Oh how I love Puerto Rico! The sunshine, beaches, fort of San Juan, cobblestone streets and the Spanish language illuminate the streets and this vibrant lifestyle.
This small country in the Caribbean is a territory of the United States of America and is considered the Common Wealth of Puerto Rico. It's home to some of the best beaches in the world, but also a fantastic destination for high school students. Spend high school abroad in Puerto Rico learning Spanish, volunteering, or living with a homestay and get an unparalleled cultural experience.
Puerto Rico is great for students who want to learn Spanish, volunteer, and experience a unique blend of Latin American and Caribbean culture.Photo credit: Thomas Shahan 3
Whether it's studying Spanish, fixing up homes, or immersing yourself in an unknown culture, Puerto Rico has an option for you. As a high school student in Puerto Rico, you'll typically be involved in a Spanish immersion program (often located in the capital, San Juan) or community service program. However, there are also some options to extend your stay and live with a host family while learning Spanish for a full academic year or semester.
Community service programs will have you working on projects like building homes, assisting with English courses, or working with youth camps.
For both study and volunteer projects, depending on the program you choose, you may be required to have some command of Spanish.
Citizens of the United States need no type of visa to visit or study in Puerto Rico. Because it's a U.S. territory, you can even travel with just a valid drivers license, however, most programs require a passport.
If you are not a citizen of the United States, the visa process is just like studying in the United States. Programs will assist with any visa applications necessary to attend.
Depending on the program, students will stay with a carefully selected host family, in a dorm-life facility, or even some hotel stays. Meals are almost always included in program fees as well.
Puerto Rico does not fall on the cheap side of the spectrum. An inexpensive meal for one can average around $10 and costs will be pretty similar to those in a major U.S. city. Luckily, most program fees cover the cost of food and housing so students are only responsible for personal cost such as snacks, incidentals, and souvenirs. Depending on how much is covered in your program fee, budget around $50 - 80 per day.
Programs can vary from $1,500 - $20,000 depending on the program, location, and length of stay. If airfare is not included, flights can range from $200 - $700 depending on where you are flying from, more if you are coming from Europe.
For Americans, your cell phone will operate in Puerto Rico just as it would back home and under your domestic plan. However, coverage may not be available throughout the entire island, so be sure to check with your cell phone carrier if you have specific questions about using your cell phone in Puerto Rico.
You can guess the number one thing to pack: a bathing suit! Coming in with 5 of the top 25 beaches in the world, the beaches are incredible around the entire island. Puerto Rico has a tropical climate so be sure to pack lots of shorts, dresses and skirts for girls, and short sleeves.
At the same time, the mountains can average temperatures in the 70s and the rest of the island is in the mid-80s. Be sure to also pack a light layer and a rain jacket just in case -- especially if you'll be there anytime from May through November, which are the rainiest months of the year.
If you're coming from the U.S. no converter is necessary.
Traces of the Zika virus have been found in Puerto Rico. To learn more about Zika and how to avoid getting infected, read the Washington Post's article on Zika precautions.
No vaccines are required. However, there have been reported cases of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico. There is no vaccine for the virus but you can take preventative measures like wearing long sleeves during dusk and dawn -- high mosquito volume times -- and never leaving home without covering yourself in mosquito repellent.
Tap water in urban areas of Puerto Rico (like San Juan) is safe to drink but bottled water is recommended outside of these.
Although beautiful, Puerto Rico is plagued with a rising crime rate which has increased in the past three years. At the same time, this doesn't mean you can't have a safe trip to Puerto Rico. Practice safe traveler techniques like the buddy system, not walking alone at night, and avoiding problem areas.
Parents can rest easy knowing their children are placed in carefully selected homes and most all crime in Puerto Rico is locally contained and hardly ever affect tourists.