Whether during high school or college, students who live and study in a foreign country can have a profoundly transformative experience. The experience is not without its difficulties, though, often forcing students from the comfort of their home environment.
However, for these three types of high school students, the challenges while studying abroad may be well-worth the rewards they'll achieve.
1. Students seeking fluency in another language:
The benefits of fluency in two or more languages are abundant and well-documented. For instance, bilingual students often earn higher scores on standardized tests (including the ACT and SAT) than monolingual students do.
Students who hope to become fluent in another language can benefit immensely from the immersive experience of studying abroad during high school.
Ideally, you should have some level of familiarity with the language in question before you begin a study abroad program – enough familiarity that you can hold simple conversations, even if you do not always conjugate verbs correctly. When you reach your host country, you can then dive into the experience without the worry of memorizing simple vocabulary, which you could accomplish more cheaply at home.
As you select a study abroad program, ensure that it is truly language immersive. Many international schools are English-centric or English-bilingual due to the language's global importance in trade and tourism.
Simply living in a foreign country will not magically result in fluency. Identify programs that promise structured language learning alongside a typical high school curriculum.
The API French Language Immersion Program, for example, includes home stays. Compare this program to the Parsons Paris Art and Design Pre-College Summer Program, where students stay in a hotel.
This gives students more time for art and studying but potentially less exposure to French culture and language immersion. Both programs are based in Paris, but they have notably divergent goals.
2. Students considering globally focused majors:
Many college majors, graduate programs and careers prize international experience. Students pursuing majors that lead to careers in diplomacy and international relations, for example, will benefit from a world perspective.
So can aspiring artists who wish to fuel their creativity. Certain MBA programs also include study abroad components to help students gain perspective on challenges and opportunities overseas.
If you are interested in any of these fields, a high school study abroad program can help you begin building your international connections. You can also utilize such opportunities to bolster your college applications by demonstrating that you have real-world experience with your intended major.
When choosing a study abroad program that will further your goals, dig deep into the details. An exchange program based in Paris, for instance, may be perfect for an arts-focused student, such as the Parson summer program.
Many programs in France focus on a more generic cultural exchange. Programs in other countries combine cultural exposure, internships and language learning to teach real-world skills in a foreign setting.
Put simply, always read the fine print to ensure the program details match your needs.
3. Students considering an international university experience:
For students considering attending college overseas, a high school study abroad program can be an excellent way to explore this option before committing. Such a program can provide such benefits as adventure, cultural exchange and even lower costs.
Studying abroad during high school will allow you to experience the host culture and test your ability to live away from home for an extended period of time. Your experience will also make a compelling addition to your international college applications, given your demonstrated interest in the universities' location.
Perhaps most importantly, you can make friends and contacts who can help you when you return for college.
When selecting a study abroad program, you do not necessarily need to choose an option in the same city as the university you hope to attend, although the same country is useful. Your college plans can change, after all, so prioritize a program with a focus on college preparation.