Study abroad programs offer exciting growth opportunities for students and host families alike. For high-achieving students, exploring new places and immersing themselves in foreign cultures encourages independence and curiosity. For host families, student exchange programs provide lessons in diversity for their community and build international relationships.
Participating in the best study abroad programs creates enriching opportunities for everyone to deepen their language skills and venture outside of their comfort zones. In this piece, we cover:
- How study abroad programs work
- The benefits of the best study abroad programs
- How to get involved with the best study abroad programs
Ayusa has been assisting students in pursuing some of the most popular study abroad programs since 1981. By offering exciting cultural exchanges and supporting host families, we develop intercultural awareness and enhance global knowledge. We have proudly created pathways for US students to study abroad in Germany and Japan, and connect American host families with students from over 50 countries. We offer a tailored experience that is designed to support students in cultural enrichment and educational opportunity.
How Does a Study Abroad Program Work?
Study abroad programs offer students the opportunity to continue their education in a country of their choice. Depending on the program and level of study, students can spend anywhere from a high school semester to the length of their degree in their desired country.
The US government offers exchange visas through its Student Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) to encourage foreign nationals to pursue education through American high schools, colleges, and universities. While there are fifteen categories that the SEVP serves—from au pairs to government visitors—in this case, the focus is on high school and college or university students. Learn more about Ayusa and the Student Exchange Visitor Program.
For international students interested in studying in the US, Ayusa partners with the US government assisting you in connecting with American host families. Our application process requires students to complete an English language proficiency test and ensure they have all the required immunizations in order to qualify.
Ayusa utilizes the J-1 visa program to grant students a temporary nonimmigrant visa. Once you are accepted into the study abroad program, you will be paired with an American host family. During the length of your stay in the United States, students on study abroad programs through Ayusa will:
- Stay with their host families
- Attend local high schools
- Socialize within their adopted communities
Discover how the best third-party study abroad programs support international students and hosts.
For American students interested in studying abroad, Ayusa offers opportunities to study in Germany and Japan. Our programs offer short-term stay options where students can attend language classes and excursions over the course of four weeks, or immerse themselves in local culture by attending a school and staying with a host family for up to one school year. Learn more about how international student exchanges work.
Students interested in studying abroad can apply for opportunities through institutions around the world. Undergraduate study abroad programs are common within many global universities and foreign governments, offering lengthier stays than the average high school exchange program.
Study abroad programs at universities also offer more flexible living arrangements, such as student housing and subsidized rental properties. Joining a university-level study abroad program offers valuable experiences in living, working, and making decisions on your own. Pursuing travel during higher education also allows students to apply for some of the largest study abroad programs.
Why Apply for the Best Study Abroad Programs?
Study abroad programs are an enriching way for students to immerse themselves in a foreign culture. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to share their own culture with host families and the surrounding community.
Students who participate in the top study abroad programs experience invaluable lessons in culture and communication.
As Forbes’ David J. Smith says, “Regardless of whether it is a short-term community college experience over a week or a semester experience, (...) the benefits are clear. Study abroad contributes to improvement in intercultural skills, confidence building, self-awareness and problem-solving.”
High school students who live abroad with host families broaden their perspectives on how people of different cultures live, in addition to gaining a second family. You can expect to experience plenty of activities when studying abroad, such as:
- Attending local schools
- Participating in extracurricular activities and social events
- Experiencing new cultures or traditions
Higher education study abroad programs in particular offer lessons in resilience and how to navigate different cultures. The most popular destinations for US students studying abroad include Italy, Spain, the UK, and France. Developing language skills and exploring new places allows international students to grow the confidence to achieve their future career goals.
College and university students can take ownership of their independence in a new country. Working with diverse peers and building relationships during their study abroad experience, US students who have spent time abroad are often more accepting of people’s differences and value different cultural insights.
Here are some of the key reasons why students choose to pursue the top 10 study abroad programs:
- To meet diverse people
- To immerse themselves in different cultures
- To share their own culture
- To experience personal growth
- To learn new skills
The best independent study abroad programs offer the added benefit of supporting unique education styles such as the International Baccalaureate program. Students can tailor their study abroad experience to connect with schools and institutions that share values, course structures, and learning methods, globally.
Who Is Eligible for the Best Study Abroad Programs?
We encourage any student who is interested in pursuing study abroad programs to apply. Depending on your age and study level, there are different eligibility requirements that must be met.
