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A lot of people believe study abroad options for high-school students are limited to foreign-exchange programs and summer tours, but they’re not! The world plays host to a number of adventure- and experience-based academic summer programs that offer great ways to expand your academic repertoire and build an impressive high school resume.

To find some of the most unique and unforgettable experiences, look out to sea. You’ll find at least a couple of programs that push beyond the usual and offer personally and academically challenging experiential programs designed specifically for students who seek to learn outside the norm.

An adventurous summer program

Spend three to six weeks with an Action Quest Summer Program and you’ll find yourself far off the beaten path earning your certification in sailing or scuba diving and spending your days waterskiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, hiking, trekking, snorkeling, and exploring exotic islands. You’ll also be immersed in a program that teaches you to see the world — and yourself — with a new vision and purpose through Action Quest’s own Lifeworks Forum. The Lifeworks Forum is a sort of values-clarification education that teaches teens to live and interact effectively and with integrity.

However, Action Quest isn’t just about adventure and personal insight, even though these are key elements in all of their summer programs. You can choose to participate in one of their education-oriented adventures, all of which also include the Lifeworks Forum. These trips provide a short-term experiential education in tropical marine biology, marine science, or oceanography — and you can still get in some sailing, scuba diving, and windsurfing.

Action Quest specializes in co-ed adventure programming for teens ages 13–19, and the program sails its ships in a variety of exotic locales around the world. What a cool way to have the adventure of a lifetime and still impress college admission officers!

Ocean science class and summer youth program

The Sea Education Association, well-known for its college courses, recently started offering three-week summer seminar courses to high school students who wish to study the marine environment of Cape Cod, or oceanography off the coast of Maine or Southern California.

The oceanography courses are open to high school sophomores through college freshmen and are worth three to four college credits, depending on which course you participate in. The seminars are modeled after the association’s college program and include both a land-based and sea-based component.

Going beyond a student summer program

If you’re really ready to dive into something different, look into Class Afloat, a Canadian independent school that offers semester and year-long academic programs to 11th, 12th, and gap year or junior college students. More than just a summer youth program, Class Afloat is a full academic program for high-achieving students. You can earn credits in the humanities, literature, language, social sciences, mathematics, science, physical education, and of course, sailing!

The program prides itself on developing value-based and ethical leaders who are self-sufficient, can take initiative, and solve problems effectively. To accomplish this, Class Afloat provides a hands-on, team-based working ship environment as well as a college-prep curriculum to students from around the world — all while sailing around it.

Class Afloat offers high school diplomas to twelfth graders who enroll in the full-year program, and credits earned in the program are transferable in most cases. Of course, if you’re interested in the program, check them out and get more information from your advisor about transferring program credits back to your high school.

Sea-based summer programs

If you’ve got a knack for sailing the open sea (or even if you don’t), check out the amazing opportunities offered by programs that put you on board a ship. If you miss your chance, maybe due to participating in another student summer program or working at a summer job, don’t despair. There are even more sea-based programs available to you once you get into college!