I remember going on my first big international trip in high school: it was a month-long study abroad program to Israel, where we explored bustling Tel Aviv, slept under cloudless desert skies, showered (way) less frequently than you’d think, and completely changed our understanding of what lay beyond America.
Since that high school program, I have been obsessed with—and grateful for—international travel. Because once you sample that first bite of falafel, taste another culture and see what the world has to offer, your center of gravity will shift. So I thought I’d share the top 5 benefits of high school study abroad experiences, as a self-identified travel junkie:
You’ll Be More Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable
Sometimes when you’re traveling, there are more important things than being super clean and having a Tempur-Pedic mattress to sleep on. For me, after I accepted that I was going to be a little stinky sometimes (err…usually) and a bit out of my comfort zone, I could focus on taking awesome pictures, eating incredible food and bonding with amazing people.
Classes Back Home Seem More Meaningful
When you’re learning Spanish grammar or ancient global history in a classroom, the material might inspire…snoozing. But when you study abroad and are able to apply those skills, high school classes can take on a whole new meaning. You’ll no longer just be studying difficult verb conjugations—you’ll be practicing for your next trip to the Dominican Republic, where your classroom skills will help you to communicate with locals, understand the street art, and order tasty food.
Your Taste Buds Will Thank You
Even if you’re a plain pasta and butter kind of person back home (and we totally get it, pasta rocks), your taste buds will get a crash course abroad. It can start with just a bite or slurp of Vietnamese Pho Soup, the creamy, Northern Thai noodle dish Khao Soi, or chewy Chinese Soup Dumplings that explode flavor onto your tongue. It starts with a taste, but will end in a whole new palette of favorite flavors.
High School Travel Builds College Skills
Traveling abroad in high school can help twofold with college: 1) it signals to universities that you’re mature and open-minded during the application process and 2) it builds the types of skills that will help you thrive on campus. As US News & World Report explains, you’ll be stepping out of your comfort zone, learning independence and experiencing a difference culture—all things one goes through freshman year.
You’ll Push Yourself and Gain Confidence
I am not, shall we say, a super athlete: I hike (slowly), I run (intermittently) and I consider ping pong to be my strongest sport. And yet, since that high school summer program and beyond, I learned that I could hike for several days and sleep in tents and do things I otherwise would have thought to be too difficult.
Whether it’s making a new friend, contributing to a community service project or completing a challenging hike, these small moments of accomplishment abroad will consistently make you stronger. And once you’ve helped to build a house in Peru’s Sacred Valley, heading off to college seems like a piece of cake…or should I say pastel?
Lauren graduated from Washington University in St. Louis with degrees in International and Area Studies and Writing, and almost immediately headed to France to teach English. She ended up staying abroad for six months longer than expected, traveling, writing and working throughout Europe and Asia. She joined Rustic in 2018 as the Global Communications Coordinator in Southeast Asia, and has also worked in travel, publishing, and media. She's (usually) based in New York, has been to 32 countries and counting, and has an intense love for Boo the Celebrity Dog.