For many high school students, summer is a time to disconnect from school year stress. For many parents of high school students, summer is a time fraught with anxiety over whether their teens are “making the most” of their time away from school. How sad! Whether your are a student or a parent, please don’t sweat summer.
Even if you are a student or parent who has no money to your name, there are plenty of ways high school students can stay active and engaged over the summer while developing their interests and building important life skills.
Yet, if you do have some dollars to spare, there are some wonderfully enriching summer programs for high school students out there – and I mean way out there – in Europe. My five favorites are detailed below.
These programs will give curious, adventurous, intellectual, and inquisitive high school students the chance to burst out of the often-banal high school classroom and into the “old world” in order to engage in an amazing experiential learning opportunity that will be both perspective-expanding and a chance to take a deep dive into preexisting interests. This is so important because no matter what a student does over the summer, it should present value added to both the student and to colleges the student may want to apply to later.
Before we start the countdown, an important disclaimer: exploring pre-existing interests deeply over the summer in Europe seems like a win-win to me; however, the following list won’t be for everyone, and it shouldn’t be. The most important thing for students and parents to remember is that students should pursue their passions deeply over the summer. If they can’t afford to take part in the programs below, that’s fine! They still should develop skills and knowledge over the summer that can only come through some sort of immersive summer experience. Again, I detail some closer to home and dirt-cheap options here.
But, without further ado, for the purposes of why we are here today, let’s hop on the plane to Europe!
#4. University of Notre Dame: Pre-College Program in Ireland
It shouldn’t be so surprising that the Fighting Irish run a summer travel tour seminar worth one college credit for rising high school seniors in Ireland. Notre Dame’s Pre-College Program in Ireland allows rising high school seniors to explore “bustling Dublin,” “bucolic Connemara,” edgy Belfast, and so much more during a twelve-day jaunt through the Emerald Isle.
“Guided by Notre Dame faculty and local scholars, students will embark on an exploration of Irish culture, history, and landscape through what Notre Dame’s O’Connell House calls ‘learning through the soles of your feet.'”
Why I love this program: It’s pretty immersive in terms of ground covered and it’s pretty cool that students live and learn at the Kylemore Abbey Global Center, which is right next to a castle, during the last leg of the program.
Who it’s perfect for: Students taking part in this program should have demonstrated academic achievement in high school and some sort of preexisting interest in Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Catholicism, Protestantism, place-based learning, European culture and/or History, 20th Century History, European History, the British Isles, castles, and/or the Northern Ireland Peace Process in order to get the most out of this experience and in order to have it align with other activities they’ve pursued in the past.
Cost (in 2019): $7,075 (including application fee cost; does not include cost of passport)
Alternative worth considering: Notre Dame also has a summer program for rising high school seniors in Rome.
#3. The New School: Parsons Paris Pre-College Studies
If you are an artist, there are few better places to visit for inspiration than Paris, France. Did you know that Parsons School of Design, part of The New School in New York City, has a campus in Paris where rising high school juniors and seniors – they must be sixteen by the time the program begins – have a variety of summer art course options from which to choose? The immersive courses of study at Parsons Paris last just over three weeks in July and cover topics ranging from “Explorations in Drawing,” “Fashion Design Process,” and “Fashion Photography: History and Process” to “Graphic Design Workshop,” “Introduction to Design and Management,” and “Fashion Illustration.”
Why I love this program: This program is for serious artists; each class meets daily from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., so it’s for those who are energized by developing their craft. All Parsons Paris Summer Intensive Studies courses are not only educational in their own right; each course counts for three college credits and may also be used by students to develop a portfolio for their upcoming college admissions process. Students also have the chance to take part in excursions, including crepe tastings.
Who it’s perfect for: Students taking part in this program should have demonstrated artistic achievement in high school and some sort of preexisting interest in Art generally or specifically fashion, fashion merchandising, drawing, graphic design, photography, and/or art history in order to get the most out of this experience and in order to have it align with other activities they’ve pursued in the past.
Cost (in 2019): $7,650 (including application fee cost; does not include cost of flights or passport, but does include Metro pass for getting around Paris)
Alternatives worth considering: If you don’t need to be in France, but want a lot of what Parsons Paris’ summer courses offer, Parsons also has a pre-college/intensive summer programs for high school students at its main campus in New York City. Meanwhile, if you would love to spend several weeks intensely pursuing your passion for art in France but don’t need to be in cosmopolitan Paris, TASIS (mentioned more above) has an intimate one-of-a-kind at program in the south of France called Les Taipes, which accepts an extremely limited number of students each summer.
