Work and study abroad in the USA

Spending a year abroad in the USA is a dream for many young people. We explain the requirements and costs for language courses, au pair, internships, student exchanges, and studying in the USA.

Student exchange in the USA

Thousands of young people get to know the "American way of life" every year during a student exchange. The advantages of a high school year abroad in the USA are diverse. For young people, the time away from home is not only perfect for improving their English skills, but they also get to know new places, make new friends, boost their self-esteem, and learn to stand on their own two feet.

High school students and school buses

When you take part in typical high school life in the USA, you can also benefit from the wide variety of subjects offered by American schools. Journalism, photography, or psychology: many high schools in the United States offer courses that are not available in other countries. In addition, the wide range of after-school activities, such as cheerleading, American Football, drama, or debate club, give you great opportunities to pursue your interests.

Life outside of school takes place with your host family, who will fully integrate you into their daily routine. Your host parents will take care of your accommodation and meals, take you on excursions and spend typical US holidays such as Thanksgiving or Halloween with you. In return, you are expected to respect the rules within the family and to take on household duties.

A host gift is a nice gesture and part of good manners when you move into your new temporary home. Your American host parents will certainly be happy to receive a typical regional product or souvenir from your home country. This way, you can also introduce your new family to your culture.

If you are interested in a year abroad in the USA, you can contact organizations and associations such as Partnership International e.V.. They will help you organize your stay.

The costs for a year abroad in the USA vary depending on the provider and the services included in the program. For a year at a public high school, you should calculate around € 8,000 to € 12,000. At private schools, the fees are higher. You will also need about € 300 of pocket money per month.

In principle, you can also spend only half a year at an American high school. However, a full year abroad in the USA is usually more worthwhile, as, in addition to the program itself, there are other costs that have to be paid once, regardless of the length of your stay. Factor in additional costs for:

  • Airline tickets
  • Passport
  • US visa (F-1 or J-1)
  • Insurance (healthcare, liability, travel cancellation, luggage)
  • School material / textbooks
  • Preparatory courses or events (if applicable)
The American Dream recommends:

Scholarships provide students with the opportunity to fulfill their dream of spending a year abroad in the USA, regardless of their financial situation. We at The American Dream, in cooperation with the non-profit organization Partnership International e.V., support three students each year with a total of € 15,000.

Learn more about the TAD scholarship

Au Pair in America

If you have already finished school, a stay as an au pair is an excellent and relatively inexpensive way for you to live in America for one or two years. As with a student exchange, you will live with a host family and be firmly integrated into their daily life. You will take care of the family's children and help with the household chores. In return, you receive free room and board as well as pocket money (usually around € 200 to € 300 per month).

The year abroad as an au pair allows you to live and work like an American, to get in touch with the locals, and to benefit from the mutual cultural exchange and joint leisure activities. Of course, you will also improve your English and get the opportunity to take courses in college or at a language school.

The matching with a host family is usually done by an agency that specializes in stays abroad. To be able to participate in an au pair program, you should meet some requirements:

  • You are 18 to 26 years old.
  • You have a high school diploma, or you will graduate before your year abroad in the USA.
  • You have a clean police record.
  • You enjoy spending time with children, and ideally, you already have about 200 hours of experience working with children (babysitting, tutoring, internship at a kindergarten, work in youth care, etc.).
  • Ideally, you have a driver’s license or will obtain one before your stay in America begins.

Although you will be paying for your local life with your work as an au pair, there are some costs to be paid before you leave for your year abroad in the USA. These include:

  • Agency fee for the agency
  • Flight tickets
  • Passport
  • Visa (mostly J-1)
  • Insurances (healthcare, liability, travel cancellation, luggage)

Are you interested in spending a year as an au pair in the USA? Check out the websites of the following providers for more information:

  • Travelworks
  • Cultural Care Au Pair
  • Au Pair Care

Study in the USA

Harvard, Stanford, MIT – many of the world's most prestigious universities are located in the USA. To be more precise, the United States accounts for 13 of the top 20 universities worldwide. It is, therefore, no surprise that a large number of young people are drawn to study, teach, or research at an American university.

The year abroad in the USA not only increases your career opportunities but also promotes your personal development. You will immerse yourself in typical American campus life, get to know students from all over the world, and gain self-confidence and independence.

The easiest way to study in the USA is through a partner university or an exchange program. Ask at your university whether there are partnerships with American universities and what requirements you have to fulfill for an application. If you would like to spend your year abroad in the USA at a specific university, you can also apply independently to the university of your choice as a "free mover."

