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Should You Study Abroad in High School?

You may think that studying abroad is reserved for college students, and it certainly is a popular option for students in any major. But if you have the urge to expand your horizons and see what life is like outside of your hometown, then high school study abroad programs might be the solution!


Can High School Students Study Abroad?


The short answer: yes! There are hundreds of programs that give high school students the opportunity to study in many of the same countries that college students typically visit. Because you’re in high school, these programs focus on giving you a solid educational foundation and often include a language or cultural immersion component.


However, the trickier part of studying abroad in high school has much to do with adapting your aspirations to fit your school’s requirements. Once you have your parents’ approval, you’ll need to check in with your high school counselor and make sure that you understand how studying abroad will impact your current high school experience.


If studying abroad isn’t common in your high school, your counselor might be surprised or unsure of its feasibility. Make sure to do your research including your school district’s graduation requirements, how international credits would transfer, and the reputability of the program to which you are applying. Many programs will help you work with your counselor to make sure your global education satisfies local requirements, but you’ll need to be persistent to make sure that everything is taken care of.


Once you have worked out the details with your counselor, you can study abroad knowing that you’re going to have the experience of a lifetime and graduate with the rest of your peers!

Benefits of Studying Abroad

The benefits of studying abroad in high school aren’t drastically different from the benefits you’d receive while in college, but you get to experience them at an earlier point in your life. Here are just some of the key benefits of studying abroad:


Language and cultural immersion. There’s no doubt that one of the exciting perks of studying in another country is that, unlike a vacation, you spend time living like a local. You learn the unique customs of different places directly from its inhabitants, and you can strengthen your foreign language skills as well as develop sensitivity toward other cultures and ways of life.


Develop independence and resilience. In addition to the cultural education you receive, you’ll develop crucial skills around resilience, independence, and responsibility. While you’ll often have a host family and program advisors looking out for you while you’re abroad, it’s not the same as being able to rely on your parents and siblings. You’ll need to navigate transportation, help with chores, and communicate in a foreign environment, often on your own.


Strengthen your resume or portfolio. We can’t deny that high school study abroads are a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other applicants, whether in college admissions or even job interviews. With the soft skills you’ll learn and the impressive life experiences you’ll have, you’ll be able to show that your perspective is different than the typical high school student’s.


Drawbacks of Studying Abroad


Although studying abroad offers so many benefits, it may not be for everyone. You’ll want to carefully consider these factors before you decide if a study abroad program is right for you:


Culture shock and homesickness. While you can minimize your chances of culture shock by learning as much about your study abroad home before you go, homesickness can hit when you least expect it. It tends to hit after the initial excitement of being in a new place has worn off, and once it does, the emotional shock of it can make you think you’re not cut out for studying abroad. It’s important to have access to resources, such as counselors, who understand what you’re dealing with so you can fully enjoy and appreciate your study abroad experience.


Financial burden. Many study abroad programs come with a significant price tag, although some offer scholarships and ways to make the experience more affordable. Pay close attention to what’s included in the program, and note how much you’ll need for spending cash outside of the program costs. If a semester long program is too much, summer programs can be more cost-effective, although they are also shorter.


General travel risks. It would be irresponsible to pretend that there aren’t risks with going to another country, but these risks are no different from traveling in general. To minimize your risks, start by looking up the country you’re interested in the U.S. Department of State’s International Travel guide to make sure you know where the U.S. embassy or consulate is, research the national emergency numbers (like 911), and plan for scenarios such as losing your phone or your wallet.

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Study Abroad Programs for High School Students


There are plenty of study abroad programs for high school students that focus on summer opportunities, and these organizations include summer options for students who want less of a time commitment or have less experience travelling internationally. However, we’re focusing on programs that will allow you to study abroad for a trimester, semester or even full academic year during high school.


1. Go Abroad China High School Study Abroad

This language immersion program is designed to take your Chinese ability to the next level. Whether you are a beginner or have completed several years of Chinese, Go Abroad China has programming geared towards your needs. You’ll get to stay with a host family, go on enriching field trips to historic and tourist sites, and learn directly from native Chinese speakers at a Chinese university or GAC language school.


2. Quest Exchange Australia

If you want to experience high school in another country but aren’t necessarily looking for language immersion, then studying abroad in Australia is the perfect choice. You can choose to spend a semester or a full academic year in Australia, where you’ll stay with a host family and experience life down under. Note: Australia’s school year starts in January and ends in November, and the seasons are reversed (it’s in the southern hemisphere, after all!).


3. CIEE Spain

Spanish is probably the most common foreign language studied by American students, so it makes sense that so many students would want to practice their Spanish by studying in a Spanish-speaking country. Choose from a trimester, semester, or full-year option and stay with a host family in the Madrid metro area or in Andalusia. You’ll have the chance to go on an excursion with other CIEE students to learn about the different cultures that shaped Spain.


4. Youth for Understanding Japan

This program emphasizes truly understanding Japanese culture through the everyday life of a host family and attending a local high school, setting this program apart from others with specially designated high schools and planned excursions. The good news is that there is no previous language study required, and you’ll still get an incredibly enriching experience.


5. AFS-USA France

If you want to experience true French life, then AFS-USA will place you in a beautiful French country town to immerse yourself in French language and culture. You’ll take classes in a local French high school for a semester or a year, where you can specialize in arts and humanities, natural sciences and math, or social sciences, economic, and history. There’s a good chance you’ll take trips to some of France’s renowned cultural sites and its world-famous capital, Paris.

Wrapping it Up


These are just a sample of the study abroad programs you can take advantage of while in high school, and there are many similar programs in other countries that might interest you. We hope that this gives you the jumpstart to finding the perfect study abroad program for you.


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Short Bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.