Photo: Lindsay Clark, THINK Global School

Many students dream of taking time off of school to travel. But at this high school, traveling is school.

THINK Global School takes high school students traveling through nine countries over the course of three years. While moving from country to country every three to six months, they take International Baccalaureate (IB) courses that allow them to still graduate on time with a competitive high school diploma. This means that students can quite literally have class on one side of the world one week, and on an entirely different corner of the globe the next.  An example itinerary from the 2011- 2012 school year: Cuenca (Ecuador) in the fall, Chiang Mai (Thailand) in the winter, and Berlin (Germany) in the spring. Grade levels are capped at around fifteen students, and the entire student body represents over twenty different countries.

According to their mission, THINK provides “a 21st century curriculum for a rapidly changing and rapidly shrinking planet.” By the end of high school, students graduate with an official IB degree, along with three years of international experience. The school’s founder came up with the idea when searching for the right school for her son Alex. An avid traveler since she was eighteen, she and her husband had taken Alex to more than 70 countries by the time he turned fourteen. When they couldn’t find a high school curriculum that aligned with their family’s values of “travel, cultural immersion, and empathy,” they decided to create one themselves. The school opened in September of 2010 and has since visited every continent except Antarctica.

Of course, THINK Global school still is…well, school. Students still spend a large part of each day in a traditional school facility provided by their host city, learning in classrooms and science labs, just like at home. They also take the same IB classes as any student in a traditional IB program (pre-Calculus, English Literature, Visual Arts, Languages, etc).

However, THINK combines this curriculum with enrichment opportunities that could only occur while traveling: biology lessons during a rainforest hike, art history lessons in a museum, joint classes/workshops/exchanges with local students at their host high school. The school also encourages students to participate in project-based learning by writing blog posts, filming video documentaries, hosting art exhibitions, and engaging in other original creative projects connected to their experiences in each country.

Luckily, this isn’t the only school figuring out how to take high school education on the road. The Traveling School has similar goals, only this time specifically focusing on female students. Their mission is to “enrich the lives of teenage girls with an enduring educational experience focusing on overseas exploration, academic challenges, expanded outdoor skills, and a deeper engagement with the world.”

Unlike THINK, students only leave for a semester (or around fifteen weeks), and visit three to four countries in a selected region during that time: Fall Semester programs visit Southern Africa, while Spring semesters visit South America. The Traveling School also specifically emphasizes outdoor adventure skills in addition to traditional academics.

But similarly, students come from across the world and programs are capped at 16 students. The school provides college seminar-style classes that are often interdisciplinary and student-centered. Students travel with four full-time teachers, and have the opportunity to earn full academic credit for six semester courses in traditional courses like math, history, science, English, foreign language, and Physical Education. But they try focusing courses on “transformative teaching” with themes like “race, liberalism, democracy, capitalism, and power.”

For graduates:

If you’ve already graduated high school and still can’t imagine studying in the same place too long, college programs are picking up on the idea as well. Instead of the traditional study abroad model — one semester only, full immersion in one city — these programs offer university options for more nomadic students:

Webster University

Though the university is based out of St. Louis, Missouri, this university has built campuses all over the world that allow students to easily take courses in different cities. Students can create their own learning experiences at each campus while feeling assured that they’ll receive a consistent academic quality. Their curriculum intentionally emphasizes global citizenship and other international issues. As their website states, the globally-minded curriculum and the ease in movement across campuses helps create,  “an action-oriented global network of faculty, staff, students and alumni who forge powerful bonds with each other and with their communities around the globe.”

Forum Nexus

Forum-Nexus Study Abroad hosts students at highly ranked colleges throughout Europe (Franklin University in Switzerland, Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy, and IQS School of Management in Spain) for summer programs. Each summer, students can earn up to 6 semester credits for required or elective courses. The name comes from the founder’s vision to build a nexus between international students and European executives, professors and government officials to help increase “levels of International IQ,” “cross-cultural sensitivity,” and “knowledge of the European economic, political and cultural environment.” 

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