In any case, you must have sufficient English skills to be allowed to study in America. You can prove this with a TOEFL test, which evaluates your language proficiency in four areas: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Students in the USA

Be sure to start planning your year abroad in the USA early so that you can clear all organizational hurdles in good time. We recommend starting your preparations about a year before you plan to start your studies. You will need a few months of preparation time, especially for your university application.

The costs of studying vary greatly. Especially if you want to study at one of the elite American universities, it comes at a price. The cost of your room and board also varies depending on the US state or city you choose.

Calculate the following costs for your semester in the USA:

  • Tuition fees
  • Accommodation
  • Food & leisure
  • Public transportation
  • Books and other study materials
  • TOEFL test (approx. $ 240)
  • Flight tickets Passport
  • Visa (mostly F-1, sometimes J-1)
  • Insurance (healthcare, liability, travel cancellation, luggage)

If your financial means are not sufficient for a year abroad in the USA, there are possibilities for funding, e.g., through scholarships, guest lecturer programs, or other projects.

Language courses in the USA

A language study trip to the USA is an exciting adventure during which you not only learn English but also get to know the country and its people and make many new friends. You can book a language study holiday through various agencies, which will then organize your schedule and accommodation for you.

The language study providers will take your wishes into account. The choice of city and type of accommodation (host family, residence, shared flat) is entirely up to you. Courses are offered for every language level and are also possible with a specialist focus, for example, Business English.

Some language study providers are:

  • International Experience e.V.
  • EF Education First
  • Do it! Sprachreisen
  • ESL

In addition to the costs for the language course, accommodation, food, and leisure activities, you will also need:

  • Flight tickets
  • Passport
  • Visa or ESTA
  • Insurances (healthcare, liability, travel cancellation, luggage)

Good to know
If your language course includes more than 18 hours per week and lasts longer than 90 days, you must apply for an F or M visa to enter the USA. If you study less than 18 hours per week but stay longer than 90 days in America, you need a B-2 visa.

However, if your stay in the USA is shorter than 90 days and your language course involves less than 18 hours per week, you can also apply for an ESTA tavel authorization. The advantage: an ESTA application is significantly cheaper than a US visa and involves less paperwork.

Learn more about ESTA

Internship in America

Improving your English skills, gaining valuable work experience, and getting to know the USA at the same time – an internship in the USA has many advantages. However, before you are allowed to work as an intern in the USA, you have to fulfill some requirements and go through some organizational processes.

Interns at work

Start your search for an internship at least three months before your planned departure date so that you have enough time to complete all the formalities. When searching for an internship, you need to take the following steps:

  • Finding a company
  • Finding a legal sponsor
  • Completing the DS-2019 form
  • Going for an appointment at the US Consulate

When looking for an internship, you can either apply to US companies by yourself or contact an organization to help you with your application. The support of an exchange or placement organization makes your job search much easier but comes at an additional cost of around € 500 to € 1,000.

Once you have signed your internship contract, you will need a legal sponsor, who acts as an "extended arm" of the US authorities. Legal sponsors are organizations that ensure compliance with US residency and entry requirements. Your compliance is confirmed by the DS-2019 form, which you can then use to apply for the J-1 visa. If you are already working with an exchange organization for your application, they can take care of this. Otherwise, you can also contact a visa service.

Once you have gathered all the documents, you will be invited to an appointment at the US Consulate, where a decision will be made whether you will be granted the J-1 visa, which will allow you to work as an intern in the USA. To qualify for a J-1 visa, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a trainee or student
  • Have sufficient knowledge of English
  • Have travel health insurance
  • Have sufficient financial means for your stay in the USA

The budget you need for accommodation, food, public transport, and leisure activities depends on the US state or city where you want to do your internship. Other costs include:

  • Flight tickets
  • Passport
  • Other insurances (liability, travel cancellation, luggage)

If you are between two stages of your life, e.g., between school and studies or vocational training, "work and travel" (in the USA: volunteer work or summer jobs) is also a good way to spend a year abroad in the USA. You will also need a J-1 visa for this. Contact an exchange or placement organization to plan your stay.

More USA tips

Would you like to use the time before your year abroad in the USA to prepare yourself for life in the United States? In our guides, you will find detailed information about the "American way of life." Learn everything about the school system in the USA, the American healthcare system, or the Green Card Lottery. If you wish to improve your English skills in advance, you can find out which provider suits you best in our extensive learning software comparison.

We wish you a great time in the land of opportunity!

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