High school students who are interested in unique study abroad programs through Ayusa must meet a series of character, academic, and health requirements to qualify for the program. Schools with good study abroad programs may have different eligibility requirements that are dependent on a student's GPA, foreign language skills, and personal characteristics. Much like how every school offers a different experience, so do study abroad programs.
Ayusa’s eligibility requirements for foreign high school students are:
- Must be aged 14-18
- Must possess strong character and leadership skills
- Must possess strong academic performance
- Must have an ELTiS English proficiency score of 212
- Must have all required immunizations
Learn more about becoming an Ayusa student.
For students seeking study abroad undergraduate programs, additional eligibility requirements may apply. This could include financial requirements that must be met, particularly for students who intend to stay for the length of their entire degree. It is not uncommon for student visa applications to request proof of income from students or their guardians in order to be eligible for study abroad programs. Many institutions offer academic scholarships and grants to support international and US students in achieving their goal of studying abroad if financial resources are unavailable.
Benefits of Joining the Best Study Abroad Programs
Studying abroad offers many cultural and educational benefits. Each exchange program offers valuable real-life learning experiences, from enjoying new cuisine to developing language skills. Study abroad programs in America allow local communities to embrace foreign cultures and gain new perspectives.
International exchange students are welcomed into the homes of their host families and encouraged to break away from their normal routines. They are also able to take classes that may not be available in their home country. It's an exciting opportunity for students to get to know themselves and explore their interests on a deeper level.
American students who partake in study abroad programs have the opportunity to put foreign communication skills to use. Ordering in restaurants, communicating with classmates and friends, and engaging in social activities are all exciting ways for US students to practice their language skills in real time. It’s an extraordinary way to learn and build friendships! Exposing students to foreign cultures is a fantastic way to develop international bonds that last a lifetime.
Key benefits of studying abroad include:
- Increases understanding and acceptance of different cultures
- Develops language skills
- Strengthens communication and relationship-building skills
- Supports an inner sense of adventure
- Nurtures curiosity and wonder
- Grows confidence
Study abroad programs also offer great lessons in vulnerability. Experiencing life far from their own cultures and homes, exchange students are able to identify new feelings and emotions that they may not have experienced before. Foster emotional intelligence through good study abroad programs and experience exciting personal growth.
Applying for Study Abroad Program Grants
When pursuing the top study abroad programs, it’s important to thoroughly research the available scholarships and grants students are eligible for. Students who are pursuing higher education may find accredited study abroad programs that offer scholarships specifically for international students. Schools with the best study abroad programs often offer specific grants that cover different majors or areas of interest, particularly for those interested in STEM fields.
Ayusa’s YES Grants help high-achieving students from Muslim countries experience up to a year of study in the United States. The grant was developed after September 11, 2001, to break down cultural barriers and misconceptions within the US about Muslim countries and their people. Over 40 major Muslim countries have participated since 2002 and have helped create a positive impact within the US. Challenging biases and educating local communities, YES Grant students have a history of exemplifying volunteerism and community service.
Depending on the education level of the student, there are many types of grants and scholarships that make the easiest study abroad programs accessible. Study abroad programs are designed to promote opportunity and growth, so there really is something for everyone.
Here are a few simple ways to find suitable study abroad grants:
- Research institutions in a location the student would like to visit and see what scholarships and grants are accessible
- Explore grants that are specific to the student's field of interest
- Speak to a local guidance counselor to see what kind of study abroad grants are available at the student’s school, college, or university
How To Get Involved in the Best Study Abroad Programs
Getting involved in study abroad programs is a great way to become active in your local community. Host families play an enormous role in making student exchange programs possible, which is why having a pool of hosts is vital in offering diverse and exciting exchange opportunities. If hosting foreign exchange students doesn’t feel like the right fit, there are also opportunities to become community representatives who encourage local schools, colleges, or universities to get involved in easy study abroad programs and help facilitate student exchanges.
Many student exchange programs regard the US as a top destination, so enabling the coolest study abroad programs by actively participating in them is a great way to encourage diversity and inclusion.
Getting Involved in the Best Study Abroad Programs in the US for Host Families
Hosting international students who are part of study abroad programs is a highly-rewarding experience. Families gain cultural awareness and a new family member in the process. It’s an exciting period that enriches the student and the host family members equally.
