You know the benefits of studying abroad. They’re easy to pinpoint: Traveling to a new country, learning a new language, enhancing your resume, and finding professional opportunities. But it’s the intangible benefits that stay with you forever – experiences that change your life, permit spiritual and academic growth and foster within you an appreciation for new cultures.
Many colleges and high schools recommend that students spend time abroad. These trips can be a faculty-led travel course that lasts a week, an independent study during the semester, or an entire summer study abroad program immersed with a research project.
But it doesn’t always feel easy to find or choose summer abroad programs for high school students and college students. How much time should you spend abroad and which organizations offer the best study abroad high school programs?
If you’re contemplating a trip this summer or next, you’re probably asking yourself these questions. Use this guide to help navigate the process of finding a program that suits your personal needs as well as your academic requirements.
Is Studying Abroad Right for Me?
There are innumerable reasons why you should travel abroad to study, but the most important is to challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone. The unknown can cause anxiety, so you have to ask yourself, “Is studying abroad right for me?”
If you’re serious about a trip overseas, you’ll most likely need recommendations from faculty members of your school or college. These people have your best interests at heart, so they’re going to be looking for a few characteristics you’ll need to have a successful experience abroad. They’re counting on you to:
- Be self-motivated and curious
- Work well independently and in a group
- Have problem-solving skills
- Be mature and able to handle stress
- Be emotionally stable and culturally sensitive
- Possess good verbal and written communication skills
The Cost of Studying Abroad
There’s a cost to studying abroad that includes your academic tuition, if applicable, and the cost of the program you choose. Add travel to and from your host country, housing, food, medical checkups, vaccinations, and insurance, and the total can skyrocket.
Some schools offer scholarships for study abroad programs. Another way to corral these expenses is to choose a study abroad provider that helps with travel coordination and provides accommodations and food.
Maximo Nivel specializes in international education, study abroad, and travel in Latin America. They will help you arrange airport pickup, housing, meals, embassy relations, and even emergency plans. They also constantly monitor their in-field conditions to ensure you’re safe and contributing to a meaningful project.
Global Vision International is a trusted organization that provides volunteer trips and internship opportunities in Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, and the Americas. From placements that last one week to long-term study abroad high school experiences and internships, a GVI opportunity can enhance your education and jumpstart your academic career.
Setting up an account on Volunteer Forever and utilizing our fundraising tools can also help you offset the burden of using traditional financial aid. Although you may be able to apply for federal grants and loans to study abroad with your college, you might not want to increase your debt with student loans. Volunteer Forever strives to make the process of traveling abroad simple: pick a program, fundraise for your trip, and share your experience while overseas and upon your return.
Why Study Abroad?
A trip for an extended amount of time requires a great deal of planning, and sometimes it’s difficult to take the first step. You might need motivation. If that sounds like you, then consider a few more reasons to study abroad:
- Make your summer matter
- Explore new destinations
- Learn to live like a local
- The world is your classroom
- You can make a better future
- Become an agent of positive change
- Work with leaders in sustainability studies
- Grow as an individual and gain real-world experience
Now that you know how life-changing a summer studying abroad can be, let’s jump in. Here are two great organizations with a variety of study abroad programs for high school students and college students!
Amazing Summer Study Abroad Programs
Be a global citizen with a study abroad program in Latin America, personalized for you by Maximo Nivel! Whether you’re a college student or still in high school, Maximo Nivel has a great study abroad opportunity for you – and with their internationally accredited programs, you can study at a prestigious, private high school or earn university credit. Maximo Nivel partners with universities in the United States and Latin America, making it easier to obtain official transcripts, transfer academic credit, and apply for financial aid. Founded in 2003, Maximo Nivel has placed more than 25,000 travelers on study abroad programs, internships, teaching opportunities, and Spanish language learning trips in Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Peru.
Programs range from interdisciplinary studies such as international development and business to medical studies to conservation and science. Most students choose Maximo Nivel to improve their Spanish language skills, so your studies can be led in either Spanish or English. And even if you have basic speaking skills or no understanding of the Spanish language, you can choose to have your course materials taught in English. Maximo Nivel is the best choice for college or high school study abroad summer programs that improve Spanish language skills.
Combine your language lessons with a research project or a local development project, helping at the grassroots level. The first steps are to communicate with your academic advisor to make sure a study abroad program fits with your academic career. Pre-approval of your chosen program ensures the classes count toward graduation.
Accommodation options vary – you can choose an immersive experience with a host family, opt for a private apartment, or stay in a hostel or a local hotel. Weekends are free, so take the opportunity to travel to the countryside and go whitewater rafting, climb a volcano, or hike the mountains and forests. Maximo Novel also arranges for Mini Adventures, which are one-week addon programs that combine travel and lodging to tourist must-see spots. Maximo Nivel has many options for study abroad programs, and high school students and college students both can find the right fit for them. Learn more about Maximo Nivel here.
