Etiquette Hell

A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. Guests, register for forum membership to see all the boards. => Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange => Topic started by: kajunchick on October 04, 2012, 11:53:06 AM

Title: Student Exchange
Post by: kajunchick on October 04, 2012, 11:53:06 AM
Hi, my daughter has been bugging me about studying abroad for her junior year of high school. She is particularly interested in Germany. I've been researching it online, but I'd like some feedback from anyone who has experience with this.

Do you guys have any tips or advice? Screams of "Don't let her do it!" ? Encouraging stories?

She's an honor student, responsible, independent, and adventurous. I think she'd do well, but of course I'm concerned about safety.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: NyaChan on October 04, 2012, 12:06:01 PM
I was a study abroad peer mentor in college and studied abroad myself so I would encourage anyone who has the opportunity to seriously consider studyign abroad. 

I would have been older than your daughter is now when I did it, but  as long as you use a reputable program, I don't think safety is any more of an issue in most countries than it would be if she was an on-campus college student (absent unexpected circumstances of course).  Some countries might actually be more safe than where she is now - for example: I went to undergrad at a campus that was in the city.  Japan by comparison was more safe for me as long as I was smart and used proper precautions. 

That said, I would encourage her to wait until she is in college - she will have a fuller experience for it and be able to approach the experience more independently than she can when she is only 16ish years old.  If you have any specific questions about it, feel free to PM me.  It has been a while since I've officially counseled someone about studying abroad, but I think I still have the basics down  :)
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Steve on October 04, 2012, 12:12:57 PM
I have studied abroad, and I agree with NyaChan: it is a very good experience for everyone, but she will benefit better if she is a little older. Germany is a pretty safe country, nice people mostly. Just be selective of the organisation she goes with. I went with Aspect (not even sure it still exists) and had a terrible time with them. There were other organisations that dealt with their students in a much better way.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: QueenfaninCA on October 04, 2012, 12:25:32 PM
Germany is neither much safer nor much unsafer than the US. I'm worried about something else: You don't write if she actually speaks German. If she learns it from scratch she's probably not going to learn much in school in that year. Also I'd check with her school how they credit her classes from there.

I grew up in Germany and some students I knew spent the equivalent year in the US. Despite speaking English well before they went, most of them ended up repeating that grade in Germany because the curricula were just too different and they couldn't keep up in class when they came back because they missed stuff that their peers in Germany had learned.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Betelnut on October 04, 2012, 12:51:21 PM
I've often thought of being a host to an exchange student.  Anyone have experiences with that?

As for the OP?  I would let her do it in a heartbeat.  You regret the things you haven't done, generally speaking, and living in a foreign country is a tremendously enriching experience.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Ereine on October 04, 2012, 01:17:26 PM
I was an exchange student in college and while I don't regret it and I had some good experiences I probably would have been just as happy if I hadn't done it and would have been spared a lot of angst and money. It was due to an unfortunate combination of a school that didn't really have a system for taking care of exchange students, getting private tutoring from teachers (which was great for learning, not so great for meeting people) and being very shy, so I made no friends in the six months I was there (though I did speak to the two other exchange students there, but their interests were just too different). I think that it can work out great, if the program is good and if you have the right sort of personality. I also agree that she might get more out of it as an independent adult, one thing I really enjoyed was travelling to all sorts of places for day trips and that's probably easier when you're more independent. There's also the fact that you can buy beer and wine in Germany at 16, if that might be a problem.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: NyaChan on October 04, 2012, 01:28:14 PM
Wow I don't know how I forgot this, but right after I graduated from high school, I went to Spain on a 3 week trip with a bunch of Juniors/just graduated Seniors that was run by our HS Spanish teacher (who could barely speak spanish ::) ).  Now I'm not saying that everyone is going to do this, but Ereine's post reminded me of it - the alcohol thing was an issue.  Parents who asked if the kids would be chaperoned on this aspect of things were told by the teacher that this was between the parent and the child - if they didn't want their child drinking, they needed to either not let them go, or have a conversation & trust their child.  I was put in the unfortunate position of watching my friend's younger brother drink himself silly while he begged me not to tell his parents.  Sigh.  So yeah, that's another thing to think about.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: magdalena on October 04, 2012, 03:52:49 PM
I was an exchange student in hugh school and in university, and really, those are two completely different experiences and I recommend both.