Ayusa encourages any kind of family to apply to become hosts for their international exchange students. We support families large and small to ensure a diverse range of options are available to provide authentic living experiences for their students. Ayusa requires families provide a supportive and safe environment.
Requirements to become a host family with Ayusa include:
- Provide three meals a day
- Provide a comfortable place to sleep and study
- Provide a reliable ride
- Provide a warm and supportive environment
This commitment is more than just day trips and school drop-offs. Host families power exchange students’ cultural experiences. Supporting high school foreign exchange students requires inclusion, encouragement, and exchange. Take the time to support exchange students in learning the language, and encourage them to explore their interests in a new culture. Show an active interest in the student’s culture and encourage them to socialize within the local community.
Here are some ways we suggest hosts can encourage trading cultural knowledge:
- Make a favorite dish from home
- Teach the family a game or sport from home
- Show the family their favorite film from home
Benefits of Hosting Exchange Students
Hosting exchange students offers a wide range of benefits for families and their communities. Bringing international students into their homes offers host families an opportunity to cement values that support multiculturalism and inclusion. Within their wider communities, host families provide opportunities for others to learn about diverse cultures without having to travel.
Some of the key benefits of hosting exchange students:
- Helps communities learn about other countries and cultures
- Assists students in strengthening cross-cultural communication skills
- Builds strong social bonds
- Promotes a sense of community and belonging
- Prepares students for a globalized economy
The Bivens family from Littlejohn, Colorado reflected on their experience hosting an exchange student from Japan through Ayusa:
“Hosting an exchange student encourages international friendships, and allows the opportunity to learn beyond what’s taught in the classroom.”
Hosting exchange students is also a great icebreaker for local communities. International students are encouraged to pursue their interests while partaking in study abroad programs, opening up host families to social interactions they would not ordinarily experience.
Defining what are the best study abroad programs comes down to the efforts of host families and their willingness to support their international students. Learn what student exchange programs can teach your family, and how you can make the most of an academic year.
Host families are often refreshed with the new perspective exchange students offer, encouraging new ways of thinking and communicating within the family. Opening up your home to international students also generates exciting opportunities for families to experience emotional growth and develop maturity, particularly in host families with children.
Getting Involved in the Best Study Abroad Programs in America for Community Representatives
In 2021-22, over 450,000 international students from Asia alone studied in the United States. By getting involved in study abroad programs as a community representative, impactful opportunities are able to reach more students who wish to study in the US.
Community representatives offer outreach services to local high schools, colleges, or universities. They possess strong communication skills and knowledge of their local school systems. They assist in placing students, supporting host families and schools, and inspecting home environments.
Community representatives are the ones who help make the top ten study abroad programs possible. They play a pivotal role in high school foreign exchange programs and advocate for the students they represent. Community representatives are the guardians of cultural impact and growth; they help create diverse learning opportunities within their communities. Learn more about becoming a community representative.
Getting Involved in Study Abroad Programs for High Schools
In the 2020-21 school year, international enrolments fell by 15% at US universities. Getting involved in study abroad programs could boost attendance, interest in classes, and student participation in the classroom.
Including student exchange programs at schools heightens cultural awareness and builds communication skills. By cultivating curiosity amongst students and developing tolerance, study abroad programs have a profoundly positive impact.
Ayusa partners high schools with study abroad programs to help achieve their mission of “creating and supporting the next generation of world leaders and citizens.” By promoting diversity in high schools and exploring opportunities for students to study abroad, high school study abroad programs offer invaluable education experiences that create life-long memories.
Get Involved in the Best Study Abroad Programs With Ayusa
There are plenty of ways to get involved with Ayusa’s study abroad programs. We offer exchange programs for US students to study abroad in Germany and Japan, with flexible options that cover short stays to entire school years. Learn more about Ayusa’s excellence among German study-abroad agencies.
For international students interested in spending an academic year in America, we have plenty of resources to help you find good schools with study abroad programs. Find out what it takes to become one of our students and learn about the successes of Ayusa alumni.
Ayusa determines what schools have the best study abroad programs to support your ambitions. Request more information about becoming an Ayusa student, and we’d be happy to answer your questions!
If you’re interested in becoming a host family Ayusa has plenty of resources and information to help start the process. Getting involved in study abroad programs deepens values around inclusion and diversity. Discover more reasons why people become host families and the exciting opportunities it creates for your family. We encourage prospective host families to reach out if they have questions about becoming an Ayusa host. We’d love to get to know you!