1. Have the world as your classroom.
Yeah, school is pretty important … but meeting new people and having novel experiences in a foreign land can serve as a classroom in its own right—complete with a full-color textbook and a variety of tests and teachers to help you learn and grow. The more adventures you have abroad while you’re young, the more willing and able you’ll be to step outside your comfort zone in the future—continuing on the path of life-long learning long after you’ve handed in your last homework assignment, taken that final final exam, and walked up on stage to receive your diploma. [Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr]
2. Develop a personal global network.
Traveling naturally brings you closer to your travel mates: being thrown together in a new and unfamiliar place provides a solid foundation for a really unique and amazing human bonding experience. And while making friends and keeping in touch will definitely provide lots of joy and excitement in the short term, your new connections—whether they be travel buddies, host siblings, or community members—will also serve as a network of peers who you can call on in the future, as you head off to college, look for a new job, or move halfway across the world. [Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr]
3. Take that old vocab test on the road.
Conjugating irregular verbs provides endless amusement to some—but we’ll bet you’d much rather be using your second language skills to meet and engage with new kids, discuss issues and ideas that are relevant to you, and challenge yourself to experience the world through a different cultural lens. There’s nothing quite like practicing another language in context; and though it can be a bit nerve-wracking to try out your less-than-perfect pronunciation on a local r-trilling expert, once you get going and start tasting success, trust us, you’ll be hooked! [Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr]
4. Open up a gallery for your memories.
Whether you use a digital camera or your favorite sketchbook, capturing a beautiful landscape, a precious moment with newfound friends, or a famous local landmark will allow you to express your creativity in a totally new context—while documenting special times for you to revisit and recall for many years to come. Got a writer’s soul? The characters you meet, the emotions you feel, and the situations you encounter will likely be very different from the ones you experience at home; perhaps they’ll even serve as inspiration for your next story, song, or poem. [Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr]
5. Become the next U.S. ambassador.
As a high schooler, you might not think you have a whole lot to share with the world, but you’d be surprised. Traveling abroad, you’ll find that many people have funny ideas about what it’s like to live in America, due in part to our own media distortions and simplifications of the gigantic, diverse, and larger-than-life nation that we call home. Just as you’ll find it fascinating to learn about family dynamics, food habits, and sports culture in your host country, your hosts will surely be interested to hear about what it’s really like to be a teenager in the good old U.S. of A.! [Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr]