Can High School Students Study Abroad?

Yes! Thousands of high school students study abroad every year, seeking out unique cultural experiences, language immersion, college credit, and everything else a study abroad program can offer. If you’re considering if a studying abroad is right for you, we have all the information you need to consider, such as finding funding for a program abroad and what you’ll need to know before you head off on the experience of a lifetime.

How Can I Study Abroad in High School?

Our program works with students from grades 9-12 that come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds. If you’d like more information about our international programs or are curious about how to apply, you can request information regarding any one of our programs here.

Paying for a summer abroad can seem daunting, but there are many different options to assist with travel expenses. For starters, we offer payment plans so you can make a deposit of $1,000  and pay as you go rather than having to pay the entire sum all at once. To further assist you with financial matters, consider these options as well:


Scholarships are the best option to help you fund your adventure abroad. There are a wide variety of outside scholarships that will apply to your cultural studies in another country, so it’s always a great idea to apply to as many opportunities as you can. Many such scholarships are based on need, merit, or leadership and often require an essay, so prepare accordingly and watch for deadlines if you are interested in applying for a scholarship to assist with your studies abroad.

When looking for a scholarship, be avid and persistent in your search; many different options appear every year, and applying to multiple opportunities increases your chances of being accepted by one. These are just a few options to help get you started:

  • Essayontime: A $1,000 scholarship contest based on an essay. Applicants need to be 17 years old or older to apply, so this is an ideal option for Grade 12 students.
  • Niche: A non-essay scholarship open to all high school and college students. Winners are selected via a random drawing.
  • GoEnnounce: A $500 scholarship awarded monthly. It’s based on updated posts by students rather than merits or essays. 

Writing a Scholarship Essay

Sitting down to write an essay can seem like an intimidating process. The required length often varies, with requisite word counts ranging from 350 to an upwards of 1,500. In order to help you get the best results when writing your application and essay, be sure to keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t wait until the last second: Scholarship deadlines differ across the year and often need to be applied for prior to the academic year they apply to. Planning ahead will give you more time to consider the best way to approach an essay topic, too.
  • Target your audience with your writing: The best way to understand what organizations are looking from in their applicants is to look into essays that have previously won. While you shouldn’t adapt your writing style to be exactly the same, this can provide guidance about how you should approach the essay topic.
  • Work on a strong thesis: The art of a strong introduction begins with concise writing that captures interest quickly. Try to avoid generic language and vague facts to make your introduction more personal and hard-hitting.
  • Use an angle you care about: Scholarship essays rarely allow applicants to work with a topic they come up with themselves, so you should expect to work with topics that don’t always resonate with you. It’s important to find an angle within the topic that you can be passionate about so it’s reflected in your writing. In an essay about conservation, for example, you can do research about environmental issues that directly affect the community you live in.

Have a Do-It-Yourself Attitude

You can campaign for yourself and the opportunity to travel abroad. This can mean anything from starting a compelling GoFundMe campaign to collect donations for your education abroad or taking on work outside of school to earn money for travel. When you express your passion for having life-changing experiences in a completely different country, you’ll often find support to help you achieve your goals.

Planning for Travel

Once you’ve planned out how to pay for your trip abroad, there are still other considerations and concerns that undoubtedly come to mind. Getting your passport in order and finding out where you’ll be staying while abroad is just the beginning. As you prepare for travel, you should bear in mind that:

Passports Should be Accounted for Ahead of Time

Getting your U.S. passport can take 6-8 weeks once you file your paperwork, so it’s important to finish the process well before you intend to travel abroad for you education. Since the minimum age for regular passports is 16 years old, it may be your first time filing for a regular passport. If you’ve travelled out of the country before, be sure that your passport is still current, as child passports received before the age of 16 are only valid for 5 years rather than the 10 years adult passports are valid for.