In high school, I really got to take a dive and soak up all of the culture, family life and so on. I lived with a family, had siblings and parents, so to say. I went to school and was pretty worry-free, to be honest. it was amazing. And hard. And exhausting. And rewarding.

In university, I was on my own. I had an appartment I shared with some other students, but it wasn't all that easy getting to know "locals". A lot of exchange students end up hanging around with each other (I also observed this in my own University back home).

Only caveat:
going to Canada on an exchange in 1995 caused me to become German in 2011.
I met my now-husband there.

...we're going to never let our daughter talk with any foreigners, ever ;-)
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Pippen on October 04, 2012, 04:40:00 PM
I know loads of people who have done it and most of them loved the experience. The language was an issue but they picked it up pretty quickly. It would definitely pay to get a thorough understanding of the school system first. From what friends have told me the German system is hot on the sciences, maths and technology so if she is not loving that angle she might struggle.

Finding a good fit with a host family is probably the most important the people I know who had to change host families found it really difficult as they were in a kind of powerless position and tried to stick it out so as not to cause trouble but it just came down to diametrically different people. My friend K was sent to a very strict and religious family and was made to attended church up to 4 times a week. Another one found the host family expected her to basically be a nanny for their younger children.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: rashea on October 04, 2012, 04:47:39 PM
You might consider a summer program as well. I did a People to People Student Ambassador program. We did homestays and quite a bit of travel around. It was a fairly safe and chaperoned program.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: kajunchick on October 04, 2012, 08:55:54 PM
Thanks for all the input. I will definitely do my homework as far as which program, and I'll talk to her school counselor about credit for classes.  Has anyone had experience with AFS-USA?
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: amandaelizabeth on October 08, 2012, 08:32:46 PM
My  16 year Niece has just returned from a year in Quebec.  It was a little town that was as far away from New Zealand as it is possible to get.  She was the only english as a first language speaker there.

She had a wonderful time, kept up her studies and made so many new friends.  Although the family were a little unsure about her going, it has been such a positive experience that we are glad she did.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: katycoo on October 08, 2012, 09:32:34 PM
Is the drinking age in Germany still 16?  That would be a minor concern of mine.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Slartibartfast on October 09, 2012, 03:20:26 AM
The drinking thing is really more of a problem if you go with a high school group of your peers - if you just go by yourself, you get to know teens in your host country and learn all their stupid things to amuse yourself with instead  :P

Academics are definitely something you want to think about, though.  If your DD does a year abroad in high school, will she miss out on any subjects she really should be learning about?  (Most high schools give you one year each of various sciences, for example, so if you go abroad and miss physics you may need to fit an extra physics class in another year so you're not behind your peers in college.  Assuming you wanted to learn more about physics, that is.)  If your DD goes abroad in college, can she still finish up her major and the main electives she wants even without that semester/year?  It's doable, but probably takes more forethought when choosing her courses.

The other thing is to really think about the purpose of studying abroad.  If she wants to soak up the culture and really experience how kids grow up in another country, high school is a great time to go.  If she wants to pursue some particular academic course - dance or theater or speaking Urdu or building robots or whatever - study abroad in college can give her the chance to be in one of the world hotspots for that discipline.  It's also worth considering possible destinations: a semester in Namibia will give a completely different experience than a semester in Japan, or Australia, or Russia.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Alpacas on January 05, 2013, 04:01:24 PM
Hi, my daughter has been bugging me about studying abroad for her junior year of high school. She is particularly interested in Germany. I've been researching it online, but I'd like some feedback from anyone who has experience with this.

Do you guys have any tips or advice? Screams of "Don't let her do it!" ? Encouraging stories?

She's an honor student, responsible, independent, and adventurous. I think she'd do well, but of course I'm concerned about safety.

As a german i could recommend Munich as a destination for her. ^_~
Beautiful city, wonderful people, and from what i can see with the exchange students in my university and the schools surrounding it, they really enjoy it.
Munich is close to the alps. It's in the beautiful bavaria and bavaria is generally known to be on the first place in germany educationalwise.
( i think you can guess where i'm from  ;D )

Drinking age for Wine and beer is indeed 16
Mixdrinks and "hard alcohol" is only allowed when you're 18 and older.

