Promoting Career Exploration through Travel Abroad Programs in High School

By Delasia Rice

Studying abroad is becoming more common on college campuses. In 2017, the number of U.S. students that studied abroad rose 2.3% from the previous year (NAFSA, n.d.). Studying abroad not only gives students the ability to learn about the world, but it allows them to explore different career options and develop different pathways to career opportunities. Though the travel abroad programs have been known to have these positive impacts, they are generally limited to college campuses. However, given the career development benefits associated with study abroad programs, students should be exposed to these programs well before they enter college.

Study Abroad Programs

Generally, when thinking about studying abroad, students go through two phases. The first phase consists of researching the type of study abroad programs (e.g., semester-long or short term, language immersion, solo or faculty-led) and where they are interested in visiting. The second phase begins with students using the information gathered to complete the travel.

Students who study abroad gain a global perspective and can demonstrate that they care about world issues. A global perspective allows students to think about their particular situation in relation to the rest of the world, which may enable them to have empathy and be aware of the issues humanity faces. Furthermore, students who study abroad get to hone various skills, including leadership skills, language skills, etc. (International Student, n.d.). With these benefits associated with study abroad programs, surprisingly the program is yet to be harnessed for career exploration purposes with high school students. The opportunity to explore other cultures and gain a global perspective should be available to students before they enter college. This could be achieved by allowing high school students to participate at least in the first phase of the study abroad program, including research immersion and simulation of possible scenarios.

Study Abroad Program in High School

High school students need to learn that the more they are exposed to the world around them, the more they can see themselves a part of it. Gaining a global perspective will allow students to explore an abundance of careers, find out about themselves, such as their interests, and learn relevant skills. Using the study abroad program for career exploration purposes in high school means students will have the opportunity to engage in the first phase of the program, which includes research immersion and simulation training activities or scenarios. This phase of the program could also incorporate contact with the country via the Internet without visiting in person.

Several organizations exist to assist high school students to participate in study abroad programs, including the Harlem Educational Activities Fund (HEAF). HEAF is a nonprofit organization that prepares its students for college and exploring different career opportunities via study abroad programs. To accomplish its goals, HEAF offers several initiatives such as career days, rigorous courses, summer enrichment programs, and the Learning for Social Impact program (LSI). LSI is a year-long cultural literacy course during which students learn about a specific country, and through the service-learning excursion portion students travel to the particular country they have been researching (HEAF, n.d.).

The Role of Career Professional

Career professionals are vital in helping high school students see that studying abroad is another important avenue for exploring different career options. Not many students or people in their lives would see the connection between learning about other countries and career exploration. Career professionals can introduce the opportunity to learn about the world and how to take part in studying abroad. Though not every student will get the chance to travel to the chosen destination, career professionals can help students in the following ways:

  • Partner with teachers who teach courses related to other countries and cultures; add career exploration to the curriculum, including identifying related careers abroad
  • Speak with students in the classroom on the importance of studying abroad, learning about different cultures, and how these connect to career exploration
  • Talk to students about using study abroad experiences on their resumes, job/college interviews, etc.
  • Partner with other school officials to help organize career related events to promote career exploration through study abroad programs, including how to take a course-related to the country of interest, or attend career days, international fairs, and study abroad panels
  • Instruct those researching colleges on how to look for study abroad programs; organize trips to local colleges to explore study abroad programs
  • Build relationships with local colleges, specifically their career services office, study abroad office, and international office. These offices can invite college students to speak with high school students and serve as mentors.
  • Offer to help students find volunteer, service-learning projects, and internship opportunities that are related to different countries and cultures.

Benefits of Exploration

Studying abroad involves traveling to another country in an attempt to be immersed in a particular culture. As it is gaining more popularity on college campuses, studying abroad allows students to gain knowledge and skills that are helpful in career development. Because studying abroad comes with many noted benefits, the program should not be just limited to college campuses but should be extended to high schools as well. Though it can be challenging due to the financial aspect of studying abroad, there are a lot of ways students can enjoy its benefits without actually traveling. Utilizing study abroad for career exploration purposes allows high school students the opportunity to expand their career options while gaining a global perspective.


NAFSA. (n.d.) “Trends in U.S. Study Abroad.” www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/Trends_in_U_S__Study_Abroad/

International Student. (n.d.). 10 Benefits of Studying Abroad. Retrieved from https://www.internationalstudent.com/study-abroad/guide/ten-benefits-to-studying-abroad/

HEAF. (n.d.). College Quest High School Enrichment. Retrieved from: https://heaf.org/program-college-quest/


Delasia RiceDelasia Rice is a graduate of the College at Brockport with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Along with NCDA, she is also a member of NASPA and a part of their Graduate Associate program. She will be entering her first semester in the College at Brockport's Higher Education Administration online masters program where she is hoping to use her degree to learn more about the career development field. Currently, she is doing an internship with the Metropolitan College of New York's Career Development office and a Civic Corp member with NYC Service. She is hoping to use her degree and multitude of experience to eventually get her doctorate degree and focus on building connection between K-12 and Higher Education. She is the mother of 2 boys. She can be reached at delasiarice342@gmail.com.


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