While study abroad programs in college seem to be a right of passage these days, many students are still missing out the chance to travel and learn abroad at an even younger age.
Several companies cater to high school students with summer programs available abroad. These companies offer their programs in locations around the world, with a variety of program types to choose from. You can spend your summer doing everything from volunteering with turtles in Costa Rica to learning about art history in Italy. Plus, while these programs can be costly, scholarships as well as financial aid are often available to high school students that want to travel.
Traveling abroad as a high school student could have a huge impact on your views of the world, your career path, and especially your future travels. If you’re ready to see all this world has to offer you in high school, find out what place and type of program works for you, then learn how you can make it happen.
Europe is by far the most popular destination for high school summer programs abroad and it's easy to see why. No region in the world is home to as many completely different languages and cultures as Europe.
Further, Europe is easy to get around, making it ideal for traveling programs. It's a destination that is bound to be familiar to many students, as we learn a lot about Europe in American school systems. In this region, you'll find internships at art museums, archeological sites, and more.
You'll have plenty of language school options. Plus Europe is one of the most trusted regions abroad for safety, so it's ideal for parents nervous about sending their babies away for the first time as well.
Out of all the countries in South and Central America, Costa Rica seems to be the one to pop up most often for language and volunteer projects abroad. Its rainforest and miles of coast gives high schoolers the chance to help with marine preservation, learn about the effects of deforestation, and even work with animals.
The country is known for its turtle conservation efforts. On top of giving back, you'll have the opportunity to learn Spanish -- whether it be by taking classes or just picking up a few words during your time there. Finally, you'll get to spend your summer on beaches that most people only dream of visiting one day.
For unparalleled nature and wildlife head to Australia and New Zealand. Australia boasts one of the world's oldest rainforest as well as the largest living organism on earth, the Great Barrier Reef. Australia has endless deserts, farmland, and is home to the Aborigines, the world's oldest culture. In the countryside, you can interact with kangaroos, koalas, and cassowaries if you’re lucky.
Known as one of the most scenic places on earth, New Zealand is home to volcanoes, glaciers, and the world's cleanest waterways. Located on a fault line, New Zealand is the place to actually see all those things you read about in geology textbooks in action.
Plus, these two countries offer cultural learning experiences, especially for Maori and Aboriginal history, that will excite you. Yet they're similar enough to the USA that you don't have to worry about getting homesick.
Spending time in South Africa is not only an experience where you learn and give back, but one that truly gives young people a greater global vision. Though more developed than its neighbors to the north, South Africa is still a country in transition. Seeing this first hand gives you a perspective different than what you are used to. It'll make you start thinking of yourself as a citizen of the world and what you can do as a global citizen to make the world a better place.
This region offers several community outreach programs as well as homestays in different villages. You'll have the chance to see the natural beauty of this nation and wildlife as well as learn about a new democracy and the nation's struggles for true equality since apartheid.
If you want to experience a culture and lifestyle completely different to that of the USA, these two countries are a great place to do so. Chinese and Japanese homestays and immersion programs offer high school students a very special chance to dive into a different culture in ways most visitors or tourists rarely experience.
Make friends and family abroad that will stay with you for life, learn about the history of cultures that date back thousands and thousands of year, pick up a different language and see some of the world's great wonders like The Great Wall of China and Mt. Fuji.
High school summer programs abroad are not limited to the classroom either. There are so many different ways to travel and gain experience abroad in high school, from volunteering your time to spending a month trying out a career you’re interested in.
A classroom in motion, traveling summer programs aim to use the world as their classroom. These teen travel programs offer multi-city tours in which participants learn through comparison, rather than immersion. Centered around an academic theme, these tours will educate students through excursions, museum visits, language classes, talks by experts, or any number of activities.
These types of tours are especially popular in Europe where teen travel tours have been well established, but many program providers are branching out into more off the beaten path destinations like Southeast Asia, Latin America, or East Africa.
If you want to give back and learn at the same time, the best way is to get involved in a service learning project. Companies like Projects Abroad have a wide range in ways to help out, from working with the local community to build infrastructure to participating in animal conservation efforts to assisting in teaching English.