If you're concerned about her safety then i can only say that she's as safe her in Germany as in any other country. :)
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: bopper on January 08, 2013, 04:26:22 PM
We are hosting a German exchange student through Youth For Understanding (  I recommend them as they are well connected with the state department, they do alot of orientation and training ahead of time, and they really follow up and make sure the kids are safe.   She gets visited once a month by our local area rep. We have gone to training twice so far and she did a week of Orientation in Germany before she came to the USA.  Also YFU started as an exchange between in Germany and America so they are very good between those two countries..

Our student is basically taking an exchange year between her equivalent of 10th and 11th grade. When she goes back, she will go into 11th grade. An issue will be that she will no longer be with her grade-mates when she returns.    Also she spoke very very good English before she came here. Does your daughter speak any German? I would have her learn some!

If she did an organized program like YFU, then she would be staying with a family.  Europeans tend to parent teens a little more freely than in the US, but that is what culture exchange is about.

I have lived in Germany and absolutely don't worry about safety. I don't think you could pick a safer country!  Also I agree with Bavaria, but in the exchange programs the families choose the students.

I am not sure on the expenses...obviously you have to pay for flights, medical care, telephones, clothes...but food and lodging is paid for by the host family.

Let me know if you have any questions from the "host family" side of it.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: PastryGoddess on January 08, 2013, 06:14:09 PM
I second People to People.  I made some great friends in the 4 summers I did it in high school.  I think summer is a much better time than the school year for teenagers to travel. 
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Sneezy on January 08, 2013, 06:49:53 PM
I went to Germany after my senior year and turned 18 while I was there. None of my classes there mattered, since I couldn't get college credit for them and I had already graduated from high school. I had more freedom at 18 than I would have at 17, since I was told that if I were to get into serious trouble, my host family could risk losing custody of their own kids. I'm not sure if that was true or not, but it did scare me. I would have enjoyed the college program more, but there was no way I could have afforded that. As it was, I was able to test out of almost 30 credits of college German when I got back, which worked out great.

As far as the drinking goes, it wasn't an issue. I wasn't supposed to drink, but I did. I was surrounded by others who thought of drinking as normal and getting sloppy drunk as shameful, so I came back thinking "Okay, so the big deal about drinking is what exactly?" What shocked me about drinking when I returned was the attitude in the US that drinking doesn't incapacitate a person at all and one must never admit to not being in a condition to engage in normal activities. In Germany, at least where I was, it was a given that you don't drive and you curtail any risky activity when you're drinking and that a hangover is a natural consequence of doing something stupid the night before and not a badge of honor. I'm not sure if that was a result of the German thinking or a quirk of my social circle of partiers there, though.

Two decades later, I am still in touch with a few of the people I knew over there. I went with the Rotary club, which was very strict, but super helpful.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: BatCity on January 09, 2013, 08:32:56 AM
Thanks for all the input. I will definitely do my homework as far as which program, and I'll talk to her school counselor about credit for classes.  Has anyone had experience with AFS-USA?

I was an exchange student with AFS. We had an active chapter at my high school and I was very involved for all four years.  I spent my year abroad in Israel, and I can safely say that it changed my life in more ways than you can imagine.

It was good for me to go after I had technically already graduated, as (as you can imagine), learning Hebrew isn't an easy task, and it took me a couple of months before I could even understand the curriculum, let alone get good grades.  I didn't worry about it and when I applied to college I only submitted my grades from my high school at home.

Now, as an adult, I'm active in Rotary International, and they also have an exchange student program.  One big difference is that Rotary exchanges don't have students stay with the same family for the entire year; instead, they rotate through three families, although always with the same Rotary club, so they stay at the same high school.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Scuslidge on January 28, 2013, 09:25:52 AM
Neither of my kids ever went on an exchange year, but our family is currently hosting our 8th exchange student.  We have hosted 3 girls and 2 boys from Germany, 1 girl from China, 1 girl from Italy and 1 girl from Norway. 

If you're sending a kid on an exchange year, make sure they really understand that they need to function as a member of their host family and not as a guest.   Don't make the family wait to ask for help around the house, offer to chip in with the cleaning like any family member would.  Participate in activities with the host family and don't lock yourself away in your bedroom behind a closed door.  Bring some of your favorite recipes and offer to cook occasionally.  The more you act like a member of the family, the better your exchange year is going to be. 

