Congratulations! Just looking at this article means that you're stepping out of your comfort zone! When thinking about studying abroad, most jump right to the college years. This is when you're "supposed" to study abroad.However, it's not the only option. Studying abroad can happen in high school too! Studying in Italy, you'd be able to stand right in front of many of the monuments you're studying about, you get to delve deep into a culture that is pretty similar, but also pretty different than yours, and you'll become immersed in a different language – one that is pretty interesting to learn (plus, colleges will be pretty impressed if you're applying already fluent in another language and a world traveler!)
Once you've decided that Italy is where you want to be, you have to decide how long you want to be there. The High School Study Abroad programs usually range from a summer abroad where you can take classes to go towards college credit, and go up to a semester or a year abroad, where you'd most likely be enrolled in a public Italian school. Most high school programs are called immersion programs; meaning (for the longer programs especially) you would be living with an Italian-speaking host family, and have your classes in Italian as well. But even some shorter programs still try and give you as much culture as possible! Let's break down the options:
- Summer Semester: If you don't want to be away from home for too long, but still want the benefit of adventuring abroad while still in high school, this may be your best bet. These programs are usually a month or so long and there are variations within the programs. Some have you in a home-stay with an Italian for a portion of the time and the rest in hostels as you travel around the country (don't let the movies scare you, Hostels are great!). With others, you are in the program's housing – which will definitely help you get used to the idea of a college dorm later on! Some have optional day trips, others bring you to different parts of the country throughout your stay. Usually, your classes are with other study-abroad students in your program and they're in English.
- Full Semester/Year: If you're looking for even more involvement and immersion and can be adventurous enough to be away for a few months, think about taking a full semester or a year abroad. In these five to ten month sessions, you will generally be placed with a host-family after an orientation language course. Some programs even ask students to complete an online Rosetta Stone course before jumping on that plane to head overseas. Just knowing the basics will help you immensely! Students abroad for this longer period of time will usually attend an Italian school in classes that cater to their learning level and will be taught in Italian – these are normally Monday through Saturday (yup! School on Saturday in Italy!) from 8:00 AM to 2:00 PM. That way, you can be on the same schedule as your new Italian friends and hang out with them after school hours.
Planning Your Trip
- Application: Programs will want you to fill out an application form through their website before you progress any further through the abroad process.
- Language Class: Because Italy will be a country with a foreign language for you unless you’re lucky enough to already know Italian, a language course is usually required in the weeks before or the first few weeks of your program to get you assimilated to your new county.
- Home Stay: For those that want the complete immersion experience, a home stay with an Italian family is usually the best option. If you choose a program with a home stay, you will be living in an Italian home, with an Italian-speaking family that will allow you to practice your language skills throughout the entire day, rather than just in the classroom. This will also give you an all-around sense of the culture of the area you are studying in.
- Academic Housing: If you aren't sure a home stay is for you, perhaps the academic housing will be a better option. This housing would situate you in somewhat of a dorm-like setup with students from your program. A pro to this is that you'd feel a little less out of your comfort zone with English-speaking roommates, plus you'd also be getting used to the dorm-room idea. Perfect prep for college!
- Hostels: For some of the shorter programs, because of the travel involved in your program, you'd most likely be staying in hostels for most of your journey. These are youth-friendly accommodations with fun atmospheres. Usually, the rooms are bunk beds with either a shared bathroom in the room, or a communal bathroom down the hall. This is an awesome way to meet other international students and travelers and have a more laid-back stay.
- Support System: Talk with your family about wanting to go abroad and what program interests you most. There are multiple options as to what city to study, what length of time, and for how long. For many, it'll be your first extended time away from home. Having your family's support will help with the decision, as well as the transition immensely.
- School Talk: Speak to your guidance counselor about your plan and discuss the options as to how to can coordinate your abroad schedule and syllabus with your current studies. Gaining credit is sometimes difficult and you'll want to get this sorted ASAP.
- Your Pass to the World: Get a passport if you don't already have one! There are different requirements for those under the age of sixteen, ages sixteen and seventeen, as well as when you obtain your first passport. Make sure to check out where you stand on the US Department of State Website.
- Visas: If you are doing a summer program or a semester program that lasts less than ninety days, a visa is not required to study abroad. If you are intending on staying longer, than a visa is needed. Some programs will do this process for you for a fee, though many simply give instructions as to how to complete this process on your own through the consulate.
For these high school abroad programs, be sure to store about 5,000 to 10,000 dollars in your piggy bank. This range is only an average – while some programs are shorter and less expensive, others are jam-packed with included activities and extras that will make the price rise. Yes, this does seem a little pricey (especially if you aren't paying for high school in the first place!) but no fear, there are scholarships as well as financial aid available for you to apply for! Head to fastweb to check out some scholarships you can register for – the lists will be updated every day with new opportunities to apply for. Also, the programs that take you through your study abroad experience will sometimes supply scholarship opportunities as well! Not good at applications? Have a yard sale, begin a fundraising run, start a dog walking business to make a bit more money. Where there's a will, there's a way.