High School is a time for introspection and growth. It's also the perfect time to begin expanding your perspective through travel and experiential learning. Maybe you've considered attending college in a different country, or you're planning on taking a gap year after graduation. You may have a list of all of the countries you'd like to visit once that diploma is in your hands, but what if you didn't have to wait until after you graduate?
As a current high school student, you have the unique opportunity to take advantage of high school study abroad programs that are geared solely to your age group. You can experience a new culture, learn a different language, and meet people from around the world!
You may be wondering if it's even possible to study abroad for a semester or year during high school, and if so -- is it affordable? Fortunately, there are options! While program costs and opportunities for financial aid vary, high school students can find meaningful experiences in some of the top study abroad destinations worldwide. 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.
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 and are a few weeks in duration, where study abroad programs in college are typically a semester or year in length. Finding the program that fits your budget, goals, and studies is going to be up to you, but we're here to help!
Here are the best study abroad programs for high school students.
- EdOdyssey: Custom Student Trips in Peru, China, Spain, Italy and USA
- GLA Volunteer in Tanzania: Children's Education Adventure
- ActionQuest: Summer Adventure Program in British Virgin Islands
- MEI International Academy: High School Abroad Program
- Educational Camps Abroad: Language and Cultural Immersion in Europe
- UWC España Action x Change Summer Program
- Sol Abroad: High School Program in Mexico
- Global Works: Costa Rica Summer Service Adventures
- School of the World: Adventure of a Lifetime in Guatemala
- World Class Programs: Explore Authentic Japan this Summer
How did we pick these programs?
In choosing the best high school study abroad programs, we took into account two main factors: the review scores of each program, and the number of reviews that program had received.
For all high school abroad programs on Go Overseas, we ask reviewers to rate six variables: (1) Growth, (2) Support, (3) Fun, (4) Housing, (5) Safety, and (6) Overall. We average these scores, compare them to other high school abroad programs, and consider the total number of reviews each program has received. In total, we compared over 600 reviews to determine which programs we should include on this list.
From there, our goal is to choose those programs which are truly the best in each category. Chosen programs exceed their competitors with both the number of reviews and their overall ratings.
Best Program for a Customized Experience
Students who have been on an EdOdyssey trip can't say enough good things about this program. In fact, EdOdyssey received perfect scores from reviewers in 4 out of 5 of our key areas, with a 100% overall score!
EdOdyssey is a unique company that creates custom trips abroad in either the United States or across Peru, China, Spain. You can take a Beijing Opera class in China, learn how to survive in the jungle in Peru, or how to cook the perfect Paella in Spain.
If you're looking to design a trip focused on cultural immersion, language learning, volunteer opportunities, or school exchanges, then EdOdyssey is the perfect choice for you! The best part about this company is that they are educators and understand what it takes to create a meaningful experience for students. EdOdyssey also offers scholarships and financial aid for their programs.
Here are some highlights from the reviews for this program:
- "As someone who mostly travels in instate America, I can say I was definitely nervous and had no idea how the trip's planning was going to work but EdOdyssey blew me away with how thorough they were. There were no hiccups and I can tell you, you can rest assured when planning a trip with them because they have your back." -- Ikwo
- "Besides wanting to visit Machu Picchu, Peru was not on my radar of places I wanted to visit but, because of EdOdyssey, it is a place that I want to go back to with friends and family to share the wonderful memories that I made and make new ones!" - Caitlin
- "In summary, two weeks in this program had the same effect on my Spanish as four years in the classroom, but these two weeks also have had an overall recurring effect on my life for almost four years, now. For future participants - don't hesitate. Just do it!" -- Matthew
Best Program for Service-Learning
Would you like to improve your Spanish/English skills while also creating a social project and meeting people from around the world?
Action x Change from UWC España is the summer program that promises to give you a learning experience unlike any other. This 15-day bilingual program takes place in Spain and connects with students aged 15-17 from many different countries. Several workshops will be offered on topics ranging from environmental issues to global affairs. You'll also have time to engage in outdoor or artistic activities and practice your language skills.
Applicants to this program must speak English and be interested in developing programs to make positive changes to the problems they see in their community. With a 100% overall rating from past reviews, this program is a surefire way to find a unique study abroad experience that could create lasting change.
Here are a few highlights from past reviews:
- "I knew it was going to be a wonderful experience but it completely exceeded my expectations. I learned thinks that I would have never learned otherwise in school. I made friends form all around the world with who I am still in contact and I had a fantastic time." -- Carla
- "It's a very challenging experience that will help and encourage you to create your own projects to make the world a bit better." -- Maria
- "For all this, if you are a person interested in improving the world and trying to change it, in knowing new cultures and ideas, and to squeeze all your potential, this is your opportunity." -- Ana
Best Program for Adventure Travel
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, then we highly recommend this program. 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.
