High School Abroad in North America

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With English being one of the most widely spoken languages in the world, countless students flock to North America to see what life is like there. The United States, Canada, and Mexico are the countries of North America, and each offer a variety of programs to choose from. Canada is the second largest country in the world, and the United States is not far behind (as well as being one of the most populated). Mexico is the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.

Granted North American culture has been made widely known to the rest of the world through television, movies, and music, so you might have some preconceived notions about it. No matter what those may be, your experience in North America will never stop surprising you and teaching you new things! Going to North America in high school is sure to open your eyes to a new and exciting way of living.

North America is best for students who want to discover a melting pot of rich cultures and intriguing history.

North America has always been known as a place where dreams come true and opportunities are endless. People from all different countries flock here to discover what they can do to improve their lifestyles. Being ahead of the game and going in high school will allow you to become a global citizen at an early age.

Exchange Program

One of the most popular ways to become a global citizen is through studying abroad. Exchange programs are very well known as North America is very diverse and is also super welcoming to international students. Many families really want to house an international student for a semester or a year, and they act like your second family. Because of that, you will be very immersed in North American culture while simultaneously having locals who will look out for you and make sure you’re safe and sound.

Language and Cultural Immersion Programs

Language and cultural immersion programs are a great way to become familiar with the intricacies and colloquialisms of North America. You might think everyone in California is a surfer or that lots of people in Toronto play hockey, but you won’t know if those are true or not until you get there! If you want to really be immersed in the English language (or Spanish if you are going to Mexico) you should plan to stay for a longer time. There is no better way to improve your language skills than actually being on the ground and practicing with locals. If you don’t have the option of staying for as long as you’d like, teen travel programs are a perfect option to explore multiple places in a short amount of time. You can travel coast to coast during your summer, winter, or spring break!

Popular Cities/Countries

The most popular cities in the United States are New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. These are on the east coast, Midwest, and west coast respectively, so they are all pretty different! The main cities in Canada are Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. These three are also very unique so take your time choosing (or explore all of them!). The biggest city in Mexico (as well as the capital) is Mexico City, with a population of over 20 million people. Other popular areas include Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Guanajuato.

Student Visas

Requirements will vary depending on your length of stay, as well as your home country. The best way to make sure you have everything in order is to visit your local embassy, as well as the one of the country you are traveling to. As usual, you will want to make sure your passport is up to date. Mexico is fairly easy as usually high school students can enter for up to 6 months without getting a student visa.


One of the most common options for students is to stay at a homestay. North Americans are very friendly and accommodating and will welcome you with open arms. Homestays can be hosted by a single adult or by a large family. These are also the best option to improve your language skills. Over the summers, some universities will have open dormitories where students can stay with their peers, which can be a fun alternative to a homestay.


North America can vary in cost depending on where you want to go. Big cities will be more costly of course, where as rural and suburban areas will be more affordable. Keep in mind that cities have a lot more going on, and smaller areas will be calmer with a slower lifestyle. For example, living in San Francisco will be much more expensive than a small suburb in Iowa. If you are living with a host family, they are likely to cook for you which will save you money on meals. Remember that tipping is the norm in North America, so if you do go out to eat, giving 15% at the end of the meal is normal, but you can give more if you are highly satisfied!

Packing Tips

North America is so large that packing will depend on where you go, and when. Summers tend to be warm and can be humid in the south. Winters will be very cold in the Midwest and the east coast, usually with lots of snow. Make sure to check the forecast before you depart!


There are no vaccinations necessary when traveling to North America, unless you are coming from an area affected by yellow fever, such as countries in South America or Africa. In this case, you must have a yellow fever vaccine. One thing to keep in mind is adjustment to different altitudes, especially if you are going to a mountainous region.


North America is safe but not without crime and other dangers that occur regularly in every country. As an international student, make sure to travel with a friend or a local so you don’t get lost, and never be out and about alone at night. If you are going to a beach area, make sure to stay safe while swimming as riptides occur.

Mexico is an exception, as certain regions have travel warnings. In general, do not travel to these places, even if you are in a group. Always ignore people who are trying to get you to buy drugs, as this is a popular ruse in Mexico to attract tourists and foreigners.

Contributed by Julie Peterson


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