High School Abroad
You won’t forget Spanish as soon as the class is over when you choose Maximo Nivel’s Spanish Immersion program in Costa Rica. Spend a semester (24 weeks) or an entire year at a prestigious, private, fully accredited high school in either San Jose or Manuel Antonio. Open to high school students from 9th to 12th grade, classes are taught in English, while students study Spanish as a second language. Through a structured curriculum that emphasizes speaking, you’ll acquire the language through practice.
You’ll also have an opportunity to participate in sports, from soccer, basketball, baseball and volleyball, to clubs ranging from guitar to chess, to fencing and even aeronautics. Students live with host families, enjoying an immersive experience and cultural exchange, with a private room. Your cultural advisor will work closely with you to make sure you’re able to make a smooth transition with language and cultural differences. Your tuition includes all textbooks, workbooks, and computer lab fees, and extra tutoring is available. Fees vary based on the school you choose – get started today!
University Courses Abroad
Maximo Nivel offers university programs year-round, including during the summer. Students can choose to study abroad part-time, and combine a volunteer program with their experience. Or, take full-time, flexible classes that allow you to earn college credit. Some programs may qualify for financial aid. University courses in conservation, science, and medicine are offered only during the summer and are based in Lima, Peru. These include:
- Ecology & Conservation of Marine Mammals of the Humboldt Upwelling Ecosystem
- Biology Conservation Techniques of Parrots and Macaws in the Peruvian Amazon
- Natural History of the Peruvian Tropical Coastal Marine System
- Community Medicine & Service Learning
- Multidisciplinary Research on Medicinal Plants in Peru
- Global Health, Public Health, and Medical Spanish
Service Learning courses combine the ability to volunteer abroad while enrolled in a Service Learning class, or independent study. These are available year-round on an open enrollment basis and begin on Mondays. Here’s an example:
Volunteer in Organic Farming
Learn about organic farming as an eco-agriculture volunteer, working with farming communities in Antigua, Guatemala. While there, you’ll help local coffee growers with their businesses, learning about sustainable practices from bean to cup. You’ll provide support from the beginning, assisting with production, including growing, harvesting, and processing the beans. This includes picking, weeding, planting, processing, and packaging of the final product for local and international sales. Reforestation and community outreach are also components of this project. Choose a Service Learning course in the following specializations:
- Animal Care
- Environment & Conservation
- Medical & Healthcare
- Teaching English
- Working with Kids
International Internships are available with Maximo Nivel on an open enrollment basis, and you can begin your internship any Monday throughout the year. Earn university credit for your volunteer experience through Maximo Nivel’s official School of Record, the California State University – Monterey Bay. Here’s an example of an internship:
Micro-Business Internship in Costa Rica
Choose a summer internship in Costa Rica, one of the most economically successful of Latin American countries, and assist entrepreneurs and small business owners in the private or nonprofit sector. Expand your business and communication skills by taking a role in daily operations, client service, sales, administration, marketing, public relations, accounting, and distribution. You’ll study and work in San Jose, a prime location for business development. This program exposes you to business practices in a competitive, international setting, allowing you to become global-minded, and develop your Spanish speaking skills. Internships are also available in the following areas:
- Hospitality & Tourism
- Human Rights
- Special Education
Spanish Immersion Programs
Maximo Nivel’s university Spanish courses are available year-round on an open enrollment basis and new courses begin every Monday. These language immersion programs work for college credits or as a high school study abroad. Courses range from Beginning Spanish to Composition, to Advanced Spanish Grammar, and more.
Add to your career skills, boost your college application, or prep for world travels with a Spanish Immersion Program. You can choose to learn in a small group, private classes, or a combination of both. You’ll learn from professionally certified, native Spanish-speaking teachers in large, common areas with wifi, lounges and on-site snack bar with free coffee and tea. Support from the bilingual team is available 24/7, and you can participate in free conversation practice with the Tandem Conversation Program. You’ll also participate in free cultural activities and optional tours, and while you’re at it, earn university credit. If you want, you can add a volunteer or internship opportunity to practice your Spanish “in the field.”
Need help deciding which course to take? Talk to a Maximo Nivel program advisor.
Global Vision International (GVI)
Operating since 1997, Global Vision International is a family-founded organization that places thousands of travelers abroad annually with high-quality programs. GVI encourages travelers to make impactful contributions on conservation and community development projects and has placed more than 24,000 people overseas since its founding. GVI partners with small, local NGOs, as well as prolific organizations such as Save the Children, the Red Cross, WWF, SANParks, and the Jane Goodall Institute. 70 percent of GVI’s funds directly benefit its projects – which indirectly support the GVI Charitable Trust – and the remaining 30 percent covers operations. And an emphasis on volunteer safety makes GVI an excellent choice for first-time international travelers. Safety is a priority, so the organization created the “GVI Live” platform, which provides real-time updates, allows you to communicate with staff and fellow volunteers before you depart, and lets your friends and family follow you on your adventure abroad. GVI’s value makes it a great choice for summer abroad programs for high school students, or summer travel programs for college students.