Language immersion / summer camps
You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to pick up a language when completely immersed in a country that speaks it rather than a classroom in the USA. Learning a language only gets harder with age, so if it interest you -- enroll in classes as soon as you can.
On top of learning a language in the best possible setting to facilitate it, a few months living in a foreign country and becoming apart of that culture is a the type of experience bucket lists are made of. Whether you want to practice Arabic in Morocco or Spanish in Argentina -- there is a language course out there for you and chances are it's located in some place scenic.
During the summer, some language schools will run language summer camps specifically designed for high schoolers.
Language is the most popular type of course you'll find for summer programs abroad, but it's not the only one. In fact you'll find courses in politics, art history, science and more all in some of the most happening or historically relevant places for them.
High school athletes are often given workout or practice schedules to use throughout the summer, which can be seen as limiting them to different experiences abroad, but it’s really just another excuse to take advantage of summer programs abroad.
If it's soccer that interests you, train in a nation that lives and breathes it, like Brazil. Those that like golf could practice it where it was invented, Scotland.
There are countless sports camps offered around the world that not only give high school athletes the chance to train, but sometimes train even harder than they would at home, all while learning about a different culture, picking up a new language and making friends abroad with the same interests as their own.
You'll have to consider the cost of each program, how to pay it off, and if there are any scholarships or financial aid options to help with that.
The Cost of High School Summer Programs Abroad
The price of spending your summers abroad in high school is going to range between $2,000 and $8,000, based on how long you spend away, where you go, and what you plan on doing. On average, you're looking at spending about $1,500 per week, though the more weeks you book, the cheaper each week becomes. (These estimates are based on prices from an programs offered by companies like Go Abbey Road, Projects Abroad, People to People, CCI Greenheart, and The Experiment in International Living).
To put these price points in detail, a two-week high school volunteer program in Nepal with Projects Abroad costs $2,045, whereas a four-week French Studies in the Arts, Language, Culture, Sports and Recreation in France with Go Abbey Road costs $7,595.
There are some additional costs to think about. Check to see how many meals a day your program offers, whether the program costs include housing, and if there are any additional program fees such as the price of books for a course or tools for an internship.
Two things that generally are not included in the price of a program are airfare and medical coverage abroad, plus any immunizations you may need prior. Finally, you'll need extra spending money. Your program should give you a rough estimate of based on how much they provide, but in general, $30 a day is a good minimum.
Keeping it Affordable
If you're on a budget, then consider programs in countries where housing and food is known to be cheaper, like Morocco and Costa Rica (as opposed to Europe). But if you have your heart set on Europe, you can still spend part of your summer there, it may just have to be for a shorter duration.
Also educational, traveling, and language programs tend to be more expensive than homestays, volunteer projects, and internships, so also think about that.
Planning Your Trip
Since this may be your first trip abroad, it's best to start planning early so you can find a program that suits you, reserve a spot, and start to familiarize yourself with the country.
High School or College Credits
Something to also consider for people enrolled in summer educational courses abroad is whether or not the credits from that course will transfer to your high school or college curriculum. If they do, you're making a good investment towards your future.
Scholarships and Financial Aid
Regardless of whether or not you’re planning to take part in a high school summer program on a budget, you should check out what scholarships or financial aid is available to you and your parents. Almost every organization offers something.
Abbey Road offers $500 level summer enrichment fellowships and $1000 level summer scholarships.
The Experiment in International Living offers scholarships ranging from $250-$3,000 as well as financial aid.
Why Spend a Summer Abroad in High School?
Have an idea of what type of program suits you? Start planning for next summer. This guide should help you have a better idea of where the most popular places for high school programs abroad are, what type of program best suits you, and different ways to help pay for your program of choice.
But remember - high school summer abroad programs are not limited to those mentioned in this post. In fact, the opportunities to travel and live abroad are endless for high school students, so take advantage of them now. Those summers of freedom won't last forever, so make the most of them while you still can.