10 Benefits of Studying Abroad in High School

Your teenage years are hugely important in your personal development. This is a time when you’ll see rapid changes in your personality, gain crucial life skills, and better understand your place in the world. 

This means the things you experience now will greatly influence your future, including your academic success and career path!  

Below we share the top 10 benefits of studying abroad in high school and why this is the perfect time for you to consider this opportunity. 

1. You’ll Rewire Your Brain

Busy with so many activities and priorities during the school year (like homework, extracurriculars, friendships, SAT/ACTs, etc.), it’s easy to feel like you’re on autopilot! 

Going out of our comfort zone to experience an unfamiliar place fires off our neurons (which send messages in our brains) and creates new connections that didn’t exist before.  

Study abroad will expand your mind in ways you didn’t think possible in such a short time frame—you’ll almost instantly become more adaptable, empathetic and flexible.  

You’ll also experience improved mental health, returning home feeling stronger and more focused. 

2. You’ll Grow More Independent 

Group of high school students posing in front of the Sydney Opera House

Most high school students have rarely been away from their families for extended periods, with many never having experienced solo air travel or going abroad alone! 

Studying abroad pushes you to independently navigate a new territory, far away from your parents, guardians and everything that you know, but with the help of a study abroad organization that can still provide you safety and support abroad.  

On a study abroad program, you’ll discover a new you, gain new interests, reflect on your life back home, and return feeling more in charge of your decisions. 

3. You’ll Learn a Language Faster  

High school girls posing in Moroccan market

Learning a language in the classroom can only go so far. When surrounded by a language in a new place, you get to try out your skills 24/7. This can mean great, rapid language gains. 

For example, you can immediately practice what you learn in class in the community, in a real way—ask for directions in the street, ask for local recommendations, order food at restaurants and more.  

CIEE Global Navigator Language & Culture programs require you to take the Avant STAMP 4S language proficiency test (which evaluates  reading, writing, listening, and speaking) before and after your program. This way you can measure your language growth. 

Among the many academic benefits of studying abroad on Global Navigator programs are that just 1 month of a language program can equal 1 year of language classes in high school and that you can also be eligible to earn college credit

4. You’ll Immerse Yourself in a Culture (Rather Than Be a Tourist) 

Just the simple act of catching a plane to a foreign place is a great thing for anybody. However, there’s a big difference between merely traveling somewhere and studying abroad.  

When you travel, you can see major landmarks, try new food, and learn a little bit of history. On the other hand, going on a study abroad program lets you better understand the setting you’re in, connecting you with locals and giving you greater access to the authentic culture (beyond what the average traveler sees).  

Context is key when discovering a new place! 

5. You’ll Meet New Friends From Other Parts of the U.S. 

High school summer abroad students in Botswana

One of the unexpected advantages of study abroad is how it exposes you to diverse lived experiences, and that’s not just abroad. It’s also in the U.S. 

When you’re in high school, your social circle typically revolves around peers from your local community. This limited interaction confines you to a smaller segment of people from certain socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic backgrounds. 

Thanks to high school study abroad scholarships, study abroad is not exclusive to students from affluent backgrounds. On a study abroad program, you meet and make friends with people whom you might have otherwise never encountered at this stage in your life, making you more open-minded to different perspectives of people your age. 

6. You’ll Gain a New Family Abroad 

High school students at eating with homestay family

Host families serve as valuable resources during a high school study abroad program. Not only can homestay accommodations provide you with a supportive and nurturing environment, but they can also give you a unique insight into local customs and traditions, which enhances your immersive experience (see benefit #4 above). 

Students often cite their homestay experience as their favorite memory from program.  

To know more about what it’s like to live with a host family as a high school student on a Global Navigator program, watch our podcast episode: What’s It Like to Meet a New Family on the Other Side of the World? 

7. You’ll Develop Workforce-Readiness Skills 

The career benefits of studying abroad start with gaining valuable skills necessary in today’s global market.  

Four key skills that companies seek align perfectly with four competencies cultivated on a high school study abroad program: 

  • A broad understanding of the global landscape 
  • Exceptional communication skills 
  • The ability to problem-solve through unexpected challenges 
  • The ability to work effectively with diverse teams in diverse environments 

Engaging in a study abroad experience in high school can make you a more attractive candidate to potential employers and prepare you for the complexities of the modern workforce! 

8. You’ll Have a Broader Perspective on Your Potential Career 

High school students posing in jungle in Costa Rica

If you still don’t know what you want to study in college, don’t worry. It’s perfectly normal for high school students to not yet have a set career path. Both teens and adults change their minds throughout college (and even after entering the workforce). Still, it’s crucial to explore your possibilities. You should be aware of the career options available and the places your passions can lead you.  

Studying abroad can significantly broaden your perspective on your potential career by offering you networking opportunities and real-world exposure to professions in your areas of interest.  

CIEE Global Navigator study abroad topic programs immerse you in a variety of career paths in art, business, social change and STEM. 

9. You’ll Stand Out on College Applications and Essays

High school summer abroad students in Spain

When applying to college, institutions usually ask you for a personal essay to learn more about your background. They want to know what you can bring to campus, how you’ve challenged yourself in high school and how your values align with their institution’s values. 

Of course, the evaluation of these essays will vary by institution. However, colleges and universities tend to consistently seek three things: 

  • A unique point-of-view 
  • A genuine voice 
  • Good writing skills 

Only about 2% of high school students study abroad. That means that speaking about your study abroad experience on your college essay is highly likely to differentiate you from other applicants! 

10. You’ll Have Memories That Will Last a Lifetime 

 One of the most valuable lessons to learn in life is that no one can really take away your experience. It’s truly the only thing we own!  

For years to come, you’ll always keep dear to your heart the friends you made, incredible places you visited on excursions, and the growth you experienced during your high school study abroad trip.  

You can be sure that the sights, sounds, tastes, and textures of your host country will be vivid and long-lasting.  

Not Sure Where to Start on Your Study Abroad Journey? 

Depending on your personal or academic goals, you can find different types of high school study abroad programs that suit you best! CIEE offers high school study abroad programs that can last as little as three weeks or last a full academic year. 

Schedule a call with a CIEE Enrollment Coordinator in your area to find out more about your options and get personalized help!