This week's blog is courtesy of Justine Harrington from SPI Study Abroad. For more about the author, scroll to the end of the article.
It’s no surprise to anyone that studying abroad during your high school years is guaranteed to be a life-changing, amazing experience. But, did you know that this is also exactly the kind of experience that will help prepare you for college?
In addition to honing a student’s foreign language expertise, high school study abroad programs offer the perfect opportunity to fine-tune the kinds of skills critical to success in college – before even stepping foot on campus!
On Your Own
Before heading off to college, it can be so helpful for teens to have had practice with living independently. Study abroad programs for high school students provide the kind of real-world experience that students need when living on their own for the first time. When living abroad, you learn how to logically solve your own problems. Negotiating skills and self-advocacy move to the forefront as you navigate new situations and relationships. As most programs bridge the parental gap with teachers, advisors, or host families, students also get the advantage of honing their “adult survival skills” under the supervision of other adults. In essence, you get to practice being in charge of your own life – with the safety net of others’ support and guidance around you.
Out of Your Box
International programs also offer the unique opportunity to be confronted face-to-face with difference. Let’s face it, we’re creatures of habit: we all hunker down in our comfortable routines, eat at the same places, and hang out with the same people. And while this practice bodes well for developing solid relationships and familiarity, it doesn’t exactly aid in broadening our minds or our ways of thinking.
Taking part in high school travel programs allows students to experience variety, diversity, and change. This experience helps build a frame of reference for other new encounters. Deeply engaging with a brand-new culture and language helps enable students analyze their experiences and better understand how things that are different can be beneficial – not frightening. Learning to embrace the unfamiliar with a scaffold of support is crucial in adapting to the challenges and changes of living on a college campus.
In Your Head
The college experience truly shapes and changes our lives – you’d be hard-pressed to find a student who hadn’t grown and fundamentally shifted after four years at school. Through facing challenges, living independently, and learning about relationships while living closely with others, students are able to grow and develop in essential ways.
But, imagine if you could do that before choosing a college.
International programs for teenagers offer character-shaping experiences that truly emotionally prepare them for independent living. Students, self-assured in their abilities to handle adversity and problem-solve on their own, are thus able to approach college with confidence. They are better equipped to tackle new challenges and make responsible decisions for themselves. Through these experiences, they are already turning into who they want to be.
In The End
Traveling overseas before college is undeniably one of the closest things you can get to experiencing college itself – students are able to independently navigate their day-to-day survival, develop key problem-solving skills, negotiate new cultures and people, and begin to form the foundations of who they truly are.
About the Author: Justine is an equal parts travel junkie, intercultural education advocate, yoga-loving foodie, and writer. She's the Admissions Director for SPI Study Abroad, a leading provider of language immersion and global leadership programs for high school students, and is the main contributor for the SPI Blog. When not leading programs in France, you can find Justine on her yoga mat, exploring new restaurants in her neighborhood in Austin, or on Twitter at @Justine_Travels.