Why should you consider studying abroad in high school?

High school students in the 10th, 11th or 12th grade are mature enough to respond to the challenges of living abroad while young enough to absorb new experiences fully and integrate successfully into a foreign host family. They're much more likely to see another country from the inside than are students three or four years older. Students headed for careers in math- or science-related fields find the high school years ideal for a year abroad because they're not yet locked into a college major; students who think they may major in languages or other liberal arts will have the chance to take a second year abroad in college.

All SYA graduates find that the transition from high school to college is smooth, thanks to the independence, self-confidence and renewed academic motivation they gain abroad.

Who may apply to School Year Abroad?

High school students may apply to spend their sophomore, junior or senior year abroad with SYA. Language requirements for the schools are:

SYA France or SYA Spain: students must be currently enrolled in at least level II of French or Spanish.

SYA China or SYA Italy: students may be of all levels, including those who would like to begin the study of Mandarin or Italian with us.  However, applicants must have classroom experience studying either a spoken or classical language.

Students from approximately 1,100 schools have participated since SYA's founding. Click here to read more about the application process.

Tell me about host families?

Living with a caring host family is one of the defining components of SYA. You'll be placed with a family that is excited to share in your experience. They provide far more than just a place to eat and sleep, and together you'll weave memories that will last a lifetime.

Each SYA country has a dedicated Host Family Coordinator who not only matches you with a family, but is available throughout the year to help guide you through the process of adapting to a completely different set of norms. The families we select after interviews in their homes are of varying sizes, configurations and social classes. What they have in common is a desire to incorporate an American teenager fully into their lives and the flexibility and warmth necessary to make that work. We spend long days during the summer studying student folders and questionnaires, matching interests and personalities with those of our host families.

What about co-curricular activities?

We strongly believe that the greatest impact of a successful study abroad experience depends in part on your full engagement in both the local community and the host country. SYA’s curriculum, schedule and commitment of resources are there to help you understand and become an active participant in the local community as well as meet and work with students your age in local, national and international exchanges. Engagement can include athletics, community service, tutoring, exchanges with local schools and enrichment classes. Tennis, cycling, soccer, swimming, golf, dance, photography, fencing, cooking, instrumental lessons, choir, orchestra, hiking, basketball and martial arts are only a few of the activities SYA students have pursued in recent years. While not all of these activities are available in all of our host cities, an activities coordinator at each school will help you investigate, find and develop opportunities to become involved in activities of interest to you. Each school has a different requirement and model for tracking student involvement in co-curricular activities that will be explained during the opening weeks of school.

For that reason your SYA school will organize only a few U.S.-style afterschool activities, such as the yearbook or talent shows. There are almost no SYA athletic teams since we prefer that you play on local teams, using the host country language to communicate with your teammates.

What do colleges think of SYA?

College admissions officers know that successful SYA students are proven risk-takers who have responded well to the combined challenges of a rigorous academic program and life in a foreign culture. Students who make the most of SYA are regularly accepted at top colleges and universities.

Click here to view the colleges which enrolled the most SYA students in the past five years. SYA students have the opportunity to take PSAT, SAT and AP examinations while abroad, and can take the ACT in our European schools. The SYA administration works closely with home school counselors to ensure that all transcripts, recommendations and other application papers are sent to colleges in time to meet U.S. deadlines.