Sand that looks like snow and crystal clear waters -- Nicaragua will steal the hearts of any high school student.
Most students will do a high school abroad program in Nicaragua if they're looking for an affordable destination to learn Spanish (Nicaragua is much more affordable than it's more popular neighbor, Costa Rica) or to do a volunteer project in Central America. The charm of Nicaragua's cobblestoned streets in Granada, the impressive volcano on Ometepe, and the hospitality of Nicaraguans will make it hard to go home.
High school abroad in Nicaragua is great for students who want to be immersed in Spanish, Nicaraguan culture, explore a tropical ecosystem, or volunteer abroad.Photo credits: nimdok.
Though small, Nicaragua has several options for high school abroad programs. For those looking for a more educational program, there are high school exchanges, where students attend a local high school alongside other students, and summer study abroad programs. For either type of program, students will most likely live with a local Nicaraguan host family and focus on cultural immersion.
A lot of smaller language schools will also offer Spanish courses for high schoolers (or let high schoolers over a certain age attend class alongside adult students). High schoolers can take these courses for anywhere from 1 week to several months.
Teen travel tours are another option for high schoolers who want both exploration and education in their time abroad. These adventurous programs allow students to go zip-lining and white water rafting through the lush rainforest of Nicaragua, participate in volunteer projects, or focus on learning about ecology in Nicaragua.
Most programs will assist with paperwork, however, there is no visa required for stays under 90 days for Americans, Canadians, and EU citizens. If your stay lasts longer than that, you'll have to look into applying to a visa ahead of time.
Most programs have a homestay option, where students live with a host family for the duration of the program. Not only can you learn from your hosts, but being with a family can help you feel less homesick. Other programs will have on site housing similar to college dorms. Students will share rooms with fellow students from all around the world.
Keep in mind that housing in Nicaragua -- though usually with electricity and running water -- will be more basic than what you're used to back home.
Most high school abroad programs in Nicaragua include three meals a day and housing in their program fees. If they don't, you should plan to budget about $20 - $30 per day in order to cover any personal costs. Even if the program is all inclusive, it's still a good idea to budget at least $20 a day for your stay.
Other than food, program costs range from $5,000 - $10,000. Flights will vary from where you are departing from (though they tend to be pretty affordable from North America).
As for most destinations in Central America, be sure to pack the following for your high school abroad trip to Nicaragua:
- Bathing suit
- Mosquito repellent
- Light clothing
- Rain jacket (especially from May to October, which is Nicaragua's rainy season)
- A light jacket (it can get down to 60 degrees at night)
- A day backpack
- Good hiking sneakers or Tevas (I'm a big fan of trail runners since they aren't as hot and heavy as boots)
Your program provider will also likely have a packing list of their own you can follow.
Despite its reputation, Nicaragua is a fairly safe place to visit -- especially outside the capital of Managua.
However, one of the main safety concerns for travelers in Nicaragua is petty theft and dangerous transportation. From petty crime on busses and poor back roads, it's safer to always stay on the beaten path here. This being said, parents can rest assured knowing transportation is provided in almost all programs.
Yellow Fever, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Measles, Mumps, and Rubella vaccinations are all recommended to visit Nicaragua. While in Nicaragua, it's a good idea to take care against mosquitos.