High school study abroad programs help students from across the globe study in different countries. These programs improve student engagement, impact the community, and create cultural bridges between countries across the world. That’s why high schools across the United States are implementing their own study abroad programs!
At AYUSA, we have over 40 years of experience as a high school study abroad program. We’ve helped over 50,000 participants with cross-cultural experiences, and we’re a founding member of the Council on Standards for International Education Travel (CSIET), which certifies long-term international exchange programs. We partner with high schools to create the next generation of global citizens and foster cultural understanding.
Want to welcome foreign exchange students into your school? In this guide, we’ll cover all of your questions:
- What are high school study abroad programs?
- What are the benefits of high school study abroad programs?
- How do I become a study abroad program host school?
- What is required to be a study abroad program host school?
- How do I get started on partnering with AYUSA?
What Are High School Study Abroad Programs?
High school exchange programs in the U.S. provide students with the opportunity to study in a different country. Students who study abroad need a J-1 visa. This is a non-immigrant visa that allows people from other countries to study in the U.S. The U.S. academic year J-1 visa program enables international students ages 15-18 to remain in the U.S. for 5 to 10 months and live with an international student host family.
During their time in the U.S., students can:
- Take classes they normally can’t in their home country
- Get to know other perspectives and cultures
- Gain new friends and family
- Gain personal and career skills
Benefits of Study Abroad Programs For High School Students
Students who study abroad in the U.S. gain cultural, educational, social, and career benefits. One study found that students who studied abroad had a graduation rate of 95.1% compared to 62.7% for students who didn’t. Alongside career and school benefits, the entire community gains benefits from cultural exchange, awareness, and inclusion.
Improved School Performance
On average, students who study abroad have a higher grade point average (GPA) compared to their peers who did not study abroad. Studying abroad can motivate students to work harder, and the classes they take might interest them more than the classes in their home country.
Studying abroad can also help students with their English skills. The Katy family discovered how much one semester can change a child’s life, and host dad Sean shared that their exchange student came to the U.S. with written English skills, but struggled speaking the language:
“‘Yes’ was the answer to a lot of things, because he didn’t know what he was saying. Now he’s fluent—the amount he’s picked up in nine months here is like six years of being in Japan. It’s just amazing the leaps and bounds the kids make.”
Relevant Career Skills
When students spend an academic year in America, they gain skills that will stay with them throughout their education and help them in their career! Our breakdown below shows how.
These skills are beneficial for students in both their personal and professional lives. Skills like work ethic, teamwork, and problem-solving are some of the top skills employers seek on resumes, so high school study abroad programs are a great way for students to get a head start.
Higher Chance of Employment
Employers value the skills that students gain while studying abroad, and they value international experience. More than 80% of employers in one study said that they actively seek candidates who have studied abroad. High school study abroad programs set students up for success early and open them up to more travel opportunities in college and beyond!
One of the top benefits of high school exchange programs is learning about other cultures. Melya, a student from Indonesia, said that visiting the U.S. was a real dream, and she presented dances and foods from her country at her exchange school:
“I was so happy when they [started to] know about my country, and some people said that they want to visit my beautiful country. I couldn’t believe I did all of it. I learned a lot of things here, and I found a new me. I love to be an exchange student.”
At AYUSA, we’re dedicated to cultural exchange and helping people learn new perspectives and become more open-minded. Diverse experiences promote cultural understanding and create global awareness in your school and all over the world.
Students gain family members, lifelong friends, and community when they study abroad. Families who host international students welcome study abroad students into their homes during their trip! Judith, a student from Germany who studied abroad in Wisconsin, shared that her 9 months in the U.S. was filled with time spent with friends and family:
“I can say I had an AMAZING time in the USA and I’m so thankful for everyone who made it so special. I got more confident, I learned to appreciate the little things more and now I see what the important things in life are.”
Many host families say that hosting is a way to gain another person to love. Students meet new friends and community members, creating relationships that will last a lifetime!
How To Become A Host School For High School Study Abroad Programs
Ready to host your own study abroad program students? As a high school study abroad program, our goal is to work with high schools to make the exchange process as easy as possible for everyone involved. Find out below how to get started!
Build Your Travel and Exchange Program
The Council on Standards for International Travel (CSIET) evaluates and certifies international exchange programs. Their mission is to support foreign exchange, ensuring safety and value for students, schools, and hosts. That’s why the best student exchange programs and host schools are CSIET-certified!
Building your high school study abroad program requires a few steps:
- Write an exchange policy
- Utilize resources
- Meet host requirements
- Understand student practices
- Choose an exchange program partner
Write A Foreign Youth Exchange Policy (Overview)
The foreign youth exchange policy highlights the agreed upon procedures of your foreign exchange program. Your policy will answer questions like:
- How many students will your school host annually?
- Will exchange students receive school credits?
- Which exchange programs will you accept students from?
The CSIET also created the Model School Policy, which helps high schools implement their exchange policies. Find out more about CSIET resources below!
