By Brianna Susnak
As a high school student, you’re probably super pumped about potentially studying abroad. After all, who hasn’t dreamt of escaping for a semester, exploring European cities, trying new foods and wooing native guys with her third-year French skills, all while earning course credit?
The good news is you no longer have to wait for those distant college years to embark on an educational or cultural adventure. Traveling and studying abroad in high school are great ways to enhance your college applications and make the most of your valuable teenage years. Whether you’re looking to immerse yourself in a new culture, volunteer in a third-world country, grow in your faith or get a sneak peek at the college experience, there’s an opportunity waiting for you out in the big, wide world!
1. Community service or mission trips
Mission trips and community service trips offer a variety of opportunities to get involved on both a local and international level while helping those in need. There’s plenty of flexibility, as trips can range anywhere from one week to one month and can happen at any time of year.
Many churches and religious organizations sponsor trips throughout the year, so if you’re looking to travel in a faith-based group, start by reaching out to a youth pastor or other small group leader. “I’ve been on a total of four international trips and one domestic trip with my church,” says Amy Bennett, a freshman at Purdue University. “These trips have really helped me discover my passion for helping others and [have] led me to pursue a career in nursing.”
Find what you’re passionate about—whether it’s delivering food and medical supplies to a third-world country, helping to rebuild disaster-stricken towns or working at children’s summer camps—and go for it.
If you’re having trouble finding mission or community service opportunities on a local level, try reaching out to a national organization like the Center for Student Missions (CSM). “In high school I went on three mission trips [with CSM] to Chicago; Washington, D.C.; and Los Angeles,” says Gloria Kimbulu, a collegiette at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “Your group or church is paired with a city host and they plan pretty much everything for you.”
However, it’s no secret that traveling internationally can be expensive. If you’re reaching out on a missions trip overseas, you’ll have to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for plane tickets and lodging, unless your church or other community service organization is sponsoring these elements of the trip.
Luckily, many missions and community service trips offer fundraising opportunities such as selling baked goods, starting a blog to track your progress and writing letters to your family and friends asking them to make donations. Talk to a youth leader or someone who has been on the trip before about creative ways you can fundraise.