High school is an exciting time for students to study abroad. Going overseas at such a young age can help improve self-esteem, confidence, and independence, not to mention help them be more competitive during the college application process with added language skills and cultural immersion experience.
For some students who haven’t traveled overseas or had many cultural immersion experiences, one of the biggest reasons teens don’t study abroad is a lack of curiosity or knowledge about other cultures.
However, many teens don’t go overseas simply because they aren’t aware of the programs that exist for them. As an educator, you play an important role in connecting your students with programs and opportunities available to them. Students look up to you and come to you for advice and guidance. This gives you the unique opportunity to be able to encourage students who would be a right fit for studying abroad to push the limits of their comfort zone and go overseas.
We don’t have to convince you as an educator that studying abroad will be beneficial for your high school students but we do want to share some suggestions on how to help your students learn about the opportunities that are out there. If you're looking for some ways to get the word out about international experiences, here are some ideas.
Hold a Study Abroad Fair
This first idea might require some cooperation from school administration, but reach out to study abroad program providers and arrange for a study abroad fair at your local school or community center. Looking for invitees? Many of the programs listed on Go Overseas have employees dedicated to school outreach or would be happy to send a local representative to talk to students -- some even have alumni groups that will connect with interested, future applicants.
Gathering students and parents to international program providers under one roof is a great way to help students learn more about the opportunities available to them. Seeing a portion of the experiences that are out there collected together in the same space will help students visualize the vast number of ways to achieve their international dreams.
Face to face connection with representations will provide students with opportunities to gather the information they need to make an informed decision about high school abroad. Literature from program providers, especially if it contains vibrant photographs, will not only serve as a reference but also as a visual motivator long after the study abroad fair has ended.
To encourage attendance from students, hold the fair during lunch time hours or make visiting an extra credit assignment. If you feel representatives will be in hot demand by your students, you can also create a signup sheet for one-on-one appointments to be held at a different time, perhaps before or after school.
Make Researching Study Abroad a School Assignment
Requiring your students to research study abroad as a school assignment is a sure fire way to ensure your students are made aware of the options available to them.
Here are some sample assignment ideas for different subjects:
- Languages: German, French, English, Spanish, Mandarin… no matter what the language, building language skills is one of the most compelling reasons to study abroad. Have your students find a program of interest in a country that speaks the language of study and present on the program as well as country in the destination’s native language.
- Math: Build study abroad into a lesson on finance and budgeting. Have your students research a study abroad program in a country of their choice and build a budget for the experience. Take this a step further by having students present on the currency exchange in the chosen country.
- World History: As a midterm wrap up, have your students chose a favorite historical figure they have studied. Have them research how life would be different for a study abroad student in the historical figure’s country of origin in modern times versus the time of the historical figure’s life.
- English: Have your students research a study abroad program they would be interested in joining. Then have them write a persuasive essay to their parents arguing in favor of being permitted to study overseas.
By making this research a classroom requirement, students will be doing a part of the legwork it takes to study abroad in advance, opening their eyes to the real possibilities out there and thinking critically about the benefits of taking such a leap.
Start a Pen Pal Program
For some students who haven’t traveled overseas or had many cultural immersion experiences, one of the biggest reasons teens don’t study abroad is a lack of curiosity or knowledge about other cultures. Spark your students’ interest in international living with a pen pal program.
Pen pal programs can be started as class assignments for subjects such as English, language arts, or foreign languages. Pen pal programs can also be added to extracurricular activities including community service, language clubs or writing centers. If your class goes on a field trip, make sending a postcard from the destination to an international pen pal part of the itinerary. Peace Corps' World Wise Schools program is one example of an organization that sets up these programs.
By communicating through letters, email or Skype or email with students in another country, your students can expand their horizons without even having to leave the school premises. Make asking questions about their pen pals lives a requirement.
Learning about real teens overseas can help fuel an interest in the broader world for your students and open their minds to a life-long pursuit of cultural knowledge and experiences. Who knows, maybe some of your students will even chose to study abroad in the same country as their pen pal or meet them in real life during future travels!
Share Your Own Experiences
Chances are, if you're passionate about promoting international experiences to students, it's because you've had some pretty powerful experiences abroad yourself. Did you study abroad in high school or college? Have you traveled to interesting places on holiday or for work? Whatever your experiences have been, share them with your students. If you didn't go, do you have a friend who could come in and talk about it?
Hearing about other people’s positive experiences with travel, especially coming from a teacher or authority figure, will help fuel your student’s interest and curiosity about the world. Share these experiences during a presentation in class. Bring photos of the destination and yourself overseas to share.
To add to the excitement, change the mood up in your classroom with decorations, music or food from the culture you experienced. Invite your students to present as well on their favorite travel memories or a culture they are most interested in experiencing.
Hold a Panel Discussion
If there are other educators you know who have had powerful experiences, hold a panel discussion after school hours. You can also add parents who have had meaningful travel abroad experiences or travel internationally for their careers.
High school alumni who have studied abroad in college can also be invited to speak on the panel. This way your students will be exposed to more stories and regions of the world and can have their questions answered by multiple points of view.
Watch Your Students' Enthusiasm Grow
Holding a study abroad fair, starting a pen pal program, making class assignments and sharing your own experiences are all great ways to help your high school students learn about studying abroad. With creativity, passion and the right resources you can make the difference for your students by connecting them with all the information they need to expand their horizons in far off lands.Photo Credits: API Study Abroad and Linda.