#2. Columbia University: Summer Immersion in Barcelona
While this three-week Columbia University pre-college program run in partnership with the venerable University of Barcelona won’t earn you any official college credits (only a Columbia University Statement of Completion and evaluation letters from University of Barcelona teachers), it will still immerse you into a kaleidoscope of knowledge pertaining to Barcelona, Spain, and Europe and allow you to gather this knowledge in the company of earnest and thoughtful peers as eager as you hopefully are (if you choose to apply) to explore Barcelona and its slice of European culture. All student participants take all four of the following courses:
~Barcelona in Historical Context: Roman Origins to the Spanish Civil War
~Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, and the European Union
~Modern Architecture, Urban Development, Art, and Design in Barcelona
~Spanish Language Workshop
This ain’t no teen tour; open to rising high school juniors, rising high school seniors, and rising college freshmen, all those attending will take part in rigorous study while doing some serious place-based learning. Students live at the University of Barcelona’s modern Sant Jordi residence hall, which is located in Sarrià and only one block from Avenida Diagonal, a major thoroughfare that runs right through the city.
Why I love this program: Side trips to Figueres and Tarragona are nice, as are the variety of extracurricular activities available to students in and around Barcelona, but the biggest reason I promote this program is because my students who have taken part in it all come back appreciably more thoughtful, worldly, and mature individuals.
Who it’s perfect for: Students taking part in this program should have demonstrated academic achievement in high school and some sort of preexisting interest in Europe, European History, Spain, Spanish History, Catalonia, Catalonian History, Latin cultures/heritage, Mediterranean History, the European Union, Architecture, Urban Design/Development/Planning, Art, and/or Spanish language in order to get the most out of this experience and in order to have it align with other activities they’ve pursued in the past.
Cost (in 2019): $11,208 (this does not cover flights or passport, but does cover the application fee); and Columbia recommends that students bring $900 in spending money to boot!
Learn More: Click here.
#1. University of Dallas: Study Abroad for High School Students in Rome
Simply put, the most college-esqe of the courses you will find available to high school students in Europe over the summer are offered by none other than University of Dallas (go figure!). No matter which of the three course options you complete, you will earn three college credits, and the course content is pitch-perfect to study while in Rome. Italian cooking (see TASIS above) is fun, if not a bit trite and short on academic heft; nobody who takes one of UD’s courses can be accused of being unoriginal or an academic push-over.
Why I love this program: I love Italy, I love Rome, and I’m all about ROI (return on investment). If you are interested in the content of one of these courses, this pre-college program represents a really great deal and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study on location – though the formal campus is just outside of town – with passionate University of Dallas professors doing what they love. The three course options are “Shakespeare In Italy” (did you know a full third of his plays were based in Italy? It wasn’t by accident), “Latin in Rome” (learn about Roman history, politics, art, and architecture while engaged in advanced study of Latin and the people who spoke it), and “Rome and the Catholic Church” (again, this is not fluff course by any means, as it “explores the truth, goodness, and beauty of Catholicism as manifested in great theological texts, lives of saints, artistic masterpieces, historical landmarks, and miracles connected with the Eternal City”).
Who it’s perfect for: Students taking part in this program should have demonstrated academic achievement in high school and notable preexisting interest in at least one of the subjects covered in one of the courses on offer in order to get the most out of this experience and in order to have it align with other activities they’ve pursued in the past.
Cost (in 2019): $3,500-$3,900 depending on exact course (there is no application fee, participants will need to budget roughly $2,000 more for a round-trip flight, and a bit more for a passport if not already in possession of one)
Learn More: Click here.
Alternative worth considering: As I mentioned, I love Italy. I love it so much that I decided to move my annual summer college application completion colloquium for rising seniors to Italy a few years ago. Known as Bellagio Apps, this program, which takes place in northern Italy, will help you craft amazing applications to the colleges on your list – all before the first day of senior year. Luckily, you don’t have to choose between Bellagio Apps and any of the other options mentioned above because Bellagio Apps doesn’t start until August, while the programs mentioned above take place in June and/or July.
Yet, it’s also important to note that you can’t put Bellagio Apps on your extracurricular resume like you can put any of the other programs mentioned above. I mention Bellagio Apps here because there’s really nothing else on Earth like it and because if you’ve gotten this far into this article, you probably love Italy just as much as I do. Bellagio, on the shores of Lake Como, is about as close to a hybrid of Italy and heaven as one could imagine, so if you want to ensure that all you have accomplished during your high school years is conveyed in a manner most likely to get you into the colleges on your list and you could use some time in a stunning European locale, consider Bellagio Apps this summer.