Life Credit versus High School Credit – Total Immersion in Study Abroad

study abroad europe

This post originally appeared on the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum as a guest post:

The Life Cycle of a Public School Student

I am a product of the public school system – and I do mean a product.  But I do not mean this in a necessarily negative way.  Our system was designed for the industrial age when students were prepared to be workers in a factory setting.  Their “workday” was normalized to bell ringing and abrupt change of activity based on time constraints.  The end product of 12 years of schooling was intended to be a well prepared worker.  There would be a few standouts on both ends of the spectrum, but for the most part, the masses would join the ranks of the employed and educated citizenry.

This system served us well for what it was designed for, but our society and our economy have changed dramatically while our education system has not.  Many parents – like me – are products of this system and have followed the same path with their own children augmenting what they can and working within the system to try and change it.  A large and ever growing number of parents have taken matters into their own hands and taken their children out of the public school environment to homeschool.  They are taking confident leaps of faith into a less structured arena where they are able to shape the process by which their children engage with the world.

High School Study Abroad Changed My Life

While there are many elements of my schooling that I wish could have been different, there is one distinct experience that I know shaped my future in a way that no other could – my high school student exchange to Soviet Russia.  I was fortunate enough to have an English teacher who had taken a road less traveled in her college years and studied Russian in the 1970s.  At the request of her students who found out about her Russian minor, she was able to create a Russian language program at our public high school in Columbia, South Carolina.  She was globally minded at a time when many others were not and so was able to secure a place for us in the US/USSR High School Exchange Program sponsored by the US Department of State at the very height of glasnost.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I went on to become a diplomat for the United States after several more international study abroad experiences.  I married an Army Foreign Area Officer, raised five children across the world, and have come back full circle to work in the international student exchange community.

Homeschool and the Immersive Study Abroad Experience

So why am I talking to the homeschooling community about study abroad?  It is the ultimate in experiential learning for developing global citizens – particularly at high school age.  High school study abroad students live with host families and attend high school in the local language.  Many of our programs do not require prior language study because of the intensity of learning in total immersion.  College study abroad tends to group foreign students together to study, and the living arrangements are often in dormitories.  High school study abroad is a total immersion in the language, culture and community of the town and country in which the student studies.

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