If you are planning on hosting, try to think of the unwritten rules you might have for your own kids and make sure your exchange student is aware of them.  Our biggest rule is that we have to know where our kids are at all times.  Students might come to you who are very independent and don't think to ask if they can go somewhere or do something if you don't make it clear that you expect those things.  And for most of these kids, the American culture they have seen is that portrayed in television and movies.  We make sure to let them know that in the majority of our country, things are quite different!  No gun fights, no car chases, no constant teen sex (our first boy brought a LOT of condoms with him to our relatively conservative area.  I'm sure he was disappointed that he wasn't able to use them.  LOL!). 

No matter how hard you try, there will be ups and downs as there are in any family.  Just don't let it get to you.  You'd work through them with your own kid, so work through them with your exchange student.  And the same goes for your own child going abroad.  Exchange students should have someone in the exchange organization they can talk with if there are problems.  But students should be encouraged to talk with their host families before taking issues up the chain.  That can be a very difficult thing to do for a teenager.  In our years of hosting, we have only had one student who just wouldn't talk to us about her problems, but spent her time complaining about us to her family on her incredibly frequent Skype calls and also to a friend of hers who was in Chicago on an exchange year.  She had her parents so worked up about issues we are still not clear on that they repeatedly contacted AFS and insisted that she be moved out of our house.   Since we treated her no differently than we had our previous 5 students (and our 2 students since her year), we are certain that if she had chosen to talk to us rather than her family, we could have worked out whatever issues she had.  Our other students are dumbfounded that she would dislike us so much.  So, if you host and it doesn't work out, don't take it too personally (says she who is still bitter about the way our Norwegian student handled things!). 

I'd be happy to answer any questions as I am truly passionate about the exchange program!
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: bopper on February 27, 2013, 02:07:57 PM

We have had our exchange student ( our first) since Aug and boy are you right about unwritten rules!  Like if you didn't specifically ask for that ice cream you should not be finishing it off. or Don't eat 5 cookies a day if your host sister made them.  Or when you say you don't want yogurt for breakfast and I do not buy sufficient quantities for you, then don't eat all my yogurt. 

But definitely keeping us informed as to where you are and not having people over when we aren't home had to be drummed in.

Our student helps cook on occasion, but for the life of me I cannot get her to clean up after herself.  We have had incidents recently where i have to tell her to:
 -not turn the thermostat up to 76
 -not to leave the burner on under a pan when you have taken all the food out
 -not to eat off a spoon and put it back in communal food
 -not to leave the microwave door open when you are done
 -not to leave your clothes on the floor in the bathroom
 -not to leave empty coffee cups in the car door pocket
 -not to put dirty dishes in the clean dishwasher
 -not to leave gum wrappers everywhere
 -not to leave your dishes on the table
and the latest, don't leave your eaten apple core in the family room on the end table with no plate.

We do not have the problem with her hiding in her room. She is quite chatty and seeks us out.

However, I am getting quite annoyed...I do say stuff to her after each incident but I feel like you are 16, I really shouldn't have to. Whenever I gripe to a friend, they say "And you are hosting her for free in your house and this is what she does?"  I realize they are teens and self-centered is part of being a teen but I compare her to my daughter who cleans up after herself more like 95% of the time.

And I wonder if she is talking to her parents about stuff too....likethe other day my DD was making cookies. Plan the cookies, make the cookes, bake the cookies, clean up.  Then the Exchange daughter (ED) comes over and asks DD if she can lick the bowl.  DD says no, she made the cookies so she gets the bowl.  Perhaps anotehr unwritten rule, but much like the Little Red Hen, if you don't help you don't get the goodies.  She does get the cookies later though!   But then last night DD made more cookies (as they are being eaten at a fast rate...either my DH or ED or both and she offered to let ED help clean up so she could have part ofthe bowl to lick.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Scuslidge on February 27, 2013, 03:40:19 PM
What country is your student from?  I have heard of some students from South American families who come from a relatively wealthy background and who are used to having housekeepers pick up after them.  Doesn't mean she should be treating you like the maid, but it would explain her tendency to just leave stuff laying around.

I would recommend that you just sit down with her and talk over your issues.  Do a "sandwich" kind of discussion - start with something good about her, then talk about the issues you need to address, then end with good stuff.  Also be willing to listen to issues she may be feeling about living with your family. 

