Travel abroad for people in the 15-19 year old range and who have not entered college or university is often referred to as ‘youth travel’. It offers an amazing experience for a person in high school or recent graduate.
Independent Versus Group Travel After High School
Independent, or Solo, Travel
If you desire completely independent travel, you should consider traveling after high school. With a high school diploma you are more likely to find work abroad, should you need some extra money. An important point to keep in mind is that you never need travel alone, even if traveling solo. You will meet people on your flights and bus rides, in your hostels or hotels, and at touristic locations. Connecting with other solo travelers or joining a group of independent travelers is easy. Even if you’re shy, like me, you only need get brave for 30 seconds– long enough to walk up to someone and say hello and ask about their travels. And, meeting locals is always nice– you can often find them at cafes. Just say hello and ask for a simple favor, like a restaurant recommendation.
One option is joining a short-term tour or travel with people you already know, in order to learn travel tricks more quickly on the road. Be sure you learn safety tips in advance, either way. You can also take a self-defense class.
Travel Safely: Group or Solo
- General safety travel tips
- Couchsurfing safely
- Safety specific to the country(ies) you will be visiting, available in the Safety section of guidebooks like these.
Age and maturity play a major role as to whether your family will allow you to participate in travel abroad. It also influences whether you will be accepted into an organized program for youth travel. Speak with your family about your goals, and ask for specific and realistic examples of how you can show that you are ready for travel that is not under their supervision.
Youth Travel Costs
The hardest part of travel: having time and money at the same time.
What if my family can’t afford the travel program costs?
Research grants and scholarships (repayment not necessary) by contacting the programs you believe are reputable based on recommendations from friends, teachers, and family. Keep in mind that some programs charge fees in addition to actual costs (e.g. the price of the flight). Other programs only require some costs be paid by the students’ family, such as Rotary Youth Exchange.
Of course, you may be expected to work in advance and upon return from your travels. In some countries, you will not be permitted to work in a foreign country, since you will be on a student visa rather than a work visa. For visa details, you can review the website of countries you are considering, like Sweden.
What costs should I include in my budget?
You can start at the beginning with items like your passport application fee, student visa fee, roundtrip airfare, and expenses that your host family or organization may not cover, such as snacks and meals out with friends, concert tickets, souvenirs, and clothing you might purchase abroad. Keep notes on what you buy each day now, and you’ll learn what items you should budget for abroad. Then, research the cost of similar items in the country you will be visiting.
If you find costs in the foreign currency (US $, Aus $, NZ $), use a website like Oanda for currency conversion back to your home currency. Make sure everything in your budget is in the same currency. I’d recommend using Excel, since it has the ‘sum’ function, among many others.
I’ve heard of students going abroad with their high school. How does that happen?
Some schools receive money for their students to travel abroad, from various sources, including the AFAR Foundation. Ask your school counselor and the foreign language teachers whether there’s a program already in place or that you can apply for.
It may take some determination to find out the answers to your questions. Take the initiative to reach out to teachers, guidance counselors, school staff, and maybe even your school district. If you show determination and willingness to work towards your goal, someone may assist you along the way.
- Ask your questions in an organized, polite and professional manner by phone, in person, or with a very well written email.
- Thank everybody, whether they provide the assistance you’re looking for or not. They may come back to you later with additional information they’ve found.
- Offer to assist in the application process by gathering application materials or preparing a 1st draft of your school’s application.
High School Exchange Student
This is the easiest way for high school students to travel abroad. Students are looked after by both the program and their host family.
Flexibility & adaptability are required.
You will be living in another family’s home and in another culture, so you should remain flexible and adaptable. Just as your and your friends’ families each have different house rules, like curfews, chores, allowance money, the same will be true when you live with a family abroad. You will need to do as your host family expects.
Must my family host a student in exchange for my traveling to another country?
Not necessarily. Each program operates differently. For example, Rotary Youth Exchange program only requires that the exchange student contribute to costs.
Most websites have a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section. Be sure to read as much information online as possible, so that you are fully educated. For additional questions, call the telephone number on the website. The person answering the phone will appreciate that you’ve already done research.
Also, here is a website with a lot of information: http://exchangestudentworld.com
Money in advance
Many programs will not allow you to work during your time as an exchange student, so earning sufficient money in advance of your trip is important. However, you should ask the question, if you think you will want to earn more money during your time abroad.
Youth Travel Abroad
I want to learn, without attending school. What are my options?
There are many volunteer, summer and gap year programs, such as those offered by Where There Be Dragons.
A year is too long. Can I go for a shorter period of time?
Yes, many youth travel programs, such as AFS, offer summer sessions of about 6 weeks or a semester.
I want to travel to various places, not just one. How do I do that?
What questions are still on your mind? Did you travel as a youth, and what advice do you have for youth travelers? Do you wish you had traveled as a youth? Please comment below!
Understand travel Safety
Read about paragliding (flying in the sky)
Read and see photos: about photography at Machu Picchu in Perú