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Top 5 Ways for Your Teen to Summer Abroad

Teen summer abroad programs as a scuba diver.

Summers are precious times for teens, full of different ways to learn about life, the world, and themselves. Instead of finding a summer job at the neighborhood ice cream store, encourage your teen to explore the world via summer camps, language learning, and finding adventures through studying or working abroad. What will this bring to them? Besides increased global awareness and intercultural skills, they can learn so many things critical to jobs, college, and life: a reduction of ethnocentrism, language and interpersonal skills, country-specific knowledge, international experience, leadership skills, a heightened sense of curiosity, appreciation for diversity, cultural nuances, creativity, and more. These will be helpful for college essays, in job interviews, and, of course, for personal awareness and global understanding.  And while it’s hard to be separated from your teen for long, it’s well worth it — they’ll come back home with so much personal and intellectual growth that your family will now operate on a whole new level of shared curiosity about the world overseas. If you can, be sure to go with your other children to visit them while they are overseas — that way, your entire family will have a visual framework for their time abroad, and you’ll all know more about their experiences. We discuss and link to many programs, for all budgets, available to students here on Transitions Abroad. Let's explore the varied options for teens to experience the world this summer.

Here are the major 5 ways for your teen to gain international experience during a summer abroad:

1. Summer Teen Volunteer Programs

Volunteer service in the Dominican Republic. Photo courtesy of Global Leadership Adventures.

Volunteering abroad offers a unique insight into another culture. You’re present, learning, and helping others at the same time. Programs can teach much, while strengthening a commitment to a life of volunteering. Amigos International offers immersive programs that include leadership training, along with volunteering. Global Leadership Adventures provides volunteer opportunities along with historic and cultural immersion. Visions Service International showcases ways for your teens to be a teen without borders through service work and cross-cultural living. VFP (Volunteers for Peace) offers over 3,000 low-cost opportunities in 90 countries, so you can work in areas that interest you. They also a good idea to offer the option to volunteer together as a family for a unique experience!

Any options where your teen is helping others, especially while overseas, can have great benefits. Your teen will learn that not all people live the same way — and come back knowing the importance of working on projects that benefit others, and that can impact a community and lives.

Teen volunteer playing with a child.
Photo courtesy of GVI.

There are many programs available for teen volunteering abroad, most with summer options.

2. Summer Study Abroad Programs

Study abroad as a teen in class with other students.
Connie Ip in Thailand while enrolled in the AFS high school study abroad program. Photo by Connie Ip.

Study abroad is my passion — there’s something unique about studying in another country that makes the subject matter come alive, from archaeology to literature. Studying abroad in high school, whether for a summer or on exchange, can get your teen excited about learning again. For those that can’t afford it, there are many ways of financing study abroad, including government programs to fund language learning overseas.

There are several options for studying overseas, each with different benefits. For year-long programs, most teens participate in an exchange program, such as those with Rotary International. In this program, students stay with host families, which is an excellent way to immerse into the local culture and language. Homestays also play an important part in helping students adjust to life in a new place, through a family environment, everyday rituals like family meals, and a direct, inside look at family life and culture. Students also attend local schools, which further increases cultural understanding, language learning, and intercultural skills, as well as learning in a different environment than their own high school.

Some programs are short-term, such as summer study programs. One such program is ISSOS International Summer Schools, located in the university towns of St Andrews, Cambridge, and New Haven, CT (Yale). ISSOS has a truly multicultural student body, and offers academics, interest-based learning, adventure activities, and more (currently only available online through 2022 due to COVID). Other summer study programs include language and cultural learning with their curriculum. The benefits of a summer study program include making a diverse, global group of friends, learning about a geographic area and topic in a short time, and working within a specific or limited time framework for students involved in sports or other activities where they must be present for the school year.

There are more programs for teen study abroad, many with summer options.

3. Summer Adventures and Cultural Travel Abroad

Teens sailing in the Caribbean.
Teens sailing on an adventure in the Caribbean. Photo courtesy of Broadreach.

Maybe your teen is more drawn to adventure and enjoys the adrenaline? There are many opportunities for adventures abroad — and the best programs combine adventures with language learning, cultural activities, and community service, so that adventurous teens get the best of all worlds. Broadreach offers 70+ summer adventures in 40+ countries, including marine biology, scuba, sailing, language immersion, medicine, culture, arts, community service, leadership, and outdoor skills. Adventures Cross-Country pioneered teen summer adventure programs, and teens can experience community service projects, cultural immersion, SCUBA diving, surfing, rafting, sea kayaking, zip-lining, etc while abroad. ActionQuest also offers similar activities, along with cultural immersion and community service opportunities, which your teen should look for and experience, to gain a broad range of skills from their time abroad. The International Biosphere Stewardship Program Teen Summer Camp in Bali, Indonesia offers summer options that combine adventure travel, volunteer service, and cultural exchange in a beautiful natural environment.

If your teen is adventurous, programs like these can satisfy those cravings while expanding their world-view, community-mindedness, and academics.

There are many more options for teen adventure travel abroad, most with summer options.

4. Summer Language Immersion

Teens learning Spanish in Nicaragua.
Teen language learning in Nicaragua.
Photo courtesy of VISIONS Service Adventures.

Some language learning programs also provide volunteer opportunities. This can be an ideal way to break up study with helping others. Intercultural Costa Rica also includes cultural activities and tours. The Alpine French School provides both language learning and cultural and outdoor activities. French Summer Classes is a unique opportunity for your teen to have a homestay and language program in one. Whatever language program your teen chooses, the chance to learn language through immersion is, as research has shown, the best way to not only learn a language, but to gain cognitive, academic, cultural, and employment benefits.

Teens hiking in the French Alps.
Teens hiking in French Alps.
Photo courtesy of the Alpine French School.

5. Summer Jobs for Teens

Young people on an international internship with AIESEC.
An international internship is a way to differentiate yourself for future employers as well as being a great form of experiential learning and living abroad. Photo courtesy of AIESEC.

Working abroad, whether through WWOOF (some projects accept younger teens), internships, or other programs, can provide invaluable experience once your teen is 18-19 years old. From learning different work environments to actually learning a new field, working overseas has many benefits. Maybe your teen wants to be outside, and do farm work. Maybe she can combine it with language learning, either formal via classes, or informally, while working with locals in the fields. Maybe your teen wants to explore a more structured internship environment, while gaining career experience. He can choose to intern with a global company that has a branch in your country, or head abroad and intern overseas . Either way, he or she will gain valuable international work and collaboration experience that will perhaps inspire future educational and career choices. Here’s a great article on the difference between internships and volunteering abroad.

Start Looking Now and Change Your Teen's Life!

What are you waiting for? Start researching options with your teens and help them have a summer that will change their lives.

There are many more programs for teen Language Learning abroad, most with summer options.

For more information, please visit Why Your Teen High School Student Should Go Abroad: The Parents' Guide.

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Teen High School Study Abroad and Travel
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