Opportunities Abound for High School Students
Imagine being 16 years old and arriving in Paris for the first time on a hot June morning. Your host family for the next month is waiting to take you by train to a small village called Oradour-sur-Glane. It is in the heart of France, where there are green hills and shimmering lakes, porcelain is made, and the villagers are some of the friendliest in the world.
This is the new trend for high school students--spending their summers traveling, learning, sightseeing, and experiencing cultures overseas. These students take their once idle summers and turn them into the adventure of a lifetime.
The Choice of Programs
There are many different programs from which to choose. Students may choose an adventure that lasts a week or one that lasts the entire summer. They may choose programs that focus on everything from academics and language enrichment to outdoor adventures such as camping, rock climbing, skiing, and canoeing. Or they may pick a travel program devoted to sightseeing and daily excursions. The programs also vary greatly in price. A student may pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand.
Picking Your Best Option
Because short-term summer programs vary so much, it is important to choose carefully. Even though the stay is for a short time, students and parents should research the program as thoroughly as if it were for an academic year. Certain programs house students in supervised dorms; others place students with host families. Which situation feels more comfortable?
If you're looking to gain academic enrichment, check with your high school advisers before leaving. Some programs may include arranging and paying for transportation abroad and for the excursions. Some do not. It is important to note what you will need to pay for and what services are included.
All programs should provide an orientation and thoroughly screen students as well as host families. Ask what their procedures are. Does a student need to have prior language experience? Ask for references of individuals who have participated in the program. Finally, ask if the program been accepted for listing with the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET).
Why Study Abroad in Summer?
The academic year program is the ultimate experience in studying abroad. You are immersed every day in another culture. Students experience holidays, school, friends, family, their day-to-day life all from the perspective of their host country. But sometimes it's a good idea to begin building up to this experience by getting your feet wet first in a short-term adventure abroad. If you are perhaps not quite ready to handle a full academic year abroad, this is an opportunity to grow and mature into the experience.
With a short-term summer abroad there is no worry about missing credits. In fact, many students earn extra credits. Students should speak to their high school administrators about gaining credit for language study if they are not staying in an English-speaking country.
A summer excursion is like a honeymoon. You are not there long enough to fight with friends or their host families. Yet you are able to get a taste of what everyday life might be like. The short experience is planned so that every day is a wonderful adventure—of new foods, new friends, and traveling. The purpose of these programs is to see as much as possible. Knowing that students will only be with their host families a short while, oftentimes the families like to take their student to see something new everyday.
The Best of All Worlds
For the price of a good summer camp, high school students have the opportunity to broaden their horizons and accomplish something productive with their summer. As with any experience abroad, universities and potential job employers look favorably upon a student with international experience. You will come back with new knowledge and appreciation of your world. Hopefully the next step will be an academic year abroad, and you will be ready for it.
Where to Get Information
There are now a host of database sites, including www.TransitionsAbroad.com's section on Teen Summer Study and Camps Abroad from which you can get information about programs for High School students.