Making the most of your U.S. experience
Studying abroad is a life-changing opportunity that allows students to immerse themselves in a foreign culture. Although studying abroad is traditionally viewed as a collegiate experience, more and more students are electing to spend their year abroad during high school—78,366 international students enrolled in U.S. high schools in fall 2019. The U.S. is also the top host country of international secondary students, who now attend school in all 50 states. The cause of this increase? A greater awareness of the many personal and academic benefits of studying abroad in high school. Here are just a few you will experience as a part of BASIS.ed’s International Student Program:
You will gain a better sense of who you are.
Your high school years are a time of self-discovery, when you will make important decisions that will help shape your future. Studying abroad for a year will allow you to further define yourself, gain a greater sense of independence, and become more receptive to others’ differences. It will also challenge your thoughts and beliefs, and push you well out of your comfort zone; but the growth you experience from it will be well worth it.
You will form deep bonds with your friends and host family.
High school is one of the best places to meet new people and make new friends because you interact with them on a daily basis. It also presents a social dynamic that can’t be found in many other areas of life and will give you much better insight into popular American trends, customs, and culture.
You will stand out from the crowd during college admissions.
Most students cannot say they’ve spent an entire year studying at a high school in another country, so you’ll definitely have something extra to add to your college application. Not only does studying abroad show that you’re adventurous and flexible, but also that you are willing to take on new challenges—all very desirable traits for the college-bound.
However, don’t just take it from us—here’s what some of our past students have to say about the BASIS.ed International Student Program:
“BASIS Scottsdale is the best school I have ever attended. It repaid every single bit of my effort in time. Be it academic achievement, interpersonal relationships, or sportsmanship, I will always cherish my growth with full appreciation for every single person at BASIS Scottsdale.”
– Tianjin L., BASIS Scottsdale
“I just got accepted to the University of Chicago. The BASIS.ed International Student Program experience is now a very important part of me. It has led me to seek higher education in the U.S. and has helped me grow as a person.”
– Hanrong Z., BASIS Scottsdale
“This is definitely the place to go if you are looking forward to challenging yourself. The teachers here are the nicest people I’ve ever known, and the students here are very exceptional.”
– Ziyang W., BASIS Oro Valley
Experience U.S. culture to the fullest.
To take full advantage of all the previously mentioned benefits of studying abroad, it is essential to immerse yourself in the local community as much as possible. These suggestions for cross-cultural experiences can greatly enhance your year abroad:
Volunteer in the community.
Volunteering while studying abroad allows you to learn about different aspects of society and the needs of different populations within the community. Volunteering will also help you gain perspective, practice empathy, and find a greater sense of purpose. The best way to find a volunteer program is through your school or study abroad counselor—they might have established relationships with certain organizations and can help you find one that’s a good fit for you. When selecting a program, try to choose something that interests you, or that you want to learn more about. Some common places to volunteer in the U.S. include nursing homes, elementary schools, animal shelters, soup kitchens, and centers for people with disabilities.
Dine like a local.
The tastiest way to experience a different culture is by trying new foods, and the U.S. has no shortage of options on the culinary front. From fast food to fine dining, the possibilities are endless. So, how do you choose what to try without getting overwhelmed? Dine out with your host family and friends at their favorite places— you’ll most likely find the best local food and restaurants this way. Don’t let anxiety over reading menus or ordering stop you from enjoying a dining experience either. If you have questions about a menu item, go ahead and ask—most people are very willing to help out. Also, there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal, so ask your host family what their favorite meals are and try cooking them together.
Explore your host state.
The U.S. is often called a “melting pot” of different people and cultures, and each state is unique in its own right. If you’re studying abroad with BASIS.ed’s International Student Program, you will be living in Arizona for the year. Although Arizona is best-known as the home of the Grand Canyon, there are tons of other unique places to visit and things to do there. If you are looking to spend the day basking in scenic beauty, Sedona— with its spectacular red rock formations and hiking trails—is an ideal place to visit. Right in the heart of Phoenix, you’ll find the Desert Botanical Garden, with its brilliant showcase of desert plants. If you’re looking to escape the heat of the desert, there’s no shortage of museums to visit—the Musical Instrument Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, and Heard Museum are some local favorites. Arizona is also a well-known destination for Spring Training baseball games, where you can watch the pros play before the regular season begins. The state also has a professional football team, hockey team, baseball team, and basketball team. Even if you’re not a huge sports fan, try to go to at least one game to soak up the atmosphere and excitement. You can read our blog post here, to learn about life in Arizona.
Get to know your friends and host family.
By actively participating in your host family’s daily life, you can learn a lot about American customs: Do they eat dinner together, or do they follow their own separate schedules? Do they take time to sit down and talk to each other, or are they more focused on social media? Is there a clear chore structure or house rules? You can also take part in your host family’s holiday traditions—there may be some American holidays, such as Thanksgiving, that you have not experienced before. Try to engage in conversation with your host family and friends as much as possible, too. This way you can learn about their hobbies, what movies and TV shows they like, how they grew up, and the places they’ve lived and visited— all of which can lend insight into American culture. Of course, the best way to immerse yourself in a culture is through firsthand experiences, so don’t pass up any opportunities to spend time out with your host family and friends—even doing something slightly out of your comfort zone.
By taking the time to truly immerse yourself in American culture, you will find that you always have a home in another country.
 Institute of International Education, Inc., “More International Students Seeking U.S. High School Diplomas,” August 8, 2017.