By going abroad in high school, you can change your world in ways that are both visible to you personally, and visible to your friends, family, teachers, and future peers and colleagues. Many AFSers say that their experience was “transformational.” They gain new maturity and independence, and develop a better understanding of what their passions and long-term goals are. They also share that they’re better prepared than many of their peers for the college application and interview process.There are practical benefits to going abroad in high school too, like gaining language fluency, developing critical intercultural communication skills, and forming lifelong connections that span the globe and often last a lifetime.
For most AFS programs, you’ll live with a carefully-screened, volunteer host family. AFS families come in all different shapes and sizes, but every one of them has a connection to a local AFS volunteer, and has gone through an orientation that helped them prepare for hosting a student. Most families live in towns or cities with small to medium populations. Because your host family selection will be based in part on your personality and interests, we’re not able to accept requests for placement in a specific city or region. This is why it’s important to be flexible!
On most dorm-based programs, you’ll live together with other students from around the world, and will have a program leader on-duty 24/7. Each dorm experience is different; check out the specific program page for more details.
Eligibility requirements vary by university and program. Typically students must be at least sophomore or junior standing at time of departure. The minimum cumulative GPA usually varies between 2.50 to 3.0 on a 4.0 scale, while more competitive programs have a higher GPA requirement. Other qualifications may include a personal statement or letter of recommendation. Consult your home university and/or program provider for specifics, and plan accordingly so you can meet all of the requirements by the time you want to study abroad.
The sooner, the better! When you start early, you’ll have more time to research in depth and find a program that suits your personal and academic needs. You’ll also have more time to decide what type of experience you’re looking for in terms of location, immersion, duration, and cost. It is best to start planning at least one year and no later than one semester before you actually want to depart. Pay attention to application deadlines and apply once you’ve decided on your program (they can fill up quickly!).
If you feel overwhelmed by your options and need help deciding where to go, take a look at the study abroad section of Go Overseas. Here you’ll find a quick overview of what it’s like to study abroad in a particular region, as well as reviews of programs from past participants. Once you have chosen a country, you can even read tips on narrowing down your program and read reviews.
Prior to departure, you’ll meet up with the other students going on your program and go through a short orientation in your international departure city. There, you’ll get to talk to someone who recently spent time in your host country or region, and will have the chance to ask any last-minute questions. Then you’ll fly together with the whole group to your host country. You may also have an AFS staff or volunteer fly with you, especially if you’re in a large group. Most Global Prep program participants also fly with AFS staff. No matter what, you’ll have AFS staff or volunteers help you check into your flight and meet you at the airport upon your arrival and return.
Not at all. You can study abroad if you only know English, and you won’t be limited to English-speaking countries like England or Australia, either. While some programs have a language prerequisite or only offer courses in the host country’s language, there are study abroad programs available in English all over the world. If you do end up in a non-English speaking county, you will most likely pick up parts of the language.
If you're exceptionally worried about the pending language challenges, you can also actively pursue a study abroad program that is taught only in English. Minimize that "lost in translation" feeling!
Federal financial aid can usually be applied towards the study abroad costs. (Note: Always confirm this with your Financial Aid Office.) Don’t forget to apply for scholarships. Ask your university’s international/study abroad office about open scholarships. If you are studying through an independent program, scholarships are usually available for eligible students. You can even look for outside sources; you’ll just have to do some digging!
Be sure to consider applying to the Go Overseas study abroad scholarship, offered bi-annually for 500 buckaroos!
Absolutely! Most students who study abroad will graduate on time. It is crucial that you plan your courses carefully before departing, as well as the courses you will take abroad, so that you will not interrupt course sequences or miss out on required classes offered during specific semesters if you will be away. You should also confirm with your study abroad office that the credits you take abroad will transfer back to your home university.
Many students will opt to participate in short term programs during semester breaks in order to offset the potential of graduating a semester behind their friends. Students who have rigid academic schedules or other commitments that tie them to campus should consider summer study abroad.
As a volunteer-based organization that has been implementing exchange programs for nearly 70 years, AFS has an extensive support network for you, your family in the U.S., and your host family abroad. There are local AFS staff and volunteers in every host country, as well as a Support Staff here in the U.S. – there will always be someone on-call, 24/7.
While you’re abroad, your first level of support will be your host family or group leader. You’ll also have an additional volunteer “liaison” who will serve as your personal bridge to your new host family, community and culture.
Even if you’re already insured under your family’s medical plan, your program fee includes secondary medical insurance. As part of our commitment to your health and safety, this plan ensures that you can get medical treatment as soon as possible in the case of an emergency.
Absolutely! AFS awards $3 million in scholarships each year. There’s a vast range of opportunities that are either need- or merit-based, as well as lots of fundraising resources and support. The best place to find out what’s available in your area is on the Scholarships page. For more info about applying, check out the Scholarships FAQs or Fundraising FAQs, or email firstname.lastname@example.org with specific questions.
Many students who leave their comfort zone may encounter culture shock, homesickness or loneliness, financial issues, and language barriers. Remember to see these challenges as an opportunity for self-improvement, and the benefits of studying abroad will greatly outweigh the difficulties.