The Best High School Study Abroad Programs for 2023
Are you interested in studying abroad while in high school but have no idea where to start? Here is our guide to choosing the right high school abroad program for you based on 10 unique categories.
High school is a perfect time to expand your perspective through travel and experiential learning. You may have a list of countries you'd like to visit, but what if you didn't have to wait until after graduation?
As a current high school student, you can take advantage of high school study abroad programs geared solely to your age group. You can experience a new culture, learn a different language, and meet people worldwide!
Wait, is it possible to study abroad in High School?
If you're wondering if it's even possible to study abroad for a semester or year during high school, the answer is YES! High school students can find meaningful experiences in some of the top study-abroad destinations worldwide.
While program costs and opportunities for financial aid vary, typically, exchange programs are one of the most affordable ways to study abroad during high school and have other benefits like a built-in support system and an easier way to immerse yourself in the culture, as you'll be living with a local family.
Studying abroad vs. a high school abroad program
There are some key differences between studying abroad during high school and doing so during university. You will likely be more dependent on the resources available through the program, and schooling is more structured while in high school. These are key reasons why finding the correct program is essential to a successful high school abroad experience.
Additionally, many high school abroad programs occur during summer vacation. They are a few weeks in duration, whereas study abroad programs in college are typically a semester or year in length. Finding the program that fits your budget, goals, and studies will be up to you, but we're here to help!
How did we pick these programs?
Lastly, we used our own industry knowledge to ensure we're recommending programs that are vetted both by you, the community members, and us, the experts, so that we feel confident the programs included are the best of the best!
Best program for seniors: Travel For Teens
Program length: 7-30 days
Price point: $$$
What's included: accommodation, in-country transportation, all breakfasts and dinners, excursions and activities
- You'll experience diverse activities every day.
- You will feel immersed in the culture of the places you visit.
- Lots of walking, around 25,000-30,000 steps per day.
- The travel agenda can be packed with tours leaving less than optimal free time to explore for some.
Achieving independence is a key part of growing up, but it doesn’t happen overnight. Teenagers need time to explore their options and figure out what they want from life. Travel For Teens' Travel Programs for Older Teens program is designed to help students make the most of their summer vacation, whether they’re looking for a cultural immersion experience or want to add some adventure to their trip.
Travel for Teens is a global travel company that has been helping teens and young adults discover the world for over 25 years. This program is carefully crafted with students finishing 11th and 12th grade in mind. Older teens flourish with itineraries that offer more independence to encourage growth and even more confidence in traveling.
“This extraordinary trip provided me with so many amazing experiences and memories that I will forever cherish. – I communicate everyday with other students that were on my trip who went from strangers across the country to lifelong friends.”
Best program for adventure travel: ActionQuest
Program length: 17 or 21 days
Price point: $$$
What's included: accommodation, all meals, scuba and sailing certifications, wetsuits and gear
- Staff are caring, welcoming, and attentive.
- Past participants liked how well-organized the program is.
- The program can be considered pricey.
- Students cannot earn college credits but they can earn certificates.
If you're interested in a little more adventure, ActionQuest may have the fast-paced, action-packed program for you! With another incredible near 100% overall rating, ActionQuest provides a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live aboard a yacht and sail around the British Virgin Islands. Participants will study marine biology while engaging in water sports and activities, such as scuba diving, wakeboarding, and windsurfing.
If you're interested in studying marine biology or have ever wanted to learn to sail or scuba dive. It takes place during the summer, with different sessions ranging from 17-21 days, and has scholarships available. Past reviewers agree that ActionQuest helps you move out of your comfort zone while remaining in a safe, guided environment.
“Action Quest has been one of, if not the best, opportunities of my life and I wish that everyone could have the opportunity to experience it, because everything is truly amazing. Everything. But seriously, the diving, sailing, marine biology, etc are great but you can’t beat the people.”
