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How to Study Abroad in High School

If you enjoy traveling, learning new languages, and going on new adventures, studying abroad would probably be a great experience for you, even if you’re still in high school. Yes, that’s right — you don’t have to wait until you’re an undergrad student to take advantage of the benefits of study abroad. There are myriad programs available that will allow you to take classes, live with a homestay, explore new places, and more.

But not every high school study abroad program is created equal. Some offer year-long homestays with more flexibility in your schedule, while others are short-term, highly structured experiences. Many center language studies as the core activity, but some are community service-based or focus on a different academic subject entirely. A select few even offer college credit or a special certificate. It totally depends, so it’s important to consider what you may enjoy most in a study abroad program before starting your search. If you’re especially ambitious, you can even create your own study abroad experience that is tailored to your preferences. You should also check your school and local organizations to see if they currently offer any study abroad experiences for students your age.

While it’s probably too late to consider something for this summer, it’s never too early to start planning your study abroad experience for next year. And with COVID restrictions easing up worldwide, your list of potential destinations is only growing longer.

Here are some high school study abroad programs to consider:

Rotary Youth Exchange

Hosted by Rotary International and facilitated by your local Rotary club (there are clubs both in the U.S. and worldwide), the Rotary Youth Exchange program sends students to another country for a year-long stay, generally living with multiple host families during the year and being expected to perform daily tasks within the household as well as attend school in the host country. They also offer short-term stays up to 3 months long when school is not in session.

Eligibility: Ages 15-19 and leadership experience

Cost: Room and board and school tuition are provided upon acceptance. Students are responsible for round-trip airfare, travel insurance, travel documents (such as passports and visas), spending money, and any additional travel or tours.

Locations: Depends on your local Rotary club — varies widely

AFS Intercultural Programs

As a partner in the global AFS network, AFS-USA offers international exchange and education opportunities in over 45 countries and hosts exchange students from 90 countries. These intercultural programs are made possible by the dedicated work of AFS Volunteers—more than 4,400 in the U.S. and over 50,000 worldwide. The diverse study abroad programs vary in length from a year to a few weeks and cover timely and timeless topics such as sustainability and language learning. Some offer college credit.

Eligibility: Ages 14-18

Cost: Summer programs TBA in 2022; Upwards of $12,000 for semester- and year-long programs

Locations: Canada, Italy, Malaysia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Chile, Malaysia, and more

CIEE High School Study Abroad

CIEE is a nonprofit study abroad and intercultural exchange organization that transforms lives and builds bridges between individuals and nations by sponsoring a wide variety of opportunities for the exchange of ideas and experiences. Explore a different culture in more than 30 destinations across the world or be fully immersed in the daily life of a local high school student far away from home in one of 14 destinations. There are short-term, semester-long, and gap-year programs worldwide. They also offer custom programs and internships.

Eligibility: High school students, varies depending on program

Cost: Varies widely depending on location and length

Locations: Africa, Asia Pacific, Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, North America, Middle East

SPI Study Abroad

Founded in 1996, SPI Summer Programs International offers college credit high school study abroad programs in Spain, France, Italy, and Costa Rica. SPI’s interactive language immersion programs combine inspiring cultural leadership experiences, volunteer service projects, and exciting travel excursions where language and culture come to life. I’m a bit biased because I attended their Biarritz program in 2014 and had an amazing time — read more about my experience here.

Eligibility: Grades 9-12 with 1 year of classes in the country’s language, except for the Italy program

Cost: $3,000 – 7,000 depending on program length; includes homestay, tuition, excursions, and transportation

Locations: Spain (Santander, San Sebastian), France (Biarritz), Italy (Siena), Costa Rica

Putney Student Travel

Putney Student Travel provides innovative high school, middle school, and elementary school programs in the U.S. and around the world that foster maturity, self-confidence, and personal discovery while deepening global awareness and cultural understanding. The programs, most of which are four weeks or shorter, allow you to focus on a variety of passions, such as service, writing, creative arts, cooking, and more.

Eligibility: Grades 6-8, 9-12

Cost: $4,000 – 8,000 depending on program length; includes meals, lodging, entertainment, excursions, any theatre and concert tickets, entry fees, equipment rental, tips, and all ground transportation during the program

Locations: Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Central & South America, Europe, North America

Youth For Understanding

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is a volunteer-based global non-profit community consisting of 55+ Member Organizations across six continents. Choose from a year, semester, summer program, or classroom excursion that allows you to immerse yourself in another culture, learn a new language, and live with a host family who will open their home and hearts to you. They also offer specialty classes in Art, Music, Film, and Theatre; Language and Culture; and Sports and Outdoors.

Eligibility: Ages 15-18

Cost: Around $5,000 for the summer and $12,000+ per semester

Locations: North & South America, Europe & Africa, Asia & Australia

If none of these programs fit your criteria, keep looking on, where you’ll find more program breakdowns and reviews. If you’re interested in creating a custom program, look into language schools or job opportunities in the region where you want to go or use a program or service that can help connect you with available experiences. Finally, make sure to thoroughly review the program to ensure your safety and satisfaction.

Our Ivy League college consultants are available to help you review your options and create a stellar extracurricular profile in our Roadmap program — set up a free consultation today. Bon voyage!

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