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Please share your child's experiences as a foreign exchange student.

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None of my kids went, but we had a French student stay with us for a few weeks through the local high school's French program. Maybe if you turn my experience upside-down, you can see how it might look for your child.


Our French student was wonderful but not all of the families had great experiences. Here's what I noticed -


- The younger the kid, the more difficult it was for them to be so far from home.


- The less English they knew, the harder it was. Even watching TV or going to a movie was virtually impossible if the student couldn't follow an English conversation. It made for a very lonely student.


- Some students came here to learn English, and so there was an effort to communicate. Others came here to take a trip, so they realized all too late that it was very lonely taking a trip with no on you could communicate with.


- Many were very spoiled children who expected to stay in wealthy homes and be waited on. Not all by any means, and our student was very appreciative of our humble home and more interested in speaking English than in being pampered.


- The location of the host family is often a motivating factor. If you live near the US Capitol, your student probably has an interest in going there. If you live near the Mall of America, your student probably has an interest in spending major time there.


- The group that handles the exchanges makes a big difference. Our group had the kids all get together for fun events and the most prominent touring sites. This helped the families (have a break, and not need to take the kids to every site) and helped the kids (could spend a day speaking French & hanging around kids their age).



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I was thirteen and had been studying French for two years. I spent one month with a host family at Easter, then the daughter of that family came and stayed with us for a month in the summer. The exchange was arranged by an organisation, but they didn't intervene (except in emergency) at all during the exchange.


It was pretty lonely, but I learned a lot of French. My interests and personality were very different from my exchange mate, but we managed to get along okay. I was glad when the two months were up, but also glad that I had done it.



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My ds is thinking of doing this as a senior. Which program did you use? How long did your child stay? Any advice? Thank you!


My 3 best friends one year of high school were all male foreign exchange students through AFS. Granted I have been out of high school for 25 years but the organization was well respected then. They had many city wide events to make sure the students had a chance to interact with other visiting students. For my years of high school we had 2-3 students per year. I recently found two of them on facebook and it's been great to catch up. They both have fond memories of their year here. I bawled for weeks when they left.


As the other poster said having a working knowledge of the language is important. Here's a few other things I observed from my year with the guys.


- Good character and strong convictions are important. AFS had strict policies about substance abuse, s*x, and other behaviors. I knew at least one student who was sent home mid-year.


- Ability/Desire to blend into the culture, not judge or just observe it. I remember a few other students from other schools were bitter because of where they were placed. They had wanted a city environment and were placed in a rural area. I'm sure it made their year much harder.


- Ability to be hosted by a family that will make sure child can partake in school/community activities. Two of my friends had children in the school, the other did not. His host parents still made sure he was able to be active in whatever he chose and truly make it an experience to remember. We had numerous group events at their houses and they worked to make sure he interacted with a good number of people.


I have nothing but good memories of my time spent with my foreign exchange friends. They were kind, mannerly, and true gentlemen. I have no doubt it would be a valuable experience for the right student.

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I went to Germany as an exchange student for a gap year. I was just 17. I can't begin to explain all the ways it enriched my life. I am still in contact with my host family and my host sister's children have spent summers with us. It can be lonely for the first few months but it doesn't hurt to listen and understand a language and culture before you jump in and say something crazy.

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