Best program for visiting multiple countries: MEI International Academy
Program length: semester
Price point: $$$
What's included: accommodation, breakfast and dinners, in-country transportation, roundtrip airfare from Toronto, airfare between destination countries
- A 10:1 student-to-staff ratio means you'll get plenty of personal attention.
- A variety of tours take you to famous UNESCO heritage sites.
- You will have to wake up early -- night owls beware!
- A structured itinerary doesn't leave a lot of free time.
A more comprehensive study abroad program that provides an opportunity to learn about the country you're visiting and form deeper connections with the people you will meet along the way. With MEI International Academy, you can spend an entire semester abroad, where you will travel and learn in 5 different countries over your 60-day program.
Program alums love the opportunity to form meaningful connections with fellow students. You'll study world issues, international business, and economics in addition to elective courses. You'll travel from China to Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. If you choose the second-semester option, you can also experience Australia and Bali!
MEI also provides a highly-rated semester program in Europe that will take you through Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Italy while studying world history, leadership, and human dimensions.
“Nothing compares to the experiences and the friends I have made on the trip. This experience has made truly life-changing remarks and allowed me to explore aspects of our world that I did not think possible. From scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef to visiting the archeological sites of Angkor Wat, MEI is the perfect mix of travel and high-quality education.”
Best program for language learning: CIEE
Program length: 4-39 weeks
Price point: $$
What's included: roundtrip airfare, in-country transportation, accommodation in a homestay, all meals at the homestay, medical insurance, placement in a local high school, activities and excursions, 24/7 support, visa assistance
- Being placed in a local high school means you will be fully immersed in the language and culture.
- The certificate of learning you receive can be used in college applications.
- The short-term summer program is very structured which might not be the number one choice for those looking for a largely flexible trip.
- For semester or yearlong programs, you may be the only foreign student in the school which could be overwhelming at first.
Spain is one of the most popular study abroad destinations in Europe. Spain has a rich history and culture that can be seen throughout the country. It is also home to some of the best beaches in Europe, making it a great place to spend your summer!
The CIEE's High School Study Abroad in Spain allows students to immerse themselves in Spanish culture and language for two weeks through educational activities and excursions around Madrid, Barcelona, and Valencia. Students will learn about the history, architecture, and art of Spain through visits to museums and cultural sites. They will also have time to explore the local neighborhoods and enjoy some free time with their new friends.
CIEE offers a variety of program lengths from 4 weeks in summer to 39 weeks of an academic year.
“I was able to travel to 5 countries, and met so many new people along the way. I became very close with my host family, and they treated me like their own. I became very proficient in Spanish, and CIEE supported me along the way with any need I had.”
Best Program for Conservation: Global Works
Program length: 10-25 days
Price point: $$$
What's included: homestay accommodation, all meals, cultural activities and excursions, in-country transportation
- Students make unique community connections through their homestay.
- Past participants found the guides to be very supportive.
- Homestays may not be for you if you are more introverted or need time alone.
- Electronics like cell phones are not allowed.
Have you ever dreamed of kayaking through the canals of Costa Rica, spotting sloths, toucans, and monkeys along the way? Does hiking to waterfalls and active volcanoes, all while helping support conservation efforts sound like your dream study abroad experience? If so, Global Works: Costa Rica Summer Service Adventures has created a Costa Rican Summer Service Adventures that will blow you away.
Costa Rica is an incredible country known for its biodiversity, environmental consciousness, and model of peace. Immerse yourself in this beautiful place while practicing your Spanish skills and finding ways to serve the world around you.
Four different programs ranging from 8-21 days focus on sea turtle conservation, language immersion, language and leadership skills, or public health. You'll participate in unbelievable experiences, such as zip-lining through the rainforest while learning local culture through homestays and making an impact through service opportunities.
“My Global Works trip was truly inspiring, the leaders were great, and I had an amazing time. When I think of my Global Works trip, it’s my home stay that comes to mind. It was really fun to go through your day with another family from another culture, eat food with them, play with their kids, even go to work with them...it was awesome to be part of a Costa Rican household.”
