Summer Study Abroad Is Your Child's Ticket to the World

Some kids get the bug. The travel bug, that is. From an early age, some youngsters just want to see the world. Perhaps you’ve supported or instigated this interest with volunteer trips, eco-travel adventures, and family holidays around the world. Maybe you’ve taught your kids about inspiring international figures, studied world history, or done some family ancestry research.

Or maybe you’ve been a homebody host to study abroad students or world travelers, helping to spread American hospitality through citizen diplomacy. Whatever the genesis, you weren’t prepared for that devastating and wonderful question from your child or teen: “Can I study abroad?”

Instead of drowning in worries from moment one, it’s time to get to work preparing your child for one of the most meaningful experiences of his or her young life. Consider some of the following ideas when deciding on the right study abroad program for your young teenager. After all, creating enthusiastic and engaged global citizens certainly does take some globetrotting. 

When Can They Go?

Summer study abroad trips from various organizations are open to kids in middle school and high school. Trips are often language courses, group cultural studies trips, and service project initiatives. School, government, and church groups send kids all over Latin America and Europe, usually for two to four weeks. To get your student into a local group, check out your local Lions or Rotary Club, school language club, or church youth group.

The American School in Switzerland, a private boarding school, accepts non-boarding students as young as four-and-a-half in their Chateau des Enfants summer program. Kids receive daily language classes in English, French, or Italian; they also practice drama and have free time for sports, while also enjoying excursions in the nearby Swiss Alps.

Of course, the under-a-decade set of jet-setters is fairly limited, and most kids probably won’t be ready for an international adventure until at least the age of 12 or 13. They’re in luck too. Broadreach Global Educational Adventures has summer programs for kids entering the seventh and eighth grade in Mexico, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Putney Student Travel takes middle school kids to Europe and Costa Rica.

Whether it’s marine biology, surfing, Spanish, or cultural immersion, these 10-14 day trips are just long enough for young kids to experience the world without getting too homesick.

Once your student hits 15 though, the whole world of study abroad begins to open up. At that age, a mature student can choose to study for a year in a foreign country through Rotary Club, do a summer outreach trip with Lions Club or Youth for Understanding, or even take on a youth leadership trip, funded through the State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

A number of government-sponsored summer, semester, and year-long programs are open to kids 15 - 19 who can take a high school year in Germany through Congress-Bundestag Exchange, learn Arabic, Mandarin, Korean, Hindi, Turkish, or Russian in the specialized NSLI-Y scholarship program, or participate in a summer youth exchange with like-minded peers in China or Central America (see YES and AYLP scholarship programs).

Where Should They Go?

Where your student travels is entirely up to you. Language-focused study abroad terms in Spain, France, and Italy are popular with high school language teachers as well as parents who want a safe, secure first foreign trip for their kids. The Congress-Bundestag Exchange, a State Department academic program that sends students on full-scholarship trips to Germany, is another excellent option in this regard.

Short-term trips usually for a few weeks in the summer, are great for kids who have never been out of the country, or never traveled on their own. A few weeks is long enough to experience culture shock and transformation, but short enough to not be defeated by it.

Many kids have dreams of returning to a place they traveled to when they were younger, and will feel a specific affinity with a certain study abroad destination. Don’t fight it! If your child has a particular passion for somewhere more exotic and shows a real independent spirit, they might be ready for a full year abroad living with a host family. Make sure to have your child register with the State Department in their host country and choose the study abroad organization carefully to minimize the risks. 

Programs like the Rotary Club Youth Exchange send students to dozens of countries all over the world, where they will have a whole network of in-country Rotary support in addition to their host families. The State Department’s language-specialization scholarship year, NSLI-Y, is another great option for a very independent and driven student.

Where and how long your student stays abroad will be very dependent on their level of independence and maturity. However, don’t sell your teen short either. When teenagers face the difficulties of living and studying abroad at a young age, they will probably end up rising to the challenge.

Does your teen dream of studying abroad? What programs are you looking into? Share your exciting plans with us!

Tags : school   summer school   study abroad   

Elodie Nilsson
If my kids don't do this willingly, I will just put them on the plane. Such a great experience and some of my best memories.
Nikki Mateo
Wish I could have done this as a teen!
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