Let’s say you’re a parent and your high schooler comes home with a flyer announcing the school summer trip to Europe. You want to give your child the opportunity but questions remain. What will a teen really come away with from this experience? Will it be nothing more than a glorified shopping trip overseas?
These are valid concerns, but there are so many positive effects – both short and long term – that are worth considering. Here are 5 ways that teens can benefits from travel abroad.
New Horizons, New Perspectives
The world of the average teenage student is cyclical: home, school, after-school extra curricular, homework, sleep, repeat, with maybe a bit of time for friends and a movie in between. Traveling abroad cracks that world wide open. Students abroad have the opportunity to see the wideness of life outside their typical routines. There is art, food, history, music and craft waiting to be explored, and even just a sampling can alter the perspective of a young mind.
Simultaneously breaking the world open, travel can also remind students of the many similarities between their lives and those of different nations, cultures and ethnicities. Seeing basic parallels, such as food and family, builds empathy, a bridge needed in an increasingly complex world.
Traveling to a different country is an excellent way for anyone to put a new language into practice, and high school students taking foreign language classes have the opportunity to bring their ongoing class work to life in a way that feels fresh and relevant. The small acts of ordering food and asking for directions put vocab into practice and can make a world of difference in a student’s language confidence. For even deeper study and cultural connection, homestays are another great way to develop those critical skills, while experiencing day-to-day life as part of a family.
Connections With Others
From tour guides to bakery owners, there is no shortage of people to meet while abroad, and that can include the people you’re traveling with. Take away the school walls and the social pressures within, and students often connect with unexpected friends. The act of travel becomes a bonding agent, forging ties through shared experience.
And, in the rare case that teenagers don’t get along, there is still an upside. Seeing that the world has so much more to offer, petty conflicts lose their magnitude. Students can move more confidently knowing that life is not limited to the drama of the high school cafeteria.
Yes, letting a child travel far from home can be daunting for a parent, but under the right circumstances, that long-distance travel spurs confidence and independence. Traveling abroad can be a great first step for students who are heading off to college. Students have a taste of life outside their parental domain, while also respecting the rules of the travel group or educational organization. It’s a great teaser for what’s to come in a college setting, more freedom with a little more responsibility, too.
College and Beyond
In a 2016 study by The National Association for Education, 81% of students who traveled abroad in Middle or High School went on to pursue a college degree. Opening up the world at such a young age can inspire a college major, such as language or international studies, or create a life-long passion, like cooking, photography, even travel itself.
And beyond higher education? Hear from a few teen travelers on what their experiences abroad meant to them:
“Travel invigorated my ambition because it showed me what could be possible if I do well in college, so that I could study or work abroad in awesome foreign locations. “ – Scott Mulder, ACIS Participant
“The biggest benefit was learning so much about the world and really helping me decide what I wanted to do with my life in terms of a career and college. It really opened my eyes to things I never would have seen in the USA. “ -Melissa Velpel, ACIS Participant
“My experiences living and traveling in France have helped me land jobs where my language skills have been integral to my position (as a writing tutor, French research assistant, English teaching assistant, and nanny). The maturity, confidence, interpersonal skills and sense of responsibility I’ve gained from travel and life abroad also helped me to land a job as a tasting room host at a boutique winery.“ -Cara Lowry, ACIS Participant
Guest Blog by ACIS EDUCATIONAL TOURS Since 1978, ACIS, the American Council for International Studies, has been a leader in exceptional overseas educational travel for middle and high school students, and their teachers. At ACIS, our mission is to empower educators to introduce their students to the world beyond the classroom and inspire the next generation of global citizens. Go to http://www.acis.com to learn more.