The Benefits of High School Summer Language Immersion:
How Study Abroad Puts
High School Students Ahead of The Curve
What is Immersion?
High School Students Improving Languages and Positively Changing Their Future
While foreign language immersion has been around for many decades, it’s typically been restricted to college-aged students. Teen language immersion isn’t a new phenomenon, but it has recently attracted greater interest and support. The appeal for high school students to study Spanish, French and other languages abroad during summer is stronger than ever. Participation in these programs is recommended by parents, language teachers, college coaches and counselors alike; especially for students preparing their college applications. Learning and living in a foreign place is the ultimate educational experience - one that should not be reserved exclusively for one’s college years. All teens who have participated in a language immersion program abroad agree: this is the best pre-college experience imaginable!
What are the benefits?
Classroom vs. Real World
It may sound daunting to jump into a foreign culture, but students aren’t alone. Joining a summer language immersion program helps them utilize the skills learned during the school year. The most popular foreign language studied in the U.S. is Spanish, and Spanish teachers agree that simply studying a language in the classroom is not enough to fully absorb it. Language immersion programs provide ample time to practice with native speakers and other international students who have similar interests and aspirations at a crucial point in a teen’s life. Furthermore, embarking on high school language immersion programs prepares students for AP and IB courses and exams, while providing an additional advantage during the college application process. Often, returning students are even given an opportunity to skip a class level in their target foreign language.
Fast Learning, Naturally
Classes during a language immersion program abroad naturally flow much faster than the typical classroom back home. Students quickly realize there is no stigma when making mistakes in a class with less than 10 students, especially when they all share the same goal of improving their language skills. Well balanced and planned immersion programs facilitate an environment suited to provide opportunities to practice the target foreign language wherever a student goes, starting with their homestay family. Native teachers offer support and encouragement to develop communication skills that are nearly impossible to learn in a student’s classroom back home.
Living with a safe, caring, and loving homestay family provides the perfect balance to foster language learning away from the classroom. Some study abroad programs arrange dorm-style accommodations creating an artificial bubble where only English is spoken after language class. The ideal homestay experience is being able to share meals on a daily basis, tell stories about the day and ask questions in a patient and caring environment. Additionally, homestay families can educate students on the unique differences in a foreign home. There are varieties of homestay arrangements. Some programs offer individual homestay placement, while others arrange roommates of the same gender in the same room.
Deciding what to focus on during your time abroad can be dreadful. The best language immersion programs have activities that go beyond keeping participants busy, and actually help students grow as individuals. One of the best gifts students can receive from a language immersion program is returning home with a stronger understanding and comprehension of the foreign language. This benefit is often coupled with becoming a more rounded and global citizen that is focused on their future. When students are not only immersed in foreign culture, but also surrounded by peers with similar goals and aspirations, the opportunity for personal growth is endless. Parents often realize that their students return home not only having improved their foreign language skills, but also having matured. These benefits increase when students participate in programs that last longer than three weeks.
Boosts in Education and Self Confidence
Applying classroom knowledge during a summer immersion program is a worthwhile test before preparing college applications. The experience abroad helps students to better understand and comprehend their target foreign language and culture, reinvigorate their studies, and gain personal maturity. Moreover, they return home with a broader understanding of the world and a true love of and admiration for the foreign language and culture.
Think About It
Selecting a language immersion program involves a lot of decision-making and research. You should be comfortable every step of the way. Through all of the marketing fog, it only takes a couple of steps to ensure that the right choice is made when selecting a foreign language immersion program. The location of a teen summer immersion program should be chosen with care. A meaningful language immersion program is at least 2 weeks long and can last up to a month (especially those offering college credits). Some programs offer a mix of homestay in one city and include some travel throughout the destination country. With so many places to study, it is easy to make the wrong choice. Ask important questions to the study abroad companies that offer the desired destination and make sure to do some research. Nowadays you can find a lot of information online as well (from the average weather report to the quality of the sports equipment of your host city).
Who Referred You?
Specialized website listings are probably the most popular way to advertise an immersion program. It is important to keep in mind that ranking is often determined by how much a company has paid the listing service. The assumption that you can find the best immersion programs or language camps this way is unfortunately not always true. Camp referral companies that are “helping” select the "best choice" are usually paid a hefty commission (obviously) reflected in the overall program or camp fees.
Nothing replaces the research one can do on his or her own. With the infinite possibilities found online, it is important to spend time reading about different study abroad companies and programs. Finding out who runs the company and what credentials s/he has is a good start. The most honest reviews will always come from parents and past participants. This is usually the first time a teen will go abroad for an extended period of time on his or her own, so select a trustworthy study abroad company that can provide the best experience.
Be sure to enroll directly with the organizer of the immersion program, not through a reseller. If a study abroad company offers 20 destinations in 18 countries, one can suspect they are not dealing directly with the operator of an immersion program, but with a company simply getting a commission as a “middle-man” reseller. The organizer of a program has their hands on all aspects of their programs and can put parents in contact with alumni or parents of alumni for feedback. Finally, at least one associate of the company who is familiar with the prospective destination should be able to answer questions about the program and destination.
Make sure the company chosen is US based and not based elsewhere operating with an American 800-number. Dealing with a US-based company allows someone to answer the phone during normal business hours, and avoids extended wait periods to get answers to questions via email. It’s important to remember that for the safety of students, US-based companies need to comply with specific laws regarding minimum liability. Also keep in mind that making payments to a US-based study abroad company grants you more protections than wiring payments abroad.
