleges and employment, and is key to truly learning about another culture and its people.
You Can Practice Independence
Studying abroad in high school can allow you to experience independence in a new and exciting way. One of the wonderful things about a high school study abroad program is that it can allow you to be more independent. Yes, you will still have school; yes, you will still “belong” to a family; yes, you will still have responsibilities; but you will be on your own and away from your family of origin. This can allow for an interesting and free exploration of who you really are and want to be.
Experience New Cultures
Studying abroad can expose you to new and interesting ideas! There are few things in the world that provide better insights than new cultures, different types of people, and challenging and rewarding experiences. High school study abroad programs provide great opportunities for mental insights, transformation, and growth.
Your communication, cultural awareness, acceptance of difference, the ability to see values and behaviours as cultural, instead of universal, and the ability to truly be a global citizen can all be developed. This also includes awareness of difference, the importance of different cultural values, and adaptability to change.
You’ve no doubt heard that travel broadens your mind. But studying abroad while you’re still young, in high school, exposes you to much more than just surface differences. You’ll see how young people in other countries live and study, you’ll learn about their interests and priorities, and you’ll realize that, while life throughout the world certainly is different, there are also many similarities that unite people.
There’s nothing like experiencing this for yourself. You'll learn that while the world is really big, it's also surprisingly small. You will be able to not only live anywhere, but thrive anywhere—able to handle problems large and small with a degree of self-confidence that can only be gained through experience.
See the Sort of Person You Can Become
Studying abroad makes you an even more interesting person. Sure, you’re already very interesting, but spending a semester or year of high school abroad can make you even more interesting! By spending time abroad, you can become a more compassionate, engaging, and confident person. The experiences you’ll have and the things you’ll see will change and enhance who you are in the most wonderful ways!
Perhaps you’ve travelled a bit with your parents and enjoy going on vacation. Well, if you study abroad in high school you’ll learn what it’s like to travel beyond being a tourist.
Going to classes, learning a new language or dialect of English, and fitting in with everyday life in a foreign place is far different from being a tourist. And it’s just as exciting, if not more so, because you learn about a place much more deeply than if you’re just touring the must-see sights.
You’ll Understand Your Path in Life Far Better
Studying abroad can help you identify your passions and interests. Figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life can be incredibly difficult. If you’re a senior in high school, it can be even more difficult as you try to determine what to do with your life after high school. Study abroad programs for high school seniors grant seniors an opportunity to discover and explore new and exciting interests, passions, and potential career or educational paths.
There are so many exciting things you can study at college; it can be hard to narrow down your options. One way of doing so is to study abroad and see what catches your fancy.
Perhaps you excel at art, or are really fascinated by different styles of architecture; maybe you love how math and science break through language barriers, or learn about new environmental conservation practices abroad. Your future studies - and career path - may reveal itself in unexpected ways while studying abroad during high school.
Get a Head Start in Developing Your Career
Learning a language, ways that other cultures work, and flexibility are all key components in today’s global workforce. Life skills learned while studying, volunteering, or interning abroad transfer well to the workplace. In addition, students can gain financial and business experience by crowd-sourcing or fundraising for their international experience, and grant-writing skills by applying for high school scholarships. Employers want to hire employees with a flexible way of thinking, international work experience, collaboration skills, language skills, and the ability to respond well in different situations.
Having international experience and global competence will not only make students more employable, but will enhance everything about their learning and work environments now and in the future - from better grades to more interest in global events and cultures to motivation to work harder, learn more, and travel extensively.
You'll Make New Friends Around the World
Who doesn’t want to make cool new friends? And there’s perhaps nothing cooler than having friends in foreign places. Friendships that you form in your younger years have the tendency to be deep and strong. If you study abroad in high school, chances are you’ll make friends for life.
These sorts of connections can also help you down the path of life. The more people you know, the more likely it is someone can extend a helping hand when you’ll need it most.
Improve Your College Application
Studying abroad looks great on a college application. Colleges love to know that students are well-rounded, mature, studious, and dynamic. Seeing that you’ve completed a semester or year of high school abroad communicates to colleges that you’re exactly the type of student they’re looking for.
It's a challenging market -- today's high school students must find ways to stand out in college application pools that are overflowing with qualified students. Admissions officers at top universities and colleges attest to the School Year Abroad advantage. Studying abroad is widely-known to produce exceptional high school students who are mature, informed, disciplined and well-adjusted to functioning away from the comforts of home. Often times the college essay is based on an aspect of the study abroad experience, and that essay makes all the difference.
For most people, going away to college is the first test of whether you have what it takes to look after yourself. Sure, the majority of people end up swimming eventually, but there might be a bit of sinking first.
Do you want to be that kid in the college dorm who doesn’t know how to fry an egg or change his bed sheets? Probably not. To help you figure out how capable you are of taking care of yourself, studying abroad in high school is a good option. You’ll figure out just what you’re capable of, and learn valuable self-care skills while having fun. Studying abroad is also a well-structured way to learn these life lessons - as opposed to traveling, where you might be out on your own without the support of program organizers, teachers, and classmates to help you succeed.
Studying abroad is fun and challenging! So many of us learn and grow in the best of ways through challenges. When you spend part of high school studying abroad, you have the opportunity to grow and expand through challenges while still having fun! Facing challenges while having fun will make you better equipped to handle life’s many challenges.
Have a Better Education and Overall Experience
Studying abroad makes education more interesting, especially if you connect your studies to your program. Why not study Egyptology in Cairo or Japanese literature in Tokyo? Bring education to life by studying abroad in places connected to your studies.
Maybe you haven’t given your resume much thought yet, but you’ll increasingly be asked about it as you grow up and go to college, and then move into the workforce. Rather than be impressed by which school you went to or your individual subject grades, many colleges and would-be employers are impressed by experiences that set you apart and show that you have initiative.
It doesn’t matter whether you study abroad in Taiwan or Ireland, being able to demonstrate that you are flexible, open-minded, adventurous, and creative is a major plus. Studying abroad in high school shows that you have these desirable qualities.
Traveling abroad has the potential to open your mind and present new opportunities. There's no good reason why you have to wait until adulthood to reap these rewards! Studying abroad in high school might just change your life, so what are you waiting for?
You'll Better Appreciate Life at Home
It’s normal to feel that the place you grew up is not all that exciting (even if it would be to an outsider!) Studying abroad can help you appreciate everything you have at home.
That’s not to say that living abroad is worse - not at all! But perhaps you had never appreciated the national parks near your hometown until you studied abroad in a massive city. Perhaps you didn’t appreciate your mother’s home cooking until you lived with a family too busy to cook at home… you get the picture!
Lastly, studying abroad in high school can be a load of fun! Let’s face it: high school isn’t always the most fun. Studying abroad, however, is! New faces, new perspectives, new experiences, and new lifestyles all await you in high school study abroad programs.