April 14, 2023
Study Abroad

What is a Study Abroad Program? [Expectations & Details]

A group of three young adults sits at a picnic table, reading and taking notes.

Study abroad programs assist high school and college students in gaining exciting educational opportunities across the world. These programs offer great social, academic, and personal benefits to the students who participate, providing unique cultural insights and real-life learning experiences. In this article, we’ll cover:

  1. What a study abroad program is
  2. The benefits of study abroad programs
  3. How to prepare for study abroad programs

At Ayusa, we focus on working with international high school students who are eager to study abroad. We are a founding member of the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) and hold ourselves to the highest standards to deliver the best study abroad programs. Let’s look into what study abroad programs are and how they work.

What Is a Study Abroad Program?

A study abroad program is more than just an international exchange. It’s a thrilling cultural experience that allows students to spend a portion of their education in a foreign country, meeting people, experiencing new cultures, and developing lifelong skills

Study abroad programs vary in length, educational opportunities, and location, offering powerful lessons in cultural diversity, language skills and autonomy.

The length of a student’s time overseas is dependent on the nature of the program they apply for. Many students opt to utilize study abroad programs in high school or college, allowing them to stay in a country of their choice for a semester or whole school year.

At Ayusa, we work with American and international students to facilitate study abroad opportunities that suit each individual best. We believe study abroad programs provide students with lifelong connections and life-changing experiences. We bring students and hosts together to experience new cultures, gain new global perspectives and support diversity. It’s a rewarding experience for students and hosts alike!

How Does a Study Abroad Program Work?

Study abroad programs connect students to host families or institutions that help them pursue their education overseas. At Ayusa, we partner with American host families to support international students taking part in the Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP). The SEVP’s mission is to strengthen ties between the United States and foreign nations through educational and cultural advancement, promoting peaceful diplomacy, and strengthening international relations.

Let’s look at the steps to begin your study abroad program with Ayusa: 

  1. Students apply on Ayusa’s website
  2. Ayusa applies for the SEVP on behalf of the student
  3. Ayusa partners the student with a host family in the U.S. once their visa is approved

Ayusa helps international students access the SEVP so they can spend up to a year studying in the U.S., via Unsplash

Ayusa makes this process simple for students by using our team of community representatives to take the stress out of the application process, especially when it comes to the SEVP. To apply to become an Ayusa student, you must meet certain requirements. These requirements help us pair you with the right study abroad program and best host family possible. A prospective student must possess:

Once these requirements are met, our team can begin the application process for your visa. The SEVP offers J-1 visas for foreign exchange students, in addition to au pairs, camp counselors, and more. This process is left in our team’s capable hands, coordinating with the Department of Homeland Security and then partnering you with your host family, all while making sure all the paperwork is taken care of. Students will then be able to travel to the United States and begin their study abroad experience!

Ayusa also offers outbound study abroad experiences for American students. Our student application process remains the same; however, our community representatives partner with international programs to help you study overseas. Our international programs include: 

Study abroad programs connect students with international resources that assist in providing rewarding educational experiences through foreign exchange.

Types of Study Abroad Programs

When it comes to pursuing a study abroad program, it’s important to know what type of program suits your circumstances best. While Ayusa focuses primarily on high school exchange programs, there are four main types of study abroad programs. They are:

  1. Semester Programs
  2. Summer Programs
  3. High School Programs
  4. Intersession Programs

Let’s look at the differences between these study programs:

Semester Programs

Semester programs are the most common choice for studying abroad as they allow students to spend up to a year overseas. Alternatively, students can opt to spend just one semester studying abroad, usually choosing between spring or fall semesters. Semester programs are widely offered throughout colleges and high schools to provide students with long-stay options and more cultural experience opportunities.

Summer Programs

Summer programs offer more flexible study abroad opportunities for students. These programs can run anywhere from a few weeks to the entire length of summer and usually provide education opportunities in off-seasons at colleges around the world. Ayusa’s Summer Cultural Exploration Program in Japan is a great example of a short summer program that offers exciting cultural learning opportunities in just a few short weeks.

