By Gabi Lecusay, Senior
While in college or high school, many students explore the option of taking a full semester (3-6 months) to go to school in a different country. You don’t need to be a “down-to-the-core” future tourist to be curious about studying abroad. In fact, it just takes a simple interest in open-mindedness to get started in exploring the incredible world around you. At universities, each school has an academic office that organizes and coordinates programs abroad. For high school students, a guidance counselor or simply Google can be the beginning.
A big myth about “Studying Abroad” is the assumption that the program will involve nothing but the study of a certain country’s language and of its culture. I definitely know the pains involved with language study first hand, but there are an incredible variety of programs and schools that can offer courses in different locations. Thus, Studying Abroad isn’t just about “I’m in love with the country of Spain therefore I will go to study in Spain;” while it could be that, it could also be: “I’m curious about studying Economics in places other than America, so I will go to study in Spain.”
Receiving an education in a different country can enrich your perspective because each place offers a completely new and unique experience that’ll shape the future adult that you will become. If you think vacationing in Europe would be fun, think about how incredible it would be to live as a native in a different country while earning college credit.
Choosing a program- I did it!
This is the part where you make the decision on what you wish to do with this great opportunity to travel the world. For example, I’m someone who’s in love with the study of language and literature, so I looked up linguistic programs for my country of choice. After some months of research, I stumbled upon the Goethe Institut in Germany which offered a month-long summer program of language study and cultural enrichment. Thus, when choosing a program, try to focus more on your area of interest (i.e. maths, sciences, languages, etc) instead of your country of interest. Of course, your country of interest plays the biggest part, but it is more important to know where you want to travel versus where you want to study.
I want to emphasize the fact that it did, in fact, take me quite a while to decide on a program that both my parents and I agreed upon. This is not a decision to be taken lightly because it involves travel of long distance and time away from your parents. I can assure you that you won’t be in any kind of danger while in your program of choice; however, homesickness is an illness that will definitely take you by surprise if you’re not completely and utterly prepared for this kind of travel.
Another thing to consider is payment; money is definitely the biggest issue to overcome when studying abroad. There are programs that offer scholarship; therefore, you might not have to pay much, but that is not always the case and you will always need (depending on the amount of time you wish to travel) about $500 to $5000 in spending money for food, travel, and souvenirs. $500 is for a month of travel, and $5000 would suffice for a year of travel. Traveling is expensive, but with budgeting and financial responsibility, it is all worth the life changing experience that is studying abroad.
First, to begin your search for the perfect program, I recommend using the website StudyAbroad to find your program of choice because it has an organized catalog of many different programs. There are more than just high school options, so whether you have a sibling in middle school who seems interested or you’re a senior going into to college, the option to study abroad is always available.
Peace Corps Is a 18+ American program with a two-year or professional opportunity to take your skills and strength into the countries that need it the most. Application is free because this is a completely volunteer-oriented program. It is definitely a demanding challenge to take two years of your life to helping people in need in other countries, but, having known people who have volunteered in this program, they seemed to have had an incredible experience and would recommend looking into the specifics to see if it is right for you.
Congress-Bundestag Vocational Exchange is a scholarship that I’ve recently applied to and highly recommend as someone who enjoys traveling to Europe. For high school seniors, it’s a Gap Year program that lasts an entire year in Germany with a host family. It’s free to apply with an unpaid internship program of your choice. This isn’t just about visiting Germany but practicing the profession of your choice in a new environment. This gap year provides you with the opportunity to “test the waters” of your profession of choice before going straight into that college major. There’s also a second program offered for American Citizens of the age of 18 to 24.
The Experiment Is a program similar to Peace Corps where you study abroad to the country of your choice to work hands on with others in the program. This is a high school summer program that requires a 300 to 500 word essay, a letter of recommendation, and a completed application to be submitted for revision and acceptance into the program. The website is incredibly informative with travel tips and information about the specifics of the program, so I highly recommend giving it a look.
Acis, while not a free option, does offer a decent scholarship opportunity for those who were involved with one or more of their programs. This study program is more cultural than vocational and offers tours at reasonable prices to anywhere around the world. This program is for both High school and Middle School students so, if you have the available cash to spend, I recommend this course so that you have an extra scholarship option for Senior year. Scholarship options range from $500 to $1000 prizes.
Another option for high schoolers is out-of-country college. There are many countries that offer free schooling for students, so if you wish to save money and receive an education out of the United States I recommend looking at colleges in places more than Florida. The worst that could happen, really, is that you don’t want to come back!