Examining Asia as one region seems nearly impossible considering how many countries, cultures, and land masses it spans. One thing can be said for sure though: Asia is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for high schoolers to study, volunteer, and travel.
From Japan to China to India, there is no shortage of destinations for students to discover. As a student abroad in Asia, you’ll have the opportunity to learn a new language, make lifelong friends, and explore rich, historic cultures.
Asia is great for students who are interested in history, economics, business, languages, unique cultures, and eating delicious food.
Students interested in studying abroad in Asia have several different options:
- A semester or full year exchange
- A summer study abroad program
- A study / travel program over spring, winter, or summer break
High School Exchange
Spending a semester or a full year studying in Asia often involves living with a host family. This is a great opportunity for those who are interested in learning a foreign language like Mandarin or Japanese.
High school students will have the opportunity to learn from educational systems that are structured differently than what they may be used to. There are options to spend a semester to a year studying in Asia and oftentimes students are able to apply for a direct exchange of credits.
Youth Travel Tours
High school students with time constraints can choose to participate in a travel tour geared towards youth. These programs are structured to include sightseeing at historical attractions, learning about interesting cultures, and studying various subjects.
Tours can focus on various themes like adventure, volunteering, or cooking while incorporating educational elements like language, history, art, and economics. Rustic Pathways is a notable provider who runs such tours for teens.
Summer Study Program
For those able to commit to a few months of study abroad, a summer program is ideal. High schoolers are able to study abroad with an intensive course in Asia between their regular studies at home. Many students choose to do a summer program if they are interested in beginning or deepening their studies of a foreign language like Japanese, Korean, or Mandarin. Many times, these summer programs can be partnered with universities so students receive college credit.
Visa requirements vary depending on which Asian country you’re visiting and what country you’re from. Generally speaking, if you’re a citizen of Canada, the UK, Australia, or the United States and are planning to stay less than 90 days, you can usually obtain a tourist visa upon entry to most Asian countries, with the exception of China. Those planning to study and stay longer than 90 days will need to look into a student visa.
All travelers to Vietnam will need to apply for a visa in advance, regardless of length of stay.
Be sure to begin research several months in advance; you may need to visit the local international embassy in your home country. If you are traveling with a program they often provide help with visa requirements and applications.
The type of study abroad program you choose in Asia will determine your housing options. Semester or year-long exchanges often provide host families for students to immerse themselves in the local culture (if you're planning on going to Japan, we recommend reading our tips for staying with a host family in Japan).
Participants in youth travel programs will typically share a hotel room with fellow travelers on the tour. High school students participating in summer programs are often given to choice to either live in university dorms with other students or live with a host family.
If you’re flying from North America, flights to hubs like Shanghai will likely cost between $800 - $1,100 USD range, while those coming from Europe can exxpect to pay between $500 to $700.
The cost of food, nights out, transportation, and additional expenses will vary depending upon your exact destination. In cheaper locations like Thailand and Cambodia you'll be spending about $20 USD a day, while more expensive areas like Singapore and Japan can cost around $40 USD daily.
Program prices vary according to country, length of stay, type of housing and what’s included. It can range from $1,000 for a two-week trip to $8,000 for a summer experience to $12,000 for a semester program.
In more tropical Asian destinations like Indonesia, Thailand, and India, you'll need to pack less layers and potentially more rain gear. Depending on the time of year, you may need to pack for monsoon season. For these regions, definitely be sure to bring:
- A solid raincoat and umbrella (which can be purchased on arrival)
- Breathable and UPF (sun resistant) clothing
- Sunscreen and bug repellant
- A hat
- Solid walking shoes for all those outdoor adventures
Asian countries farther away from the equator will experience more seasonal weather. Be sure to check the weather temperatures for the time of year you’ll be visiting. You may need to pack a coat, gloves, and boots for places that receive snow, like areas in Japan, South Korea, and China.
Staying Healthy in Asia
It is recommended to receive hepatitis, yellow fever, typhoid, tetanus, and rabies vaccinations before traveling to developing Asian countries. Mosquitos in Asia can carry diseases like malaria and dengue fever, so high school students should take proper precautions such as frequently using bug repellant, covering their skin in high-risk areas, and taking preventative medication. Be especially vigilant of mosquito born diseases in India, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
In Asia, stay away from animals you don’t know and only drink bottled water. When eating food, make sure it’s properly and thoroughly cooked. Be aware that salads are sometimes washed in impure water, making them hazardous for a foreign student’s stomach. Traveler’s diarrhea is not uncommon, so be sure to hydrate and see a health professional if symptoms don’t abate after a week.
High school students traveling in Asia should have no problems if they follow general safety guidelines. As with anywhere in the world, being aware of your surroundings is an important means of keeping safe. Pickpocketing and petty theft is known to happen in more crowded, touristy areas. Stay away from local demonstrations, as they occasionally turn violent. Always follow local government laws and stay away from illegal drugs and underage consumption of alcohol.