Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that teen travel programmes are everywhere. Whether it’s a summer study abroad programme or language camp, a gap year or a semester abroad, the important thing is to get out and see the world! If you’re going on a language trip any time soon, take a look at our top tips to make sure you have the experience of a lifetime.
1. Choose the right destination
So you’re going abroad – congratulations! To narrow down your choices, think about what kind of place you’d be happiest in – a big city like London or Berlin? In a smaller, picturesque place like Freiburg or Brighton? Near the beach or in the middle of an idyllic valley surrounded by mountains? Wherever you choose, you’ll be sure to make friends and have experiences to last a lifetime.
2. Don’t overpack
Going for a two-week language stay and you’ve already stuffed two full-sized suitcases with all your worldly possessions? Time to re-pack! Learn to pack like a pro by narrowing it down to the essentials and leaving a little extra room, as you’ll be tempted to shop while abroad. Lots of language schools can provide you with a packing list, so use this handy resource when in doubt.
3. Get to know your host family / roommate
Whether you’re staying with a host family or with a roommate in a student residence, make sure you really invest some time in getting to know them. These are the people who will become your temporary family, and learning to live with new people is a skill that will pay off tenfold. If you’re confused about your host family or roommate’s habits or customs, try not to be judgmental – everyone has a different way of doing things!
4. Try everything once
More than teen travel advice, this is also some life wisdom. Wrinkling your nose at that strange plate of food your host mum served you? Be polite and take a bite – it may become your new favourite food. Always wanted to play a sport but thought you weren’t good enough? Join that intramural volleyball team at your new school! Unsure about whether or not to go on the extracurricular excursion to the neighbouring village? Go! You only live once and it never hurts to try.
5. Take pictures, but don’t forget to look up
It’s only natural that being in a new place, you’ll want to take pictures of all the new and exciting things and places you’re experiencing. Go ahead and get that picture of the sunset over the beach in Biarritz or the cathedral in Salamanca, but stop there. If you spend your sightseeing time exclusively behind the camera lens, you won’t fully experience the magic of your new place. So, don’t forget to look up! (And leave your selfie stick at home.)
6. Don’t forget why you’re there
You may feel like you’re on holiday, but don’t lose sight of why you went in the first place. Take full advantage of your experience by making sure to complete all of your tasks and participate in class – after all, when will you get the chance for another immersion experience?
7. Limit your online and phone time
If you’re feeling homesick, you may be tempted to stay in constant contact with your friends back home. But, if you find yourself coming home right after class and skipping activities or social time with your classmates to get on Snapchat, you’re making a mistake! Do keep in touch with your friends and family, but try to set a time limit for how long you use the internet and your phone every day. They’ll be there when you get back!
8. Skip the souvenirs, send a postcard
Already stressing about finding the perfect souvenirs for your family and 14 best friends? Stop! Save your money (and suitcase space), and pick up a postcard instead. The act of writing a personalised postcard and sending it home with a local stamp is much more thoughtful than a crappy keychain. Your friends will agree!
9. Keep in touch with your new friends
Before you head back home, make sure to exchange contact information with all of your classmates and host family. You’ll be in class with students from all over the world, and it’s a luxury to have friends in different countries who might invite you to visit one day!
10. Plan another trip
There is one downside to teen travel: it’s completely addictive. Chances are, as soon as you come home you’ll already be daydreaming about your next language trip. Face your FOMO and discover a new destination – the world is there for the taking!