Don’t let the movies inspire or distort your idea of a high school student exchange program. It is really not as simple or complicated as you see it on the big screen.
Thanks to its growing popularity, the student exchange programs are fraught with misconceptions of their own. But this article will bust some of those myths and tell you the truths about Study Abroad High School Summer programs so that you can make a well-informed choice.
Myth: Your new classmates will not welcome you at first
This is not just a myth but one of the biggest fears that can grip any teenager embarking on this adventure. Being shunned by your new classmates can a daunting and scary prospect. However, more often than not, you will be welcomed by a dynamic and interesting group of like-minded students who would as intrigued by you as you are of them. Don’t be sucked into the Hollywood stereotypes of a Chinese nerd and a hot European girl in your class. In reality, you would likely meet a complex group of high school students from all parts of the world. The best way to deal with this complexity is to approach it with an open mind. Getting to know people of diverse backgrounds will help you gain more exposure and also work wonders in breaking the cultural stereotypes.
Myth: More fun less work
A summer foreign exchange student in the movies is all about parties and fun exchanges. While that may indeed happen with you as well, but not before you put the study in your study abroad program! The whole point of this exchange program is to get another worldview and educate yourself about different cultures. So you will have to spend more time learning and in retrospect, you will see that it is a good thing. After all, don’t you want your time abroad to be worth every second? You will not only make friends for life but also intellectually stimulate yourself. However, these programs are designed in such a way that they incorporate a fair amount of experiential learning with classroom learning to give you good exposure. Therefore, it will be a fun mix of work and play to give you an unforgettable learning experience.
Myth: You will have a limitless spending capacity
This is one of the most misleading things about student exchange programs! High school students often falsely believe that they will have an unlimited budget for spending when they are studying abroad. However, in truth, it is quite the opposite. The whole idea of sending you away from home is to teach you some real-life lessons that include spending money wisely. Not keeping an eye on your budget from the start will leave you broke long before your trip ends. Don’t forget that traveling and studying abroad can be expensive, even if it is for a summer. So don’t be tempted to live the extravagant lifestyle that they show in movies. But don’t feel disheartened. This is in fact an important part of your program that will teach you how to prioritize your time and money carefully. Most students who learn this skill at a young age managed to stay ahead of the curve when they are on their own.
Myth: There is not much learning in exchange programs
This is untrue and also ironic. Consider this, the very reason why high school abroad programs are so popular is because of their ability to teach students with so many additional skills. You will learn so much about world cultures, break stereotypes, learn about money management, tolerance and many other things that a classroom can never teach you! It can be easy to believe anything you read online or see on television these days. However, the reality is far from it! The beauty of high school exchange programs lies in their ability to expose you to a world that lies beyond these stereotypes. This is the reason the students are encouraged to travel in their formative years so that they can learn the complexity of the world first-hand and acquire the skill of acceptance.
So, what happens next?
Now that you are aware of the realities about the high school exchange programs, it is time to start looking for one that suits your interests best.
Start by choosing the destination that appeals to you the most. Do you want to practice Spanish? Do you want somewhere you can learn outdoor skills? Do you want to do some community service? All these questions will determine the country that has the programs that are best suited to your interests.
When selecting the program, make sure that the high school abroad has merit and pay attention to what other participants have to say about the curriculum before committing yourself to a program.