Studies and traineeships abroad as a secondary school student
As a secondary school student, you will have the opportunity to go abroad for a student exchange. You can go for an exchange if you are a student at either an upper secondary school and a vocational education and training institution. You can also complete summer studies, practical training or even an entire secondary education qualification abroad. The accreditation of studies you complete in another country will be decided on case by case.
If you are a student at a vocational education and training institution or an upper secondary school, you will have the opportunity to take part in a student exchange. Consider in advance what countries you find the most interesting. Also consider whether you want to go abroad for a few weeks, a couple months or an entire semester. Check with your educational institution whether it is possible for you to take part in an exchange and what the requirements for this will be.
If you are under the age of 18, you must also check to ensure that being a minor is not an obstacle for the duration of your exchange or for the country you are going to. Exchange periods are often shorter for students who are minors. The destinations for these exchanges often include EU Member States and North America.
If your educational institution does not have its own exchange programme but gives you permission to go on an exchange, you can utilise the services provided by organisations that organise different types of student exchanges.
You can also possibly complete practical training required by your studies or part of your practical training abroad. Ask your educational institution about this on a case-by-case basis.
Find out from your educational institution in advance whether you can complete summer studies that will be accredited in another country. For example, some educational institutions may accept a language course completed in a foreign country during the summer as part of your studies. You can also get summer high school studies arranged in various countries accepted as part of your upper secondary school studies. Summer high schools are held, for example, in Spain, France, Sweden and Scotland.
In addition to language courses and summer high schools, you can take part in a youth exchange during the summer, which has been arranged by, for example, youth services in your hometown. Another option is to participate in international volunteer work, which takes place all around the world. In addition to this, various organisations arrange international projects and events during summer.
Even if a youth exchange, volunteer work or similar activities will not directly benefit your studies, your language proficiency and understanding of other cultures will improve with the experience. Your studies will also not be prolonged as you will not be participating during school time.
When you want to take part in an exchange you should first ask whether your upper secondary school has ready international networks. In this case, your upper secondary school’s personnel will take care of the administrative matters related to the exchange and help you apply for an exchange.
You can also go on an exchange through an organisation or company that arranges student exchanges. These usually charge a fee for their services. Ask about options from numerous service providers as there can be significant differences in prices and the content of services.
You can also arrange your student exchange independently. In this case, you will personally be responsible for searching for a host family and a high school. You will also be responsible for all the costs resulting from the exchange.
If you encounter problems during your exchange, your school or service provider will be responsible for handling these. If you have arranged your exchange independently, you and your parents will be responsible for dealing with any problems. Draft and read through all your agreements carefully and consider solutions for any possible problems in advance.
Generally, you cannot substitute mandatory or advanced courses at a secondary school with studies completed during an exchange. However, you may be able to substitute some selective or applied courses with them. Ask your upper secondary school about this case by case.
Your upper secondary school studies in Finland will continue normally after your return from where you left off when going on the exchange. Therefore, if you are on an exchange for one school year, you will graduate from upper secondary school around one year later than others who started upper secondary school at the same time as you.
However, in some cases, you may be able to complete Finnish upper secondary courses remotely even though you are abroad. Make arrangements for this on a case-by-case basis with your upper secondary school.
The simplest option is usually to go on an exchange through your own educational institution. Find out from your school what international partner agreements it has. Your educational institution will provide more detailed instructions on how to apply for an exchange.
You can also go on an exchange through an organisation or company that arranges student exchanges. These usually charge a fee for their services.
You can also go on an exchange when you are completing your studies in the form of an apprenticeship. Ask your apprenticeship office about this on a case-by-case basis.
Please note that exchanges at vocational education and training institutions take place towards the end of one’s studies. Studies or practical training that you complete while abroad will usually be recognised as part of your qualification.
As a vocational education and training student, you can also get financial support for costs resulting from a student exchange. The size of the grant will depend on the destination country and the duration of the exchange. If you have a disability or an illness, you can get financial assistance for your personal assistant’s costs. You can apply for grants from various foundations and organisations.
If you want to complete your secondary level studies entirely in a foreign country, you must usually search for a suitable educational institution independently. The search will require quite a bit of effort, as information on foreign secondary studies is not available in one specific place.
The best way to get information on educational institutions is on the websites of towns and cities in your destination country. These are usually in the country’s own language, so you will need to be proficient in the language in question. Also be prepared to contact various educational institutions to access more information.
In addition to the information you find on the educational institutions compare experiences and stories told by former and current students. These will give you a more truthful picture of the day-to-day life of students than the official information provided by educational institutions.
Please note that educational institutions may have differing application requirements that you must fulfil. Also note that application processes may start up to a year before the start of studies. However, six months is usually a long enough time to apply for an educational institution and make other necessary arrangements.
If you intend to return to Finland to work, find out the equivalence of your qualification. For more information, see the Professional competence and equivalence of qualifications web page.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 35 and have recently graduated, you can apply for practical training via the Allianssin nuorisovaihto Ready for Life programme (in Finnish). Practical training will last 1 to 4 months and it must begin within a year of your graduation. There are practical training places in Spain, Ireland, Italy, Greece, Portugal, France and Germany. In addition to a traineeship, the programme will offer you a travel grant and free accommodation.
You can also go abroad for practical training through a company that organises foreign traineeships. In this case, the company will arrange all practical matters on your behalf for a fee.
Alternatively, you can look for a traineeship place in a foreign country completely independently. In this case, you will be responsible for all practical matters and the costs involved in your traineeship. You can find a practical training place by browsing job vacancies or being in direct contact with companies situated abroad.
Ask the TE Office whether you can get unemployment subsidies for the duration of your traineeship.