Every parent wants the best for their child. When the child becomes a teen, it can become even more challenging when sometimes what the parent thinks is best, is not what their teen had in mind.

Naale students visit the Kotel

Naale students visit the Kotel Photo Credit: Naale Elite Academy

Teens want more independence and their parents want to give them the best possible education to improve their chances for a successful future. Many families are finding new ways to resolve this to everyone’s satisfaction.

The new trend among students is to study abroad and gain new insight into other cultures, learn a foreign language and learn immeasurable life lessons.  Typically, college or university students go abroad for a year, but studying abroad is no longer reserved for those 18 and over. Now high school students are venturing from their local cities to explore the world as well.

With new programs opening up every year, parents and their teens can now choose the best fit for them.  It may sound a bit daunting for a teen to study abroad, as a high school can be a challenge even in their home town. But this challenge often helps teens to discover topics they are passionate about or interested in exploring further and prompts incredible self-growth and transformation. 
The consensus from most educators, parents and alumni of studying abroad programs, is that going overseas as a teen is an enormously positive game-changer.  Among other benefits, studying abroad helps high schoolers develop greater self-esteem and broadens their knowledge of the world.

Simmy  and Yaakova Pollock, parents of two teens who studied abroad at Naale Elite Academy in Israel, saw incredible changes in their teens.  “They have grown in their self-confidence and have realized previously unknown abilities to travel alone and successfully navigate the Israeli transit system, become bilingual and succeed in being mainstreamed into Israeli classrooms,” Pollock said proudly. 

Students learn, or are at least exposed to, new languages. Learning a foreign language is known to increase the size of the brain as new brain circuits are developed to enable language skills. When the brain region that is used to learn language is enlarged, cognitive abilities are also increased and the brain’s aging is slowed.

Naale students showing off their country in cultural education

Naale students showing off their country in cultural education Photo Credit: Naale Elite Academy

Studying abroad also helps students develop an impressive number of skills they will need to succeed in the future, including cultural awareness, communication skills, maturity, autonomy, the ability to navigate new situations, independent thinking, networking skills and making friends and transforming into a global citizen.

The Pollacks certainly saw this in their teens. “We noticed an increased sense of independence in our kids; from learning to self-advocate, learning to budget and to appreciate what things cost, to learning greater interpersonal skills and tolerance for others and change,” Pollack said. These skills will help them to be more successful in their college years and in life beyond.
Going overseas is a powerful opportunity for personal development. It helps teenagers change their perspective and broaden their understanding of the world and of themselves. This unique opportunity exploring their passions and interests in a new setting provides teens with a better sense of the kind of career or degree they want to pursue.
IES, a non-profit organization encouraging American students to study abroad, recently conducted a large survey of study abroad alumni that shows that their experience deeply influenced their subsequent educational endeavors, including the decision to pursue higher degrees. More than 52% of respondents had a post-graduate degree, which indicates that studying abroad inspires teens a greater vigor for academic pursuits. 

Naale students during gym time

Naale students during gym time Photo Credit: Naale Elite Academy

An added perk to studying abroad is the financial benefit. Living in a foreign country typically costs the same and often, even less than living in the United States and grants and scholarships are generally readily available. In some countries tuition is significantly lower than high school in the United States, especially for private school.
Well-respected American educator, Dr. Jessie Voights, weighed in on the benefits of high school students studying abroad. He found that, “(study abroad) results in a huge return on investment, from intellectual and emotional development to ultimate career prospects.”
There are pros to studying abroad at a young age, and just as many options to choose from.
Here are a few ideas from the vast array of programs that parents and their teens can choose from.
Run in conjunction with the Jewish Agency, Naale Elite Academy program is located in Israel and is open to teens from all around the world. Teens can complete their high school education and do it for free at Naale. They operate the program in conjunction with  25 schools, including special tracks for religious programs, secular program, and high-level science and art programs.

Naale students at the Kotel

Naale students at the Kotel Photo Credit: Naale Elite Academy

Students include teens from Italy, Russia, India, Usa, England and really, all over the world. It’s a unique opportunity for teens to get to know a lot about so many different cultures. Naale’s program also includes learning hebrew, extracurricular activities, including music, sports etc.., and special trips to learn more about the history of Israel , explore the country and meet sabras (native Israelis).
Go Abroad China’s High School Program is geared towards high school students from abroad, ages 13 to 18 years old. The students live in China and are placed in reputable Chinese language schools to study for up to a full year, which gives them the chance to immerse in Chinese culture.
Besides Chinese language lessons, outdoor excursions, day trips to interesting historical sites and cultural immersion activities are also part of the curriculum. Teens also have the option of participating in community building projects or volunteer efforts.
Sol Abroad High School Program in Spain offers high school students to learn Spanish in Grenada, one of Spain’s most ancient and diverse cities. Students take Spanish classes and electives in the historic section of Granada, while exploring the passageways of the Alhambra, the white-washed caves of the Gypsies and more.
Students live with local families, take Spanish classes on the weekdays, participate on weekend excursions and afternoon cultural activities and have the opportunity to perform community service hours.
For students who want an ‘out of the box’ educational experience without going so far from home, there are plenty of nearby options. The Lyndon Institute in Vermont offers students the chance to pursue extreme sports, such as snowboarding, mountain biking and viking skiing, together with their regular curriculum. Not just a draw for thrill seekers, the sports program can lead to serious achievements, as former student and Nordic Skiing Olympian Andrew Johnson demonstrates.
Finding the right place for teens to expand into their best self is the greatest gift for them and for the entire family. The Pollacks found that when teens are in a good place, the whole family benefits. “Our kids talk and communicate with us more now than they ever did when they were here – and we were always a close family,” Pollack describes. “It is certainly a life changing experience – a change for the better.”
By offering teens unique experiences in a supervised environment, studying away from home can be a win-win for both parents and their teens – that is the best choice and the right choice.