Study abroad is most often thought of as an experience one may participate in during college. However, in recent years pursuing academics overseas across a wide variety of academic programs has become more popular among high school students. And, high school study abroad programs, which typically range in length from a few months to up to a year, certainly have their benefits.
High-achieving teens experience both personal and academic growth by living and learning in a country different from their own. They may acquire a new language and be exposed to unique cultures, thereby expanding their worldview – which is valuable in today’s globalized world. Such skills gained from studying abroad can also help increase one’s chances of college admission.
Despite the benefits, there are also some challenges that come along with studying abroad in high school. Trading a familiar school, friends, and family for a foreign place filled with strangers can be emotionally difficult for some students. What’s more, studying abroad may negatively impact a student’s high school studies, mainly by making it difficult to earn the credits necessary for graduation.
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So, will studying abroad help or hurt your studies? The following information can guide you in deciding whether or not studying abroad in high school is right for you:
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High school study abroad programs are designed to completely immerse students in a new way of life. Some programs are focused around a specific subject area – such as architecture or biology – while others are meant to simply give students a taste of what going to high school is like in another country.
In either case, studying abroad allows you to pursue an extremely focused education. Often, you’ll come home practically fluent in a new language and with other highly-specialized academic skills. Sometimes these programs provide you with credit you can put toward your high school degree.
College admissions officers tend to seek out students whose applications are unique – and a study abroad experience on a college application is certainly distinctive. To them, it may suggest that you are independent, motivated and prepared to take intelligent risks. With college admissions more competitive today than ever before, studying abroad can give you an edge over other applicants who lack such international experience.
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Potential academic drawbacks
As mentioned above, some high school study abroad programs award students academic credit for their time spent abroad. However, this is not true for all study abroad programs. The courses you complete overseas may have no definitive transfer equivalent at your “home” high school. This can push back your high school graduation or force you to attend summer school in order to catch up with the rest of the students in your graduating class.
While the immersion you experience while studying abroad can help you focus on your academics, it can also make you less focused. Imagine having to adapt to life in a place you’re completely unfamiliar with: the people, language, foods and lifestyle is likely very different from your own. Trying to cope with these major changes can prove to be a major distraction to some, and their grades as overseas students may suffer as a result.
Yet, the challenges of studying abroad may be overcome with the proper planning. The keys to a successful study abroad experience are choosing an academic program that interests you – is challenging but not overtly so – and that awards you with academic credits easily transferable to your high school degree.
Erica Cirino is a contributing writer for Varsity Tutors, the leading curated marketplace for private tutors. The company also builds mobile learning apps, online tutoring environments, and other tutoring and test prep-focused technologies.