High School Programs

High school programs are our specialty at Ayusa. Focusing on an immersive cultural experience, high school programs partner international students with host families to live with for the duration of their study abroad program which can vary between a semester to an entire school year. Ayusa offers programs for international students interested in studying in America, as well as outbound programs for American students seeking host families in Germany.

Intersession Programs

Intersession programs are short experiences that take advantage of semester breaks, primarily spring and winter break. They usually apply to undergraduate programs and offer a great short-term opportunity to experience cultural exchange and education. 

For students aged 15-18, high school and semester programs are the most immersive way to study abroad. Students are partnered with trusted host families who can provide them with exciting new experiences and help them get involved in their adopted communities. 

As it’s the host's responsibility to provide meals, a safe living environment, and reliable transport, the pressure of managing themselves is less of a burden for students who participate in high school study abroad programs.

Benefits of Studying Abroad

With the number of international students in the U.S. has been steadily on the rise since 2003, there are clearly many benefits to pursuing a study abroad program. From learning a new language to experiencing new cultures, study abroad programs encourage open-mindedness for students and host families alike. 

For students stepping outside of their country, especially for the first time, study abroad programs offer unique challenges that they otherwise might not experience in their home country. Common challenges of studying abroad include: 

  • Culture shock
  • Language barriers
  • Homesickness

Thankfully, these challenges are outweighed by the many benefits of studying abroad. Students learn important skills in resilience that help them to overcome the challenges of being away from home. International exchange students develop critical skills that assist them in later life by adopting a mature mindset and being open-minded to their surroundings. 

Some of the most popular destinations for U.S. students studying abroad offer great cultural and social benefits. By immersing themselves in new cultures, American students are given the opportunity to break away from their usual routines and habits and adopt a new lifestyle that teaches them about the country they’re living in. Let’s dive into the personal, academic, and professional benefits that studying abroad offers American and foreign students. 

Personal Benefits of Studying Abroad

The personal benefits of studying abroad are immeasurable. Foreign exchange offers great opportunities for students to develop key communication skills with people outside of their culture, and gain new perspectives that otherwise would not have been accessible to them. Host families equally benefit, gaining new worldviews from people outside of their culture and supporting inclusivity within their communities.

Students return home with increased:

  • Self-confidence
  • Curiosity
  • Global Awareness
  • Knowledge
  • Cultural Appreciation

While many international students share the wonderful aspects of their culture with their host families,  stepping out of their comfort zone and into a foreign school and community fosters huge strides in personal development. Students have a greater sense of autonomy and confidence by participating in exchange programs. They are able to pursue interests through education that may not be as accessible in their home country, and develop friendships with people across the world. 

Academic Benefits of Studying Abroad

Studying abroad offers exciting academic benefits, particularly for those interested in strengthening their language skills. For many Ayusa students, strengthening their English skills is a key motivator in participating in exchange programs. By integrating themselves into American schools and homes, students are able to immerse themselves in a new culture and practice with native English speakers. 

The academic benefits of studying abroad go beyond breaking language barriers. Many students find that a study abroad experience, particularly in the United States, offers incredible resources and opportunities that their home countries may not provide. Things such as technology, differences in curriculum, and available recreational activities can be eye-opening experiences for international students. For foreign exchange students, study abroad programs can offer:

  1. Resources that may be inaccessible to a student’s home country
  2. Subjects that aren’t taught in foreign schools
  3. Activities and social clubs that deepen a student’s natural curiosity

Many Ayusa alumni report their continued appreciation for education beyond their study abroad experience, often inspiring them to take action and make education more accessible in their home countries. 
A great example of this is YES Alumna Samia Goualla, who stayed in Salem, Missouri, from 2013-2014. After her experience with Ayusa’s study abroad program, Samia attended the Let Girls Learn Summit in 2016, hosted by former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Samia was one of four YES Alumna who attended the summit, which focused on issues girls in Liberia and Morocco faced in their pursuit of education.

