High School Study Abroad
While sitting in English class do you begin fantasizing about walking the same Prague streets that Kafka once walked? Do you long to see the beaches of Normandy as you learn about the battles that were fought there? Are you looking for new academic challenges? Do you want to broaden your horizons? If you’re excitedly answering “Yes!” to any of these questions, perhaps you should consider studying abroad...as a high school student!
Though studying abroad is more commonly pursued in college, it’s definitely not relegated to higher education alone. Indeed, there are a handful of study abroad opportunities that exist for high school students as well. Curious and ambitious teens can attend summer programs, study abroad for a semester or even an entire academic year. Of course, it’s essential to choose the length of time with which you and your family are most comfortable.
It’s also important to recognize that there are high school programs scattered throughout the world. If you’ve always been fascinated by the far east, you can consider studying in China or Japan. If you really want to achieve fluency in Spanish, think about living in Costa Rica or Spain. And if you’re passionate about Shakespeare or the politics of Winston Churchill, well then England is likely the country for you. Truly, the entire world is (potentially) at your fingertips!
Certainly, the types of programs available will vary. Some may have a volunteering component or ecological bent. Others might make a point of highlighting the art of particular country or region. Still others might be focused on language immersion. Additionally, some programs might help you to enroll in a local school while others provide instruction solely for their international students. The latter might have some classes taught by American teachers and some classes taught by local instructors. And you may learn math in English but have your history class taught in French.
Living situations can also differ among programs. Homestays are by far the most popular set-up. Students are frequently welcomed into the house of a local host family. This is a great way to both practice your language skills and get acclimated into the culture. Other programs might put you up in a dorm with other study abroad students. Or you could experience a combination of the two. Be sure to thoroughly research your housing options. You want to stay where you’ll be most comfortable.
You should never decide to study abroad simply in the hopes of impressing potential college admissions counselors. Do not enroll if you’re not excited about the possibility of exploring a new culture or prepared to face the challenges that come with living in a new country. However, that being said, a high school transcript that shows time spent abroad could very well help your application stand out. Admissions officers will likely be impressed that you had the wherewithal to seek out new opportunities and the maturity to trade the familiar comforts of home for new, exotic (and sometimes confounding) surroundings.
Of course, the benefits extend far beyond impressing colleges. There’s no question that study abroad will allow you to grow exponentially as a person. You’ll certainly be exposed to new situations and ideas. You will also gain a strong sense of independence and self-reliance. Moreover, you will also get a better understanding of both the politics and culture of your host country as well as a sharper idea of how Americans are viewed around the world. In short, you’ll make excellent strides at becoming a global citizen.
One final note - studying abroad is not necessarily an inexpensive endeavor, especially when compared to a public school education. However, just like with college, financial aid is often available for qualified applicants. If your dream is to study abroad, you can likely make that happen!