Many language immersion programs offer activities or excursions at an additional fee; meaning affordable pricing gives way to an expensive program. Teens enrolled in an all-inclusive program keep parents from having to wire money during the program. Additionally, it keeps teens from handling too much cash while abroad. It’s also important to choose a language immersion program where all participants partake in all the activities organized for them. The dynamic between à la carte activities and all-inclusive impacts far more than your wallet. With an all-inclusive study abroad program, students participate in activities and excursions together, further building bonds with their peers.
Requirements to join a teen summer study abroad program vary widely. Some high school study abroad programs will allow any student to join while others will require some previous study in the target foreign language (recommendation letter from a Spanish teacher, transcripts, or essays). Don't take these differences lightly as they can affect a program's overall enrollment quality and dynamic. High school students genuinely interested in improving their language (and their college application) should be surrounded by students with similar goals. Quality teen language programs are sought after and enrollment often fills quickly. Therefore, make sure to start the search early on; this will help ensure the best programs still have space and allows for more time for payments if needed.
Experience & Preparedness
Studying abroad during the summer is an incredible adventure that has countless benefits during a student’s high school years. It is normal to feel somewhat anxious before departing on a language immersion program abroad. For parents, finding the most appropriate study abroad program greatly reduces the stress one can experience when sending their child overseas. Finding the most suitable program for students also helps build up excitement instead of stress. For many, these experiences are an opportunity to grow in maturity and self confidence at a fast pace during a pivotal time.
Just For Thought
If you decide to attend a study abroad program in Argentina, remember that the North American summer is the South American winter. Many teens sometimes forget to acknowledge the fact that traveling to the Southern Hemisphere during their own summer vacation in the U.S means winter clothes and cold weather! Consider this weather factor when selecting your destination.
Health Concerns Abroad
Health is one of the most important things to keep in mind when preparing a trip abroad. Some teen study abroad programs include travel insurance, but what may not be included is medial insurance. Make sure the program you choose includes adequate medical insurance. This type of coverage is often overlooked. If it is not already included in your program, participants may be asked to purchase medical insurance as an "add-on" and an extra charge. It's important to factor this into the total cost when comparing programs. A reliable travel and health insurance doesn't come cheap.
Safety in Mind – School Run Trips vs. Study Abroad Organizations
The number of high school or study abroad trips directly run by teachers or schools has plummeted sharply in the last 15 years. Mostly for reasons linked to risk-assessment and liability. Both of these aspects are inherently better handled by professionals who dedicate their days organizing international experiences year-round. Organizing a trip abroad is a huge task and for a teacher who volunteers their time after hours and doesn't always have unlimited resources, time, or the proper support network, can be very overwhelming.
Language student have many choices when it comes to summer study abroad opportunities. Typically based on individual enrollment, this option means that parents are facing the task of having to select the right study abroad organization and make a checklist of what matters at the time of choosing the right company for their teen's learning needs.
For concerned parents, the advice is simple. Make sure you always talk to knowledgeable associates who know the country well and to a company that has operated there for a significant amount of time. Talk to parents of past participants or have you teen talk to an alumni of the program. Ethical and reliable companies never put teens at risk. And when possible, globally, will have participants hosted in small cities rather than large capitals. Most teens studying abroad are on their first trip overseas, and it is only normal for parents to make sure everything is under control and handled by professionals.
Funding and Financial Tools
With the cost of nearly everything rising each year, funding an immersion program abroad can seem like a daunting goal. But the benefits of participating in such an experience while in high school--and especially before beginning the college application process--are countless. While there are plenty of ways to fund a trip, it is important for high school students to express their interest in the study abroad program. When teens share their dedication to their French or Spanish studies with their family and friends, opportunities to fund their travel can be discovered.
Many well established study abroad companies will offer scholarships for dedicated high school students. Scholarship amounts can vary greatly, with some as little as $500 and others as large as thousands of dollars. It’s important to read and understand the process of each scholarship being offered, as each company may take a different route during the application, approval, and award process. In every case it is important to start the process early. Some scholarships are merit based while others depend on financial need. Applying for more generous scholarships may be time consuming but, if awarded the benefits, can make a substantial difference in the final cost of a language immersion program (sometimes cutting enrollment fees in half).
Make an Informed Decision
Additional resources are provided below. Taking the time to read students’ experiences and program reviews can provide you with a wealth of understanding. Language teachers can also be a good resource when seeking information on the best suited high school study abroad programs for teens.
This insightful article in Language Magazine provides parents of teens studying Spanish plenty of priceless info when selecting a Spanish language immersion program destination. Detailing the pro's and con's of the 20 countries that make the Spanish speaking world. It is a must read when selecting a program destination for high school students.
French language students should take some time to read this post when considering a summer study abroad in France or Canada. It is important for all students deciding which destination is best suited for them and their goals during a study abroad program. France and Quebec offer large differences that should be thoughtfully considered.
Programs that are around community service abroad are becoming increasingly popular. Check out this blog before considering these options and make sure to be aware of the limitations the destination country may have and the physical work required. Earning hours while abroad is a great way to advance in high school.
Your Easy Recap
Favor homestay programs, think all-inclusive pricing, compare content and length, be familiar with enrollment requirements, and enroll early for best availability and scholarship opportunities. Wishing to all prospective high school students searching to embark on a teen study abroad adventure good luck on their endeavor. If you want more information, reach out to us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.