Utilize CSIET Resources
Preparing your high school for an exchange student program can be intimidating, so we’re here to help! The CSIET resources that you can use as a guide include:
We’ll break down what these resources are and why you should utilize them in your journey to becoming a host school!
We are here to support you along the way! Request info about host schools, email us, or call 888.552.9872 to have all your questions answered and receive guidance as you start your high school study abroad program.
Meet Host School Requirements
Under government regulation, J-1 visa host schools are only allowed to place five students by one organization in one school unless the school requests more. They must receive written permission from a school official before placing a student.
Under the Model School Policy, study abroad host schools should:
- Waive tuition for sponsored students
- Set an exchange student enrollment goal of at least 1%
- Set flexible requirements to host the maximum number of exchange students
Host schools are held to certain standards to ensure safety, happiness, and success of exchange students. As outlined by the CSIET, model schools must:
- Fully enroll students: The exchange program is a year/semester in duration, so participants must be fully enrolled.
- Provide students with community rights and privileges: Exchange students have the same rights as community students, excluding a diploma and special and remedial services.
- Integrate students socially: Schools should make every possible effort to integrate exchange students into the social environment of the school, providing support as they make friends and engage in the classroom.
- Encourage student participation: Exchange students should be encouraged by school officials and teachers to participate in activities (i.e., sports and clubs), make friends, and contribute their personal impact on the school.
- Support cultural exchange: Schools can encourage exchange students to share stories about their country and culture through formal presentations and informal chatting.
If your school meets these requirements, your next step is getting to know how students are involved with the school during their program!
Follow Student Involvement Practices
Study abroad students are held to high standards by their programs. As a host school, you help exchange students meet these standards by supporting them during their visit. Exchange students are expected to:
- Participate in regular classes and the school’s daily schedule
- Comply with interscholastic athletic team regulations and rules
- Achieve passing grades at the end of the semester
- Enroll for up to one year only
- Follow all school policies
Your foreign youth exchange policy will set you and your student up for success when following these guidelines.
Find A High School Study Abroad Program
The last step of becoming a host school for high school study abroad programs is partnering with a sponsor! Designated exchange sponsors guide schools, students, and host families through the entire exchange process. Some of the requirements include:
- Maintain a local network of qualified representatives
- Interview and screen host families in person
- Monitor student progress and respond to issues quickly
- Secure host family placement and school enrollment before students leave their home country
- Provide advance notice of student placement
- Notify you when students are placed with host families
- Submit student applications and family info as soon as possible
Exchange program sponsors are here to inform and support you. You can begin your search for a sponsor on CSIET’s website, or you can make it easy for yourself and work with one of the best! AYUSA is proud to work with the best high school study abroad programs in the country and support students, hosts, and schools. When you’re ready to get started, choose AYUSA!
Choose AYUSA For Your High School Study Abroad Program
AYUSA is certified by the CSIET because of our commitment to their standards of excellence and our dedication to the educational value of student exchange. We value these exchange program traits:
- Relationship-focused support
- Unbiased conflict resolution
- Local support networks
For over 40 years, we’ve partnered with the U.S. Department of State to provide life-changing intercultural experiences to students and families. We’ve supported over 50,000 high school students in the process of cultural exchange. We support and administer many international exchange programs like:
- Germany Outbound Study Abroad Program
- Japan Outbound Study Abroad Program
- Kennedy Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program (YES)
- YES Outbound Program
- Tomodachi Softbank Leadership Program
- Emerging Youth Leaders Award and Exchange Program
Along with our experience, we have a reputation for providing ongoing support and resources. Our experienced and dedicated team of community representatives provides 24/7 support to all members involved. And of course, our students are what make all of it possible!
Meet Our Students
Our students are held to high standards that make them valuable to every exchange program, school, and family. During their exchange programs, they gain valuable skills and knowledge, and they give back to the community through their involvement, dedication, and enthusiasm! To be an AYUSA student, candidates must:
- Display great character: Our students are leaders, changemakers, and open-minded learners. They’re dedicated to making the world a better place, just like us!
- Be proficient in English: Students must have an ELTiS English proficiency score of at least 212 (learn more here).
- Complete a health assessment: Our students receive all the required immunizations before traveling.
Anni, a student from Germany who lived in North Carolina during her exchange, said that she learned to make the most out of every second of her time in the U.S.:
“Exchange is enjoying the short time you have. Making the best out of it; it will never be the same because people are constantly changing.”
Meet our students and read their stories about how they make a difference in schools and communities.
Host High School Study Abroad Programs With AYUSA
At AYUSA, we help schools, students, and host families navigate study abroad programs and provide the best possible experience for all. We’re passionate about creating the next generation of global citizens and fostering cultural awareness. We guide high schools through implementing study abroad programs and support you every step of the way. We can’t wait for you to join us on our mission!
Have questions? Read our FAQ or contact us through email or phone at 888.552.9872. If you want to find out why AYUSA is one of the best foreign exchange student programs, read some stories from our students and host families!
Ready to make a difference in your student’s lives and the world? Request information to find out more and get connected with a local coordinator. We can’t wait to work with you!