Contrary to popular belief, studying abroad isn't just for college students -- and you don't have to "give up" an entire summer to get a taste of it, either. Consider using your high school spring break in a way your classmates rarely will, and study abroad for a week in the country of your choice!
In one week, you'll be able to enrich your high school experience and see a part of the world you've never experienced before. Why not give it a try and do a high school abroad program this spring break?
High schoolers looking to spend spring break abroad generally have three options to choose from:
- Educational travel tours
- Intensive language courses
- Short-term volunteer projects
Educational travel tours
Travel tours are the best option for the student that wants to see the world in a limited amount of time. Programs typically revolve around a common theme and introduce students to the highlights of multiple cities -- or even countries! Students will explore a specific academic topic (like history or Spanish) while exploring relevant destinations firsthand will have a blast with this type of program.
Intensive language courses
Not many high schoolers can claim they learned to speak Spanish in the heart of Spain during spring break. Though fluency is not a guarantee, an intensive language course abroad can get students far in their language learning journey. These programs generally offer courses for students of all different proficiencies, so both beginners and advanced learners will find an option to suit them.
Short-term volunteer / service-learning projects
Short-term volunteer projects are great for students wanting to make a positive difference abroad, as well as for those who are interested in dabbling in longer-term volunteering in the future. The types of projects available for high school students vary by destination, but many common initiatives to expect include community development, building, and service learning. Marine and wildlife conservation projects are also popular projects, but availability largely depends on the area.
Where to Go
Need some ideas on where to go? Below are a few of the more popular spots for a high school spring break program:
One of the most popular study abroad destinations for people of all ages, Europe is a great area to consider if visiting famous spots and traveling to multiple countries is a high priority.
Australia / New Zealand
With scenic views and nature hikes that can't be beat, Australia and New Zealand combine jawdropping views with busy city life.
China / Japan
Historians will love traveling to either of these countries in the Far East. Take advantage of the springtime weather and trek the Great Wall or visit the famous cherry blossoms in Tokyo.
Costa Rica's tropical coast is highly rated by study abroad students for its easygoing lifestyle, surfing opportunities, and the chance to get involved in marine conservation on the side.
A popular spot for volunteering, students will have the chance to experience the raw beauty of a developing nation as well as contribute to projects for wildlife conservation and community development, among a few others.
For volunteer programs especially, close-to-home destinations (for North Americans at least) include Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and now Cuba.
Planning Your Trip
Accommodations vary based on the type of program, but for travel tours, students can expect to live in hotels and homestays as they travel from destination to destination.
Language courses don't require nearly as much travel, and generally offer accommodation in the form of homestays and student dormitories.
Volunteering projects can be a bit of a coin toss, but expect to live in homestays or volunteer houses as a general rule.
Program costs can vary based on destination, excursions, and project type, but as a rule of thumb, they tend to be cheaper the longer the program is. For example, a 1-week volunteering program could cost almost $2,000, but a 3-week program would only cost you $3,000.
For most high schoolers, spring break only lasts a week, so expect to pay anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 for a study abroad program, not including airfare and other fees.
Tip: For the cheapest fares, book on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but avoid Friday through Sunday for a surge in prices.
Springtime tends to be chillier in most destinations, so make sure to check the weather, pack layers, and prepare for any inclement weather (or, to save some luggage space, buy an umbrella on site). Otherwise, here are some general packing recommendations to remember:
- Electrical adapter/converter
- Travel sized toiletries (you can always buy more on site if needed)
- A lightweight jacket
- Good walking shoes
- Sunglasses, a hat, and high SPF sunscreen
Cell Phone Plans
Since you'll only be abroad for a short amount of time, you may be tempted to purchase an international plan through your cell phone provider at home. This is probably the worst option -- it's expensive.
Instead, you're better off double checking that your phone is unlocked for international use before you go (simply call your cell phone provider or drop by a store) and getting a SIM card from a kiosk in the airport. Once you're set up with that, use a pay-as-you-go plan so you can buy and use small amounts (e.g. $10) at a time.
This can be hard if you're traveling in a group -- as you're often herded from one place to another without any time to stop and take care of personal needs. In that situation, turn your phone on airplane mode with the wifi on and use WhatsApp or Skype to communicate with your friends and family back home.
Health and Safety
Health and safety considerations will vary widely from country to country. However, students should make sure they have all required vaccinations prior to departure. It's a good idea to visit a travel doctor -- particularly if you're headed to a less developed country (and not exactly necessary if you're just hopping over to France) -- for more detailed advice.
While abroad, be sure to be aware of your surroundings, look out for pickpockets in crowded areas, and don't walk alone at night.
Also, we don't want to ignore the fact that you may have easier access to alcohol than at home. Though we don't promote underage drinking -- and it's typically banned as part of any high school abroad program -- if you do consume alcohol, please be smart about it. In other words, if your host family in France offers you a glass of wine, don't down the whole bottle, alright?