Best program for Southeast Asia: Travel For Teens in Thailand
Program length: 10-26 days
Price point: $$$
What's included: accommodation, all meals, in-country transportation, activities and excursions, filtered water
- Earn up to 20 hours of community service credit.
- The excursions are varied and allow you to see large portions of the country.
- Students might prefer a direct flight over the optional group flight to Chiang Mai.
- Free time is structured and limited to defined areas.
Thailand has something for everyone. If you want to explore the local cultures and history you can do so in any number of ways including visiting the floating markets or taking an elephant ride through the jungle. If you are looking for adventure then we have numerous activities available such as white water rafting down the rapids of northern Thailand or exploring the jungles of Khao Yai National Park. If relaxation is more your scene then there are plenty of beaches just waiting for a day at the beach!
The Travel for Teens' Thailand program is designed for high school juniors and seniors who are interested in experiencing life abroad and gaining an appreciation for different cultures.
Students will travel around Thailand spending time in Bangkok and Chiang Mai on this immersive educational experience focused on teaching students about the local culture through fun activities like cooking classes, dance lessons, traditional Thai massage therapy, temple visits and more!
“It felt like I was actually experiencing the country and not just visiting it. Not only do I now get to look back on the unique experiences I was able to participate in, such as working with elephants, but I also made strong and close connections within my group.”
Best program for Latin America: Amigos de las Americas
Program length: 2-6 weeks
Price point: $$$
What's included: homestay accommodation, all meals, in-country transportation, 24/7 support, training, medical insurance, excursions and activities
- You will have the opportunity to earn 12 service learning hours per week.
- Living with a host family will help you improve your Spanish.
- If you don't like to wake up early, this program may be challenging for you.
- You may feel less motivated to speak Spanish when surrounded by your English-speaking groupmates.
AMIGOS programs in Latin America give you the opportunity to travel to Costa Rica, Ecuador, or Panama to explore an issue you're passionate about! Dive deep into coffee production, climate change adaptation, and conservation in Costa Rica, ecosystem restoration and indigenous rights in Ecuador, or community-driven conservation in Panama.
You will spend your time learning from local experts about the relevant issues and working with them on projects that address those issues. You can also choose from a variety of extracurricular activities like snorkeling at Manuel Antonio National Park or exploring the San Jose nightlife scene.
“I would 100% recommend this program to anyone interested in trying it out. I was beyond satisfied with how much I grew throughout this program; whether it was improving my Spanish, learning about the culture and people, or even just creating lifelong connections and bonds with others in the program.”
Best program for summer abroad: Oxford Royal Academy
Program length: 2 weeks
Price point: $$$
What's included: dorm accommodation, all meals, activities and excursions, 20+ hours of classes per week, certificate of completion
- You'll study alongside classmates from 170 nationalities.
- You'll receive a certificate of completion from the University of Oxford -- stand out on your college applications!
- Past students have remarked that the workload can be heavy and rigorous.
- Most of the programs are designed for older teens aged 16+.
Oxford Royale is one of the most popular programs for high school students and offers a unique opportunity to study at one of the world’s most prestigious universities.
This summer course takes place in the historic city of Oxford. The program aims to provide students with a unique university-style community that brings together students from all over the world to share their love of learning.
The community provides an intellectually stimulating environment for you to pursue your passions and develop new skills. You’ll be able to immerse yourself in the local culture by visiting museums, historical sites, and movie theaters.
“I also got the chance to see the city of Oxford in a special way, alongside doing many activities and sightseeing. Those two weeks taught me more about myself and my capacities than anything else.”
The Opportunities are endless
Studying abroad in high school is exciting, but choosing the best program for you can be intimidating, and these are just a handful of the incredible high school study abroad programs available to you. Each program on this list has been vetted and received excellent reviews from students like you. Whichever program you choose, you're bound to learn, grow, and have life-changing experiences!