If you are younger than 16 when you intend to study abroad, you’ll need extra paperwork when applying for a passport. This is because the approval of both parents is needed for a child passport, so if both parents can’t make it with you to apply for a passport with their ID’s and proof of parenthood (this is usually stated on your birth certificate), you’ll need to bring an extra form giving you permission to travel abroad. The other paperwork you should generally have for both child and adult passports is:

  • Proof of your citizenship (typically a birth certificate)
  • Proof of your identity (usually a driver’s licence or state-issued ID)
  • A government-issued passport form (a form called DS-11)
  • A color passport photo (strict requirements mean these are 2” by 2”)
  • Payment for your passport

After applying, you’ll need to provide a passport copy regardless of the program you enroll in, so be sure to have your passport ready as soon as possible. If you end up needing to get a passport faster than the usual 6-8 weeks, expedited services tend to have a hefty fee attached, so the sooner you get your passport taken care of, the less you’ll have to worry about possible extra fees or delays.

You Should Prepare for Any Situation Abroad

Although SPI provides some of the safest study abroad programs available, you or your parents may have some concerns about potential emergencies. Studying abroad during high school is often the first time you’ll be quite so far away from your parents, so making preparations can offer peace of mind. Here are just a few things you can do to prepare:

Look into the best travel insurance for you: Traveller’s insurance is almost always required by travel abroad programs. While you’re out in another country, these programs will ensure that you have access to healthcare in the case of unexpected accidents or illnesses. They can also help in the case of travel disruptions or damaged personal items.

Manage your wallet: If you have access to your bank account, be sure to let your bank know that you’ll be travelling abroad. Foreign exchange rates are often best at ATMs, but it doesn’t hurt to have foreign currency already prepared so you’ll have some spare change during your trip.

Download apps before you go: If you’re interested in having guidebooks and other helpful documents on your phone, be sure to download them ahead of time. Data rates for mobile devices are often different depending on the location you visit, which is also another important  tip to keep in mind when studying abroad.

Remember the little things: The voltage of phone chargers can vary according to the location you visit, so be sure to look into whether your current charger will work abroad. It’s also a good idea to bring snacks and an extra set of clothes in your carry-on when you fly internationally, just in case there are delays or luggage mix-ups.

You Should Have Some Proficiency with the Local Language

Each of our study abroad programs require that the applicant have at least one year of scholastic experience with the most relevant language to the program. For Central American programs like Costa Rica, for instance, one year of Spanish is required. Not only does this help students get the most out of the program—it will also help students communicate with locals and orient themselves in a completely different country.

High School Study Abroad Programs

Now that we’ve covered most of the basics of how you can travel abroad and what you should prepare for, you may be curious about exactly where you can go with study abroad programs. At SPI, we offer unique cultural experiences in:

  • Spain
  • Costa Rica
  • France
  • Italy

 If you’d like more details about how to apply for study abroad or what each individual program can offer, you can request information or schedule a call at your convenience.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

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Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

A Life-changing Experience!

Get ready to experience and SPI Abroad program yourself. Learn more about our programs or request more information today.

Request Your Catalog Today.

Fill out the form below and we will send you a catalog and get in touch. Please note all fields are required.

On-Site Supervision Team Abroad

We hire bilingual high school teachers, university professors, and caring local staff who, as a team, serve as international “moms and dads” throughout the program. Directors actively participate in all aspects of the immersion experience: helping with housing adjustments, checking in on classes, and making sure students are taking advantage of the wonderful excursion and activity opportunities. All SPI staff go through extensive reference checks.

Training & Experience

Directors are selected based on their experience working with teenagers in an international setting, their ability to communicate fluently in the language of study, and their academic & professional background. All on-site staff go through an intensive training process.

Daily Supervision

Students are expected to be respectful of their directors’ guidelines and abide by the SPI standards of conduct at all times. SPI directors and program staff are available 24 hours a day. Directors check in with students on a daily basis in the mornings, afternoons, and evenings; they also frequently monitor all aspects of each student’s progress. Homestays and residence directors are contacted to learn how students are adjusting, and to handle any concerns. Daily curfews are enforced.

Student Behavior Expectations

Since 1996, we have proudly attracted an academically-minded student body focused on improving their language skills and growing from cultural experiences. At SPI, we take our role as teachers seriously — we recognize that we are responsible for guiding students through one of their most life-changing experiences. We expect students not only to abide by our standards of conduct at all times, but also to serve as ambassadors of their local communities, schools, and cities.

No Alcohol Policy

SPI maintains a strict policy against the use of alcohol. Directors check in with students in the evenings; however, parents are expected to review our standards of conduct with their children and set clear family expectations prior to the start of the program with regards to their behavior abroad.