Once you’ve decided to study abroad, and you have approval with your academic adviser, you need to prepare for departure. A typical GVI curriculum could have you spending the first two weeks identifying a topic for your independent study project, whether that’s working on a community development program, immersing yourself in a language and cultural experience, or researching a conservation and wildlife initiative. You’ll prepare with assigned reading and discuss the material in online seminars with educators and other students.
In-country, you’ll conduct fieldwork, attend guest lectures, enjoy cultural activities, and learn about local practices, food, dances, and so much more. Gather the data and resources you need for your final project, and spend some time reflecting upon your experience in the field. After your trip is over, you’ll be able to complete and submit your final project, and share your insights with your classmates and others.
The GVI Study Abroad program is split into three activities: Two weeks in your home country, participating in online workshops, getting to know your instructors, the GVI international staff, and your classmates. The second two weeks are spent in-country, working on your specific project. The final two weeks, your online course continues, and you share your insights and plan your involvement in addressing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in your local community at home.
Here are a few programs for Study Abroad participants:
Collaboration and Conflict in Saving Thailand’s Elephants
Asian elephants in Thailand face a bleak future, soon to exist only confined in tourist camps. Because elephants are expensive to care for, and they can be used as a means to generate income catering to tourists, they are considered private property. This results in the animal being confined and denied its migratory urges and social interactions with other elephants. This can lead to serious health issues.
GVI offers a study abroad opportunity where you can learn about conservation efforts and advocate for a better future. Once in Chiang Mai, you’ll be picked up at the airport and transferred to the conservation center for orientation. You’ll have a chance to settle into your homestay with a local family for the next two weeks, during which time you’ll work with the staff and community partners, learning about the conservation challenges in the region and focusing on short- and long-term goals. These include promoting ethical treatment of elephants, creating a self-sustaining eco-tourism program for the village, improving the living conditions and job opportunities for the community, and improving sustainable resource management in the region. While in Chiang Mai, you can take excursions, participate in educational workshops, and learn about the environment. This study abroad high school program is six weeks long (with two weeks spent in Thailand), worth three credits, and costs $3,746. Click here to learn more.
Impacts of Community Development on Costa Rica’s Environment
Earn three credits while studying theories of development, service, and ethical community engagement in Manuel Antonio along the Costa Rican coast. The town is next to a national park and surrounded by palm plantations and rainforests with monkeys and toucans that you’ll be able to see every day while you’re there. You’ll fly into San Jose, take a four-hour bus trip to Quepos, and receive orientation and check into your housing (same-gender dorm rooms).
On this program, you will study critical environmental issues like plastic use, pollution, effects of tourism and palm oil production, immigration, sea debris, beach litter, garbage pollution, and overfishing. You’ll also study mangroves and their ability to reduce hurricane impacts, and how these important faunae are being destroyed by tourism and development. Your project also will focus on the problems that conserving natural resources causes with the local population, who are trying to earn incomes and collect food. You’ll be involved in helping to create sustainable food collection practices, including building gardens. This six-week study abroad program includes two weeks in-country, with a total cost of $3,746. Learn more and sign up here!
The Intersection of Inequality, Education, and Gender in South Africa’s Townships
Travel to South Africa and contribute to ongoing, sustainable efforts to promote gender equality in Cape Town, through a program that aims to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty. After your two-week, online introduction to the program, you’ll travel to the South African neighborhood of Gordons Bay, a coastal area at the foot of the Hottentot Hollands Mountain Range. GVI will meet you at the airport, transport you to the program center, where you’ll be oriented and settle into your dorm room.
For the two weeks, you’re in South Africa, you’ll focus on a project that creates the opportunity for women in townships and rural communities to access quality education, health care, and income initiatives. The majority of people living below the poverty line worldwide are women, and many girls are still denied basic education. With GVI, you’ll ensure that your time in South Africa has a meaningful impact by supporting women in culturally appropriate ways, and listening to their story. You’ll learn about empowerment issues and help GVI with initiatives to promote opportunities for women and girls and to educate men and boys about gender inequality. This three-credit study abroad program last six weeks, two of which you’ll spend in South Africa, totaling $3,746. Read about this program here.
Ready to Travel?
If you’re ready to start your study abroad adventure, sign up for a Volunteer Forever account and start fundraising for your perfect program abroad.
Looking for more inspiration? Check out these articles:
Study Abroad Stories & Advice from Student Travelers
Teen & High School Volunteer Abroad Programs | Under 18 Mission Trips
Cheap Affordable Volunteer Abroad Programs & Low-Cost Overseas Projects
Robin Van Auken · Writer
Robin is a researcher, writer, and a registered professional archaeologist, a skillset she uses every day as a cultural communication specialist with Hands-on Heritage. Her projects connect communities with an emphasis on interpretation and education and conserve cultural and environmental legacies.