A young, African exchange student in American flag shirt stands outside among the trees with his host mother
Ayusa Alumnus Tamba, pictured with his host parent, went on to develop a scholarship for students in Sierra Leon, via Ayusa

Ayusa Alumnus Tamba, pictured with his host parent, went on to develop a scholarship for students in Sierra Leon, via Ayusa

Another YES Alumnus, Tamba S. Abdulai, was inspired by his study abroad experience to develop a scholarship that would help students in Sierra Leone who couldn’t normally pay for their school fees. 

The academic benefits of study abroad programs go beyond an individual student’s education. Study abroad programs create a ripple effect of education across the world, creating opportunities for students to share their knowledge and support others in bettering themselves through education.

Professional Benefits of Studying Abroad

Study abroad programs often inspire students to take action and create a positive impact. The experience of studying abroad often opens students’ perspectives to what they can achieve in their future careers. Whether they’re inspired by a host parent’s job or a lesson in their American classroom, there’s no denying that former exchange students become driven adults who take on successful careers. 

Many Ayusa students report that after their study abroad experience they had increased skills in:

  • Writing and speaking English, German, or Japanese
  • Resilience
  • Resourcefulness
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy

Ayusa’s Alumni have a history of professional success following their study abroad program experiences. From contributing to bridging the hiring gap in Oman to becoming the Serbian Minister of Finance, we’ve seen our former students make enormous strides in their careers. 

Much like gaining real working experience, study abroad programs offer opportunities for students to learn to work with others who have different perspectives and worldviews. By gaining insights into how other people think and behave, international exchange students have the unique benefit of developing a new perspective on an unfamiliar place. 

By participating in study abroad programs, students are automatically encouraged to strengthen their communication skills and develop international relationships, which serve as essential professional skills. Getting to know their foreign classmates and introducing their own culture allows foreign exchange students to learn about a new place and enlighten the people around them simultaneously. 

How to Prepare For a Study Abroad Program with Ayusa

Preparing for your study abroad program doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With Ayusa your application is handled by a team of professionals who want to see you succeed. Our community representatives make your study abroad experience easy, providing consistent communication about your application and formalizing every last detail to make your international exchange process as smooth as possible. 

The next steps you should take before committing to a study abroad program are:

  1. Research the program and destination you are most interested in
  2. Get the necessary documentation and paperwork for travel abroad
  3. Contact Ayusa to put your life-changing adventure in motion!

Research the Program and Destination

Get to know where you’re going and who you’re working with. For international students seeking a study abroad program in the U.S., we offer plenty of resources from previous alumni and host families to help you understand what to expect during your study abroad experience. 

It can be helpful to know about the U.S. when you start your application process. Look into the different states and consider your interests when submitting your application. Discover where the most international students have traveled for their study abroad programs to find the right fit for you! 

Do you want to experience a big city? Or maybe live on a farm? Do you prefer a hot climate, or would you like to see snow? Consider what you’d like to gain from your experience in America by addressing these questions; it will help your community representative find you the perfect host family.

For U.S. students looking to study abroad, Ayusa’s programs in Germany and Japan offer diverse ways to gain international exchange experience. From short-stay programs to a full school year, there are plenty of pathways that American students can take to make the most of their time overseas. Let Ayusa help you discover what kind of program suits your interests and needs best.

Get the Necessary Documentation and Paperwork

In order to get the ball rolling on your study abroad program you must be able to supply your Ayusa representative with the correct documentation and paperwork. This stage of the process is where you’ll submit your application to become an Ayusa student, along with any details about the states or places you’re interested in while you study abroad. These documents must include your:

  • Passport
  • Immunization record
  • ELTiS English proficiency score of 212
  • Academic records
  • Health information
  • Parent/guardian's information and consent

Contact Ayusa to Begin Your Study Abroad Program Adventure

Once we have received your application to become an Aysua student with the relevant documentation, we’ll begin the process of applying for your visa and connecting you with your host family. Our expert community representatives make your study abroad application simple by facilitating your connection to foreign high schools and host families on your behalf and keeping you informed every step of the way. 

Start your application to become an Ayusa student today! Or feel free to request more information about becoming an Ayusa student, and we’d be happy to answer your questions! 

If you’re interested in hosting an international student or want to learn about the benefits of becoming a host, reach out to us to learn more!

Sharing cultures and building communities with high school exchange.

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