Afternoon Elective Activities

Our meaningful afternoon elective activities make local culture, art, architecture, museums, sports, and attractions come to life! Each program offers a variety of engaging activities designed to combine serious fun with truly inspiring “once in a lifetime” experiences. Electives are not included in the program price, and we suggest students budget $100 per week for participation in these incredible learning experiences.

Common Afternoon Electives

CULTURAL: Cooking, Dance, Art & Architecture, Museum & Theater Visits, Local Sporting & Cultural Events

SPORTS: Surfing, Volleyball, Soccer, Kayaking, Snorkeling, Hikes & Walks

ENRICHMENT: Photography, College Prep (Essay Writing, Admissions Prep), Photography, Guest Speakers

Sample Travel Excursions

SPAIN: Bilbao, Pamplona, Santander, San Sebastian, Guernika, Biarritz (France), Comillas, Picos de Europa

FRANCE: Bordeaux, Bayonne, Anglet, San Sebastian (Spain), St. Jean de Luz, Pyrenees Mountains

COSTA RICA: Liberia, Cloud Forest, Puntarenas, Rincon de la Vieja, Tamarindo Beach

ITALY: Florence, Orvieto, San Gimignano, San Vincezo, Castiglione della Pescaia

Our Screening & Selection Process

Students live with roommates in a local homestay or student residence that is experienced in hosting foreign students. SPI has worked with most participating homestays and student residences for a number of years, and they understand students are there to learn the language and experience the culture. SPI diligently screens each homestay and student residence facility with the following in mind: safety, location, cleanliness, and previous experience hosting students.


Most homestays have hosted students for many years and take their jobs and duties as cultural ambassadors very seriously. Our foreign schools also work with each family on a year-round basis to ensure a positive experience is had by each student. It is critical to understand that most homestays come from humble means and different dynamics.

Location of Housing

All housing options are located within a 10-30 minute commute from the school. Students will walk or take the local bus, which is a safe and normal way for students their age to get around in our host cities. The majority of our housing options are located in the same areas where students will be close to each other.

Evening Curfews

Student curfews are set based on what a culturally appropriate weekday and weekend curfew would be for teenagers in the country of study. This is normally between 10 PM – 11 PM on weekdays and a little later on the weekends depending on location and group dynamic. As an important safety measure, program staff diligently monitor student curfews. Specific curfews are listed on each program page for your reference. 

Typical Housing Dynamics

Students are well supported in all housing options and are provided with: meals, a living and study space, laundry service or facilities, linens and towels. It is fundamental that students have an open mind to trying new foods and living in an environment different than “home” to benefit from this transformative experience!

Although SPI homestays come in all shapes and sizes, the majority are older couples or single/widowed women in their 50s – 60s who have extra room in their home and are eager to host students. We have found this dynamic provides the best support, the most interaction, and the most culturally rich experience. Some homestays do have children, but students should keep in mind that homestays with children are busier and often offer less interaction — much like a busy American family.

Language Course Overview

The language courses focus on developing communication skills by simulating real-life situations through interactive class activities that include writing, oral expression, film, music, food, and literature.

> 2 Hours – Grammatical Concepts

> 1-2 Hours – Conversation, Culture, Literature, Film, etc.

> Small class sizes with levels 1 through AP/IB

College Credit Opportunity

SPI uses foreign universities and accredited language institutes for coursework abroad. These institutions provide high school students, upon successful completion of their courses, with an official transcript that they may use to petition college credit from their future university or college. Official transcripts are first sent to SPI in September, and then we will mail an official copy of the transcript in a sealed envelope to each participant. You will mail the official transcript packet directly to your U.S. university once you are enrolled.

Credit Hours vs. Credit Granted

Most SPI language immersion programs give 30-80 contact hours, or classroom hours, enabling for a potential of up to 1-6 semester college credit hours by your university. Contact hours are treated differently at every school. Some schools will grant specific class credit for the hours (e.g., Spanish), although most give a general foreign language or elective credit. Normally, 15 Contact/Class Hours = 1 College Credit Hour.

IMPORTANT:  Due to the nature of college credit granting by each individual U.S. university, it is impossible for SPI to guarantee credit for any student.