Here are a few highlights from our reviews:
- "If you're looking for a way to grow as a person or get out of your comfort zone and experience something truly amazing, AQ is for you. The amazing staff helps everyone no matter what your background is and they make sure that every student is involved." -- Hannah
- "My favorite memory about this journey was with my shipmates and how we always gathered together during free time to hang out, play cards, swim, and talk- no one was ever left out." -- Melissa
- "The staff on my trip is what made it really special. I saw them both as teachers and friends. They helped my shipmates and I along our path of finding our happiest self." -- Marley
Best Program for Visiting Multiple Countries
A longer study abroad program 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 alum have loved the opportunity to form deep, meaningful connections with the group of fellow students they got to know exceptionally well over the three months of traveling together. During your travels, 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 from MEI, you can experience Australia and Bali as well! 100% of past reviewers agree that this program is worth the investment.
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.
Here are a few highlights from past reviews:
- "If I can tell you anything that will convince you to come on the trip, is just know these people you meet: will be your friends for the rest of your life." -- Payton
- "Never did I think I would look forward to going to class or go seeking out new opportunities to learn. MEI gave me a desire for knowledge and the techniques to obtain it, the idea that learning doesn't necessarily have to happen within the confines of a classroom and within the borders of a curriculum." -- Matheson
- "The teachers are amazing and supportive and MEI allows us to travel in a safe way and to meet new people we wouldn't normally hang out with. I avidly recommend MEI to anyone who will listen, it really is the adventure of a lifetime." -- Laura
Best Program for Language Learning
Have you ever wished that you were still young enough to attend summer camp? Only this time, maybe you could go to a camp in a different country?
If you're between the ages of 13-17 with a strong desire to learn a new language, Educational Camps Abroad has the perfect summer camp opportunity for you. The location of each camp changes each year but stays within the United Kingdom. For two weeks in June or July, you can experience a total cultural and language immersion as you build your English language skills.
Reviewers agree that the support received from the Educational Camps Abroad team helped create a fantastic experience for them and led to a 100% overall rating. Educational Camps Abroad also offers winter camps.
Here a few highlights from past reviews:
- "During the camp experience you could learn about many things, such as: how to successfully work in groups, social abilities development through physical and enjoyable activities. Not only that, but also try new things like kayaking and coasteering." -- Bryan
- "What I liked the most about this trip was that I met new people who made new friends from different parts of the country and also from Wales since we went to school there." -- Desiree
- "I would recommend it to anyone, a very nice experience and even better to get to know new and nice people." -- Tamara
Best Program for Conservation
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 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 its model of peace. Immerse yourself in this beautiful country 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 also learning local culture through homestays and making an impact through service opportunities.
Global Works features a high 97% overall rating from past reviewers, scoring high marks in every category. Reviewers agree that this program may stretch you in new ways but will also provide an unforgettable experience.
Here are a few highlights from past reviews:
- "Through the experience, my Spanish improved tremendously. I no longer have any fears about speaking Spanish outside the classroom; in fact, I seek out opportunities to do so." -- Kennedi
- "This experience was amazing and something I never would have had without Global Works. The environment and the energy from the group leaders made everything so much more exciting." -- Daniel
- "Global Works was super easy to work with and made me feel super prepared going into my trip. The leaders were great and I felt very well taken care of, while also having fun, the entire time." -- Lily
Best 9-Day Program
In only nine days, you could participate in a program that helps change the lives of children in Guatemala. School of the World provides their Adventure of a Lifetime in Guatemala program for high school students who want to learn about a new country through a service-oriented trip.
During your stay in a rural village, you will help build a new school and playground facility. You'll also be able to experience life with a local family and spend time with children at the school, playing during recess and even helping to teach the kids. On your days off, you'll experience the Mayan ruins around you, visit the city of Antigua, and even see a local coffee farm.
Past participants have given School the World a 100% overall rating, agreeing that it was an eye-opening experience. All participants must fundraise for the trip, with the money they raise going toward the building project. School the world hopes you will leave this program enlightened on the importance of these education projects in rural communities.
Here are a few highlights from recent participants:
- "Not only are the experiences themselves uplifting, inspiring, and revolutionary for many students like myself, but the role School the World as an organization continues to play in our lives post-travel is exceptional." -- Olivia
- "STW is different from other large non-profit organizations, in that the staff cares so much about each student traveling, as well as each student in the communities they visit." -- Megan
- "There is great joy in helping make an entire community smile, and School the World helps in every way possible to make sure that we as students get so very close to the community, so close that you may shed many tears upon leaving." -- Dominic
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.
This post was originally published in August 2013 and was updated in April 2021.