American students often don’t start thinking about study abroad until well into their college experience. But for the curious, independent high schooler, studying abroad comes with a long list of benefits that can be an invaluable kickstarter to a happy, meaningful future. Read on for 7 reasons to start your adventure early.
High school is already a time for growing up and starting to feel out your place in the world. A study abroad experience provides a crash-course in self-discovery, away from family and typical day-to-day routines. When your comfort zone is a plane ride away, you learn new things about who you are and what you want. Studying abroad in high school can help you to orient your goals as you decide what areas of study you are passionate about, where you may want to go to college, or what else lies ahead of your high school graduation.
A global perspective
The opportunity to fully experience a different culture is a special one. Study abroad programs that include host family home stays and local high school experiences allow you to integrate into the daily lives of people with unfamiliar traditions, beliefs and practices. You will develop an appreciation for other cultures and become comfortable with approaching new ideas with an open mind. In a world that is increasingly connected, having a global perspective is an invaluable asset.
Learning a new language
Becoming bilingual or multilingual can help you develop higher cognitive skills and set you up for success in college and far beyond. Future employers often favor applicants with foreign language experience and consider the tenacity and time it takes to master another tongue. Immersion is one of the best ways to learn a new language, and allows you to interact with your new friends and family on an authentic, familiar level. And isn’t the cozy corner café with the friendly owner a much more interesting classroom than your high school Spanish class?
If college is the next step for you, a study abroad experience will help you stand out in the competitive world of university admissions. It shows an admissions team that you are courageous, mature and curious (and think of the essay topic potential!) In a sea of applications filled with typical school activities and accomplishments, a study abroad experience can set you apart. The experiences you have abroad can also prepare you for successful, passionate study in an area you really care about. Beyond college, your time abroad gives you stories and perspectives that most adults never get the chance to achieve. Your world will become wider, and so will your circles.
Independence and confidence
After you’ve tackled the French metro system or a mountain hike in Ecuador, what’s so scary about life in a dorm? Studying abroad in high school will give you the opportunity to explore life away from home and the challenges that it brings. The daily victories of ordering your lunch in German, or your groceries in Swedish, help to build your confidence as you grow into an adult. You’ll be more likely to take on new challenges and see them through as the capable world traveler that you are.
Diverse new friends and family
Why wait to start meeting amazing new people? The world is full of friends and families for you to connect with and learn from. Host families, classmates, other exchange students, teachers and fellow travelers all create a colorful and varied world for you to explore. These relationships don’t end when you return home – you’ve built networks and close friendships around the world for you to continue and reconnect with throughout your entire life.
Making a difference
You might not realize it, but every exchange is a valuable act of public diplomacy. You are able to act as an ambassador for your home country, while widening your own worldview to share back home. Building relationships around the world is a personal, impactful way to help foster peace and global cooperation. And you might not even notice it! In between the laughter with your host family, your projects at school, and the café owner you get to know, you help make the world a better place.
Ready to take the leap? Explore Aspect Foundation’s study abroad programs for high school students and find the experience that’s right for you.