Studying abroad is an amazing opportunity for American high school students. Often called "exchange programs," students will travel to a foreign country where they will stay with a volunteer host family, and study the local language and culture. These experiences can last for one semester or an entire school year, depending on the program. Aside from learning a foreign language and immersing oneself in a new culture, study abroad programs provide students with a wealth of benefits and intangible gifts.
One of the greatest things a study abroad or exchange program can afford young adults is an understanding of the international community. Today, we can connect with people across the world instantaneously, and even travel to remote destinations within a matter of hours. Technology and scientific advances are making this world much smaller, and students should learn to appreciate other people and their differences. Study abroad programs will help students dispel preconceived stereotypes and learn the real facts about other cultures.
These programs also provide students with a greater sense of confidence and increased maturity. Being in a foreign country as a young adult without direct parental guidance can be trying at times, but it teaches students to rely on themselves for courage and solving problems. Essentially, it affords them a better understanding of themselves, their likes and dislikes, and their principles. Also, students will learn to appreciate their own culture and family traditions more after living in a foreign country for any length of time. Being surrounded by the unknown will not only strengthen a student's character, but also instill in them an appreciation for both the common and the diverse.
Academically, study abroad programs are essential for students interested in becoming fluent in a foreign language or leaning about a country's history, architecture, or traditions. Total cultural immersion is a great way to learn new information in a relatively short period of time. Also, students will learn important time management skills while trying to balance studying for courses and the excitement of social life in a new place. Many students will also make life-long friends during their study abroad trips. Sharing an intense experience such as this often bonds young adults together for years to come.
Overall, high school students and their parents should seriously consider a study abroad or exchange program. The benefits are numerous and can lead students to become better, more well-rounded members of this global community.