What to Consider Before Studying Abroad in High School

Hiking in Ireland.

I started looking into studying abroad in Ireland as a freshman in high school. I wasn’t necessarily looking for it, I just happened to stumble across it. And once I started reading more about it, I found I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I’d always come back to it; it was a “what if” I couldn’t get out of my head. I didn’t really tell anybody about this ‘what if’ my freshmen year or that summer. I ended up mentioning something about it to a friend once, and then also to my mom. But, other than that, I kept it under wraps. In September of my Sophomore year; however, I decided I was tired of it being a ‘what if’. I had been sitting on it and thinking about it for around a year, and I knew it was something I really wanted to do.

Studying abroad isn’t a decision to take lightly. It’s an experience that will change you and challenge you in ways you never thought about before. This is something that requires extensive research, planning, and saving. That’s why I’d like to offer a little bit of advice about what I think should be considered before studying abroad.

If you’re considering studying abroad, here are a couple of things you need to take into account:

Deciding to Study Abroad

Are you prepared, mentally and emotionally to leave everything you know for however many months you’re planning on going for?

Studying abroad can take a toll on you that you may not be aware of prior to actually going. It’s not easy to deal with a new culture, new people, homesickness, schoolwork, and everything else you will be handling.

During my study abroad program in Ireland, I had to cope with not having the everyday face-to-face support I was used to from my family and friends. Homesickness often made my daily interactions with people in school and at home a bit harder in the beginning. However, being able to cheer myself up and be positive really helped me with my homesickness, and I think made my whole experience better.

Greenheart Travel high school abroad student celebrating the holidays in Ireland.

Kayla festively dressed for the holidays in Ireland.

Are you able to finance this expedition?

Everyone pays for their program differently, but I was responsible for the majority of the cost. I had a part-time job at a local toy store, babysat, held fundraisers, and applied for a Greenheart Travel scholarship. I had to start saving before I was even accepted into my program. But trust me, the pay-off has been worth it.

For me, there is something about the fact that I wasn’t just handed this incredible opportunity. I worked for it. I personally think this makes it a bit more amazing.

Do you have any idea what an absolutely awesome thing studying abroad is?!?

In the months you spend in another country, you learn about a new culture, find new interests, meet some amazing people, and grow as a person. So, if the sound of all this excites you, you should most certainly keep looking into studying abroad!

Choosing a Country

When I first came to Ireland, I was often asked why I chose to come here if I spoke English. For most students, studying abroad is about becoming fluent, or at least better, at a foreign language. So, the first question you might ask yourself when choosing a destination might be, “Do I want to go to a place that speaks a different language?”

I chose not to go to a country that speaks another language for a number of reasons.

To begin, I did not meet the language requirements for Spanish-speaking programs.

Most study abroad programs require at least three years of a foreign language before you can go, and I was worried I would not be able to handle the pressure of having to communicate in another language and deal with culture shock and homesickness at the same time.

While I think that living in country that speaks a different language is a great thing, and people who do it are extraordinarily brave, I don’t regret choosing an English-speaking place to study. I truly believe that this was the best choice for me, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Beautiful sunset in Ireland.

I also chose Ireland because, out of the programs offered, it was the only one that would allow me to stay for nine months.

Personally, I didn’t see the point of staying in a country for less than that time. I feel like this was the best way for me really step out of my comfort zone and truly enjoy the Irish culture.

Lastly, I chose Ireland because I had had an interest in Ireland for a long time.

I’d always wanted to go, and this seemed like the perfect chance. If you’ve had an interest in a country, be it studying in Australia, Italy, Sweden, or wherever, it’s worth looking into.

So, that’s all my advice for now! On a more personal note, I got to experience the “Ring of Kerry” last week! It was a very long drive, but the stops were beautiful. It’s absolutely crazy to think that I only have 50 days until I fly home!!! While I’ll be sad to leave Ireland, I do really miss my home, and I’m excited to get back. But, I know the time will continue to fly, so I’m trying to make the most of my last few weeks!

Kayla Trowbridge is 16 years old and lives in Zionsville, Indiana. Her goal during her study abroad program is to “create relationships that will continue throughout my life and develop a new understanding of the Irish culture.” Follow Kayla’s adventure in Ireland on her blog post updates throughout her program.

Where are you interested in studying abroad? Tell us below!

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