International high school students thrive at EducationUSA Academy

Nine international high school students pose in front of UW–Madison's Bascom Hall. A large banner of Bucky Badger is hanging behind the building's columns

There are many ways for international high school students to discover their inner Badger during the summer at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Badger Precollege enrolls students from around the world in many of its summer academic programs, in subjects ranging from art and music to psychology and STEM. But for those looking for a program designed entirely for international students, Badger Precollege also offers EducationUSA Academy.

A program of the U.S. State Department, EducationUSA promotes U.S. higher education to students globally by offering opportunities to study at accredited colleges and universities in the United States. As one of these partner institutions, UW–Madison hosts an immersive three-week program for international students ages 15–18 on campus each summer through Badger Precollege. (There’s also a four-week virtual option, EducationUSA Academy Connects, hosted by Badger Precollege each winter and summer.)

Students attending EducationUSA Academy at UW–Madison participate in interactive workshops and presentations, learn about university admissions and financial aid, and explore Midwest culture through field trips and community outreach activities. Each year, the program incorporates a theme, which provides a holistic lens through which students study science and technology, history and humanities, and business and entrepreneurship. In 2023, the theme was sustainability; in 2024, it is leadership.

We talked with five students who attended EducationUSA Academy at UW–Madison in summer 2023 to get their insights into the program, what they enjoyed most and what made the most significant impact. Here’s what they had to say.

Thor, Iceland

 Thor admits that he wasn’t sure what to expect when he arrived in Wisconsin. “I had never been to the U.S. before and was afraid it would be too much and too loud, but I was surprised when I arrived how quiet it is and how nice everybody is.”

Thor is a blonde teenage male wearing a plaid shirt and black backpace.He applied to EducationUSA Academy at UW–Madison to learn more about higher education in the U.S. He’s interested in studying physics, so he especially appreciated the opportunity to visit UW–Madison’s nuclear reactor, to discuss air pollution with an engineer and to meet with Paul Robbins, dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.

Thor also enjoyed meeting various people and shopping on Madison’s State Street. (He especially recommends Target and Paul’s Bookstore!) His advice to others considering the program? “Come with an open mind to connect with people and have fun — because it is fun.”

Olivia, Brazil

Olivia says she appreciated getting to know other people while at EducationUSA and learning about how things work in a new country. And she says that higher education in America was better than she expected — so much so that she’s now “100 percent certain” that she wants to study in the U.S. for college.

Olivia is a teenage girl with long dark hair and is wearing a red tank top“Everything here feels like it’s personally designed for you because people in admissions, the teachers, everyone wants to know who you are, what you are interested in — and not just your grades,” says Olivia. “It’s really nice.”

The experience also taught her that she’s very interested in meeting new people, learning about new cultures and getting to know new places. “Try it out,” she advises other students considering the program. “It will probably be the best experience of your life.”

Daniela, Costa Rica

 Daniela is interested in one day studying business administration and marketing. She enjoyed studying sustainability at EducationUSA because she’s interested in making business more sustainable. She says she’s eager to apply some of the sustainability practices to her family’s business back home — and to her own country.

Daniela is a teenage girl with long dark blonde hair and is wearing a white shirtThe academics weren’t the only thing that impressed Daniela during her visit. She also enjoyed Madison and the surrounding areas. “I loved the landscapes and the farms and all the space,” she says.

“I thought it was just an amazing city because even though you have the city part — and the campus feels like the city — you also have those spaces where you can be by yourself in nature. You have the hiking, or you have a lake that feels like a beach, so it’s just an amazing city.”

Aurora, Italy

Aurora attends a science high school in her home country of Italy and is passionate about studying physics and nuclear engineering. Like Thor, she attended EducationUSA to learn more about higher education in America and embraced the program’s learning opportunities.

Aurora is a teenage girl with long dark hair that is pulled back. She is wearing round wire glasses, a black tank top and a gray backpack.“We did many activities such as visiting Chicago, a high ropes course, university facilities like the nuclear reactor, and participating in lectures by amazing guest speakers,” Aurora says.

She says her biggest lesson wasn’t something she learned in the classroom. “Maybe the most impactful thing I learned from EducationUSA is that we should get out of our comfort zone more often and have amazing experiences.”

Pablo, Mexico

Pablo learned about EducationUSA from his father, who had attended UW–Madison. “He encouraged me to attend EducationUSA, and I have to say thanks to him for this opportunity.”

Pablo is a teenage boy with dark curly hair and a trimmed beard and mustache. He is wearing a dark button-down shirt with white vertical stripes.He says the program and the many people he met were very nice. “Even though the program was about sustainability, I think the most important thing I learned was about myself and how I react in new situations, like being alone.”

He encourages others to consider studying in the United States for its excellent universities and opportunities to practice their English. “It’s so beautiful here,” Pablo says of the campus and Madison. “The streets are so empty, and it’s very peaceful.

“I think this was a great experience. And I feel like a Badger now.”

We’d love to welcome you to EducationUSA Academy this summer! Please visit EducationUSA Academy at UW–Madison to learn more about our in-person and online programs for international students — and to register. For questions, please email Kate Ryan at kate.ryan@wisc.edu.