The World Is Your Oyster: Summer Programs Abroad

Studying abroad isn't just for college students! Here are a few travel abroad options for high school students, depending on your goals for the summer.

Think studying abroad is just for college students? Think again. Summer programs abroad offer a range of opportunities for high school students interested in going overseas. And your experience traveling internationally will come in handy when you’re applying to colleges or checking out study abroad options later on. Here are a few travel abroad options for high school students to choose from, depending on your goals for the summer.

Language immersion

The best way to become fluent in a foreign language is to live among its native speakers. Language immersion programs abroad aren’t like your eigth grade French class’s trip to Quebec, where everyone’s bilingual and marks you as an American from a mile away. These programs combine intensive language courses with cultural activities and constant opportunities to practice your skills—in certain programs, participants aren’t even allowed to speak English to each other. 

Enforex operates more than 20 Spanish-language schools and international summer camps for teens across Spain and Latin America. Students from all over the world choose from four levels of Spanish instruction.

Related: Learning a Foreign Language: Top Tips for Students 

Academics abroad

If learning a language isn't your thing, you can find plenty of opportunities to study other subjects while traveling abroad. If you’re already fluent in a second language, you can search for options in countries where that language is spoken or opt for courses where the language of instruction is English. Just like pre-college summer programs in the United States, study abroad courses allow students to pursue a subject in-depth that might not be offered in their high school curriculum—and sometimes even earn college credit. 

University of Dallas Summer Programs Abroad bring the University’s strong study abroad tradition to high school students. Located on the school’s satellite campus in Rome, programs allow students to examine Shakespeare’s infatuation with Italy or deepen their understanding of the Latin language and the Romans who spoke it.

Community service

Performing community service abroad is a great way to learn about another culture while working hand-in-hand with its residents and contributing to a good cause. You may use the trip to accumulate hours to meet your high school’s community service requirement, or as the inspiration for a unique college application essay. 

VISIONS Service Adventures organize construction-based projects and other service work in native villages in more than 10 countries every summer. Some programs include language immersion in either French or Spanish.

Related: The Benefits of College Missions and Travel Abroad

What to know before you go

Regardless of what type of summer program abroad you’re considering, there are some important factors to keep in mind. Travel programs provide varying levels of independence to high school students, from 24-hours-a-day supervision in some programs to others that offer significant free time for students to explore on their own. In certain countries with lower drinking ages, teens may even be allowed to drink alcohol (but just because it’s legal in the country you’re traveling to doesn’t mean your program allows it).

Travel abroad programs can get expensive, often costing several thousand dollars for multi-week programs. Financial aid and scholarships for travel programs are usually limited, and additional expenses such as airfare and spending money may not be included in program fees. Make sure to discuss program costs with your parents when you’re researching options—and there’s still time to find an after-school job so you can pitch in for some of the cost yourself.

It’s important to do your research to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Study abroad programs affiliated with universities or boarding schools are usually strong options for language or academic courses, but other trips operated by independent companies may amount to little more than organized sightseeing tours with few opportunities for academic or cultural enrichment—some have even earned reputations as “party tours” for rich kids. Research websites and try to talk to former participants to get a feel for what the program is like.

Related: Top Summer Programs for Students With a Global Mindset

If you do find the perfect program for you, make sure to get your passport well in advance and book any necessary flights as early as possible to reduce costs. Read up on cultural differences in other countries, and check out the State Department’s International Travel Information site for travel advisories, country-specific facts, and other important advice for American students. If you already own some sturdy luggage, that’s all there is to it. Pack your bags—it’s on!

Learn more about traveling the world by clicking our study abroad tag!

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foreign languages high school students international study abroad summer summer programs travel

About Jim Martinho

Jim Martinho

Jim worked as an Editor at Porter Sargent Handbooks from 2005 until 2012, following his graduation from Northwestern University with a degree in journalism. Jim’s first task at Porter Sargent was to research summer programs for the Guide to Summer Camps and Summer Schools, published since 1924 to describe recreational and educational summer opportunities for kids and teens. Jim helped to make the Guide’s 1600+ program listings fully searchable online at In his free time Jim enjoys reading, playing guitar, and seeing live music. He spent his own high school summers in suburban Boston working at a supermarket and freelancing for local newspapers.

You can circle Jim on Google+, follow him on Twitter, or subscribe to his CollegeXpress blog.


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