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5 Ways Teens Can Benefit From Traveling Abroad

By January 30, 2019January 31st, 20198 Comments

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.

Language Immersion

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.

Building Independence

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

For the latest on educational travel, check out the ACIS blog!

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 to learn more.

Sarah Bichsel

Author Sarah Bichsel

Founded in 1978, ACIS Educational Tours provides quality educational travel experiences 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.

More posts by Sarah Bichsel

Join the discussion 8 Comments

  • Janiel Green says:

    Being able to see, feel, and understand a different culture is one of the greatest gifts (in my book) that you can give to your kids. I know that when I’m treating patients in the nursing homes that the biggest regret they have is not doing more while they were younger. It also helps the kids not be so narrow minded when it comes to things like, ‘why can’t I have that’ – when they are able to see what true struggle is, and yet the people are still happy – it makes their own journey easier as well. LOVE THIS POST SO SO MUCH!

  • We seen our teen daughter abroad for a 80 day solo tour of SE Asia last summer. We saw first hand all of the benefits you spoke about. We really thought it would give her perspective but it really helped with her relationships with others. Pretty soon she was finding travel buddies along the way and having a great time of it.

  • Sarah says:

    I love this – such an important topic to share and I hope it reaches some parents who are on the fence about letting their teens travel abroad. I went on a school band trip to Paris and London when I was in high school. It wasn’t my first time abroad but it was for many of my friends. It was a life shaping experience for ALL of us. So I say… if the family can find a way to afford it, then letting their teen travel abroad could have profound positive impacts across their whole life!

  • Cat Lin says:

    This post reminds me of my college life. I was*sort of* traveling abroad when I studied in Canada but at the same time it didn’t feel like it because it is an English-speaking country. Looking back now, one thing I wish I could have done is language immersion. It would be fun to go to a non-English speaking country like Japan to live for a summer. That will be a great way to immerse in the culture and hone my language skill!

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