Learn a new language, experience new cultures, see the world! Many people hold these, or ideas like them, as long term goals for their futures. However, this sort of experience is much more within reach than many realize. There are hundreds of study abroad programs available to high school students that offer all of these things and more — before you even graduate high school. For my second semester last year, I lived in Jerusalem, Israel, studying on a program called Tichon Ramah Yerushalayim, and it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made.
My time from January 27 to June 9 was spent learning Hebrew, immersing myself in Israeli culture, touring, hiking, making lifelong friends, and seeing a beautiful new country halfway across the world — all while attending classes and earning the same high school credits I would have at home. Sound like a dream? It was. I had so many fun and new experiences that I never dreamed of including trekking through the desert, swimming in the Mediterranean, partying in the streets of Jerusalem on Independence Day until 2 in the morning, the most beautiful hikes I have ever seen, an army bootcamp, and even a trip to Poland to learn about the Holocaust.
Taking this time to make a change in my life and the way I approach school and problems was incredibly valuable to me as I begin my college search this year. For those who know me, I tended to be pretty uptight about my grades and school in general, but on this program I gained a new perspective. School abroad was much more laid back and focused on independent studying to allow us time for fun trips and activities. This really showed me how to prioritize and focus on what really matters in my work and my life.
To many, studying abroad may seem like something unattainable but through different scholarship opportunities, meetings with teachers and coaches, and dedication, it is much more achievable than many believe. Studying abroad gives you skills that will help when you get home, go on to college, and begin entering a diverse workforce, something that those in your life will find hard to deny. It is for these same reasons that colleges are so quick to allow applicants to defer a year for a gap-year. Especially on the program that I chose, the administrators consistently pushed the idea that if you wanted to go, they would make sure that money would never be the reason that you couldn’t.
I strongly believe that studying abroad may be the thing that many students never knew they needed. For me, it was something I never even considered until a chance generic email popped up in my inbox. Nonetheless, I truly believe that it was the right decision for me, and I urge all high school students, if it is at all a possibility, to consider it for themselves.