Opting to study overseas can be a great way to gain new experiences while furthering your education. You get to explore a different country and culture and make friends from all over the world. It can also be a great career choice if an overseas program specializes in or is renowned for your course or subject.
According to IBS research, there are many benefits associated with studying overseas. Students who spend time abroad are more likely to graduate and gain employment later on, with better salary prospects on the horizon.
While many students plan to take a gap year after graduating from high school, different types of study abroad programs allow you to explore the world without necessarily putting your studies on hold.
So what opportunities are there for US high school students to study overseas?
An Introduction to Overseas Study Programs
Joining a study abroad program is a simple way to study overseas. There are often a wide variety of courses and programs available, and they can vary in terms of their length, the style with which they're delivered, and their content.
Your choices when it comes to studying abroad courses are as follows.
Short-Term Courses to a Full Academic Year
You will have plenty of choice in terms of the length of the program. Study abroad programs can last an entire academic year, or be a short-term exchange ranging from a few weeks to a few months.
Although longer courses typically take place during term times, your course doesn't even have to take place during your school year either. For example, holiday programs and summer school camps are a popular option.
Academically Focused Courses to Volunteering Opportunities
Academically focused study abroad courses are generally the most popular options for high school students. If you're studying a foreign language, for example, then studying abroad can be a great way to boost your language skills. Learning a language in a country where people speak it as a native tongue will guarantee you get an intensive learning experience.
However, you can do far more overseas than "just" learn a language. If you're studying a non-language subject, then learning the local language can be an added bonus to your main area of study.
Study abroad programs don't always have to have a strong academic focus either. Volunteering programs are particularly popular, although you can often combine these with an academic program depending on what you're looking to do.
In short, there's plenty of opportunities out there for you to choose something very specific to your interests, or to mix and match if you want a more diversified experience overseas.
Host Family to Shared Accommodation
Depending on your course length and the style, of course, you will have various accommodation choices at your disposal. Some study abroad programs could offer you the opportunity to live with a host family in your chosen country. This can be a wonderful way to learn more about the local culture and have a real "hands on" experience of living somewhere new.
If you prefer, you could choose to stay at shared accommodation with other students on the same program. Shorter courses are often organized with shared accommodation, such as staying at a campsite or a hotel.
Certain study abroad programs will often include accommodation with the course, unlike taking up a full-time place at an overseas university where you will likely need to organize your accommodation independently from the course itself.
Scholarships to Self-Paid Courses
The cost of a study abroad program depends largely on the type of program you choose. Naturally, longer courses will be more expensive. It is often possible to apply for scholarships and sponsorship, especially when attending an academic course. These may be offered via a company or a sports-related organization, but there will usually be a range of funding options available.
Where to Find Information About Overseas Study Opportunities
Not only are there lots of different courses available, but there are also plenty of program providers to choose from.
Popular course organizers include:
You can also browse different options on websites such as GoOverseas.com. These sources often have multiple courses you can search based on your chosen course criteria.
It's also good to check whether your high school is already in co-operation with a specific course provider or organization. Talk to your teachers and career counselors as soon as you start thinking about studying abroad. They will be able to help and advise you on how to find courses and plan for your trip.
How to Choose Your Course
With lots of courses to choose from finding the right one might seem daunting, especially if your main motivation is to gain experience of living overseas, rather than to study a specific course.
Spend time researching your options to ensure you find something that is going to engage you for the period of the course.
Here are three tips on finding the right course for you.
1. Decide on Your Course Preferences
Start by thinking about what you want to achieve with your study abroad program. Are you looking to enhance your language skills, progress your learning in your chosen topic, or perhaps both? This can help narrow down your course search.
It's also a good idea to think about any preferences in terms of where you want to go. If you're certain you want to study in the UK, for example, focus your search on courses in that country.
It is worthwhile nailing down where you would like to go early on, as the logistics of studying overseas may differ dramatically from one location to the next, which could affect your planning and decision making.
2. Think About How Long You'd Like to Stay
Another important thing to think about, and which is linked to where you want to go, is how long you'd like to stay. Do you want to spend a full academic year abroad, or only stay for a month?
In general, you can find many options in different locations for various types of courses. However, sometimes you might have to choose between the type of course you want and how long you want to stay. Think carefully about the most important thing to you and then prioritize accordingly.
3. Look for Recommendations
As you narrow down your options, it can help to talk to other people who've already had similar experiences. They can tell you about their time overseas and give you tips on planning for your own experience. Look for online forums and relevant groups on social media sites like Facebook.
Your school might also host events where previous exchange students or alumni that spent some of their time studying overseas come back to share their experiences.
Preparing for Your Overseas Course
Whether you're going overseas to study for a month or a year, you need to prepare adequately.
Most overseas placements require students to complete an application. Don't just think about getting your application in before the deadline either. Competition for many placements will be fierce, with application numbers often several times in excess of the number of places available. With that in mind, it's important that you convey your passion for whatever it is you want to go through your application. Be as detailed as possible and if you have the opportunity to send documentation or references in support of your application then you should do so.
Take time to fully understand the course requirements too, not just during the application process but afterward as well. Your course might require you to perform some specific tasks during or after the program, such as writing a report or assessment of your studies.
Ensure you dedicate time to sort out what you might consider being the basics, too, and are able to answer the following questions:
- Where will you stay?
- How much will the course cost, and how will you pay for it?
- How much do you need to budget for living costs?
- Do you need to travel and/or health insurance?
Studying overseas offers a fantastic opportunity for you to experience new things. There are so many options out there that it should be possible to find something to suit you.
Be sure to start planning early and leave enough time to find the right course for your needs!