Snapshots of people leading their camels across dusty deserts, of farmers selling their exotic fruits in markets, of students sitting in coffee shops with menus you cannot understand (and not just because of the fancy drink names). Videos of children laughing and singing in their language, of families eating foods you have never heard of nor seen. Do things like this fill your heart? Is learning about other cultures and peoples a great passion of yours? Then you are probably already interested in pursuing something like international studies when you enter college. You just cannot wait to start learning and using your studies to help others, whether in business, government, volunteering/charity, etc. But do you really have to wait until college to start? How do you get involved now? Let’s look at a few pre-college programs and ideas that give you some great experience learning about and working with other cultures:
- Join an International Club: First look within your own school. Sometimes schools offer international clubs, where you can learn about other cultures and even practice languages. Some high schools even have a Model UN, an opportunity for students to get to experience what working with the United Nations is like. You will become a “delegate” and participate in conferences, learning about the procedures and policies the UN uses when working together. This is a perfect opportunity for anyone interested in international studies. If you would like more information about the Model UN, visit their website or ask if your school has a Model UN.
- Participate in a Language Immersion Program: Global Leadership Adventures offers four unique summer pre college programs focused on language learning, one in China, one in Peru, and two of which are in Costa Rica. You will truly dive into the language, the culture, and the nation. Each of these programs ingrain language-learning into the time you are there. GLA knows your trip will fly by and time is precious, so as you are volunteering alongside natives, tasting some new dish, and experiencing the beautiful surroundings, you will also be learning and practicing your Spanish or Chinese. Plus, there will be fun “field trips,” like surfing, shopping, and hiking. These language immersion programs will not only open doors to volunteering and gaining experience, but you will also have had a beautiful adventure, with people and places you will never forget.
- Study Abroad for a Semester: Become a high school exchange student in another country. Similar to GLA’s language immersion programs above, you will be out of your comfort zone, and because of that fact alone, you will learn about the culture and language pretty rapidly. You will get to experience what daily life is like in another culture, while at the same time, continuing your studies. You already have to be in school, so why not study in another culture? It makes for great experience (and a lot of fun, too)!
- Volunteer within Your Own Community: You would be surprised at how many opportunities there are to work/volunteer with international peoples right within your own city. Often, there are whole communities of people from another country living in a town or city. Look at yourself, and ask what you can do. You could tutor and help improve internationals’ English skills or provide translation. You could help provide relief. You could volunteer with a local organization that works with international students and communities. You could talk with your family about hosting an international exchange student in your home. There are many options and programs, and each opportunity will be unique depending on your hometown. But every place has some way you can learn about other cultures and peoples. It will be good experience, and you will already be doing what you love: working alongside other cultures and nations.
So what’s holding you back? You can start pursuing your international studies degree today! And remember: in International Studies, you never stop learning, so be open to new adventures and have fun!
Have you been on one of GLA’s Language Immersion programs? If so, tell us about your experience in the Comments! We want to hear your story.
Contributed by Addie Davis