Choosing the Right High School Study Abroad Program

It’s never too late or too early to go abroad. Study abroad isn’t just for college kids anymore — so if you are a high schooler with a thirst for adventure, you’re in luck.

There are so many great benefits to studying abroad in high school: learning and mastering a foreign language; gaining a new perspective about the world; becoming a more independent person; discovering a passion for a new skill or area of study, just to name a few!

If you are thinking about a high school study abroad program, here is a little friendly advice:

Consider program length.

Since high school structure is generally more rigid than college structure (in terms of semesters, breaks, and so on), high school study abroad is usually done as either a summer program or a full-year exchange.

Identifying your study abroad goals can help you decide which type of program is the right one for you. Summer programs are less likely to offer academic credits, which frees students and gives them more flexibility in their focus. For example, if you really want to spend your time on language skills, volunteering in a new community, or learning a local craft, you may want to consider a summer program. This option is also great if it’s your first time traveling alone or internationally.

A full-year exchange gives you the opportunity to really immerse yourself in a different culture; going abroad for an entire year while living with a host family will truly give you a sense of what life is like in another country.

Search for the right program.

Summer and full-year programs can be found through a number of different sources — your school’s guidance counselor, a list of scholarship programs, recommendations from family and friends, review websites, or a simple Internet search.

Noodle offers an advanced study abroad search by location, language instruction, academic credit, and more.

High School Programs

In terms of the actual program provider, this boils down to independent organizations/companies or U.S. high school exchange programs. In exchanges, you won't pay tuition because you swap with another student; however, you do pay for support. These high school programs have less flexibility, but they are more affordable and typically offer a comprehensive travel package (including a host family placement and school costs). Going through a U.S. high school also makes it easier to receive academic credit for your time abroad. High school exchange programs almost always involve a homestay or host family, which may make students feel more comfortable while apart from their own family.

Independent Providers

Independent program providers give participants educational opportunities and support, and they are in the business of being more flexible about the details — where you want to go and what you want to do (volunteer? study?) while you’re there. If you are interested in gaining a specific skill or field experience while you’re abroad, this may be the option for you. Summer abroad is also a great chance to earn service learning credits if your school requires them.

Budget the costs.

Scholarships, grant programs, and crowdfunding are worth investigating if cost is important for you. The U.S. Department of State offers high school exchange scholarships each year, and your own high school or town may as well. These programs tend to have specific focuses and requirements, but they’re absolutely worth researching to see what’s offered.

Follow this link to find out how to study abroad for less.

Do your research.

Explore all types of program options before deciding which one is the right fit for you. Be sure you have a firm understanding of the program requirements — especially language requirements. Talk to your school’s guidance counselor, email questions to program providers, and ask questions of peers who have traveled abroad or alumni of a program in which you’re interested. Read the first hand accounts on review sites like StudyAbroad101.

Don’t forget that being away from home and from your friends can be challenging at times, and if that’s a concern for you, consider a summer program. But also don’t forget that new places mean new opportunities for friends. No matter which type of program or provider your choose (or when you choose it), studying abroad is a wonderful way to develop your global perspective, gain independence and maturity, challenge yourself, and make friends and memories that will last a lifetime.

Not convinced? Read our "Top 10 Reasons to Study Abroad."