For instance:

Hey __[name]___, we need to sit down and talk about a few things.  First, I want to tell you that we are really enjoying having you as part of our family this year.  You are cheerful and friendly and willing to talk to us.  But we need to address some things we are having some trouble dealing with.  You may not realize, but our expectation is that you will clean up after yourself when you make a mess or put things back the way they were when you use them.  For example, I have had to talk to you about leaving your things on the floor in the bathroom or leaving apple cores and gum wrappers around the house.  We don't have a maid service and when you do these things it feels like you are treating me like your maid.  Our family expectation is that everyone cleans up after themselves and we really expect you to do the same.  It is uncomfortable for me when I have to repeatedly talk to you about the same kind of behavior.   We know that every family is different and things may be handled differently when you are at home with your family, but here in our family, the person who makes a mess is the one who cleans it up.   We're not asking you to behave any differently than we expect our daughter to behave.  Also, I'm happy to make sure that you have what you want to eat for breakfast and lunch, but when I go grocery shopping, I take into account what everyone has asked for and what I will be cooking for the week.  If you want to eat anything that you haven't requested or I haven't said is for general use - meaning anyone can have it - please ask before you take it.  For example, I bought yogurt for my breakfast and when I asked you if you wanted me to buy some for you, you said you did not.  Then you ate my yogurt and it wasn't there when I wanted it.  Again, I'm happy to make sure there is enough yogurt in the house for both of us, but you need to let me know that you will want some or I will only buy enough for me.  [Add any other things you really need addressed to make the rest of your year comfortable.]   ____[name]_______, I sure don't want you to think we don't like you, because that is far from the case - we're really glad you're here and are enjoying learning about your culture and sharing our culture with you.  And I'm sure not everything is perfect for you, either.  Are there any issues you would like to talk about?  We would be happy to discuss them and see if we can work together to resolve any difficulties you are having.

It can be really awkward to have these kinds of discussions.  We had a perfect year with our first exchange student - she was polite, funny, talkative and really bright.  She was a perfectionist who never had to be goaded into doing her schoolwork (and, in fact, she stressed over any grade lower than an A - I only wish my own kids had taken lessons from her!).  Boy, was our second year a shock!  Our student was a sweet gal, but hid out in her room with the door closed most of the time.  I talked to her three different times about it over the school year.  Explained that when she didn't come out and participate with the family, it made me feel like a hotel/restaurant/cab service (because she came out to eat or if she wanted to be taken somewhere).  After each "talking to" she'd start out staying out of her room but would eventually ease back into being in her room more often than not, until I had to talk to her again.  Couple that with her habit of just telling me she needed to be taken somewhere (I expect to be asked, not told) and usually about 5 minutes before she needed to leave, and I was really ready for her to go home by the time she left.  But we're actually still in contact with her to this day - not frequent, but occasional.  Our third, fifth, seventh and eighth students were much more like our first - just a pleasure to have around and it only took mentioning something once for it to be taken care of.  Number four, however, was a different story.  He didn't like to shower on a daily basis and, as a teenage boy, REALLY needed to.  It was horribly uncomfortable, but I had to talk to him about it twice.  The first time, he must have thought I was joking.  But the second, I told him how uncomfortable it was for me to talk to him about it, but that here in America, people are very sensitive to odors and he needed to shower every single day.  That did it.  And I've already mentioned our problems with exchange student number six - we really didn't know there were problems until she was moving out of our house. 

Of course, being a teenager, you might still have to do such things as ask her to look around the car and make sure she's taking anything out that she brought in with her.  No kid is perfect!  If you have to talk to her more than once, I would just reiterate that what you want is for her to function like a member of your family, and you're just letting her know what your family expectations are. 

Good luck!
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: bopper on February 27, 2013, 03:59:16 PM
She is from Germany...and what is funny is we DO have a maid!  But she only comes every two weeks.
I swear she was doing better at the beginning of the year (maybe she feels more comfortable now? yea....)

I don't make them do many chores or really any at all...and my daughter is usually doing homework but our ED is not taking challenging courses and the ones she is taking she is trying to get into an easier section of.  Not sure if this is the winter blues or what.
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Scuslidge on February 27, 2013, 05:52:21 PM
They do tend to settle in and quit acting on their best behavior after awhile.  But you want them to feel comfortable and not like a guest.  It would be horrible to feel like a guest for 10 or more months. 

I don't have a lot of chores either - they just have to take care of their own room and help out when I ask.  If it's housecleaning time, I put everyone to work - including our exchange student.  My own kids are in the Navy and out on their own, but I am the legal guardian of my nephew and both he and our exchange student love to cook.  I've finally instituted an everyone cooks procedure.  When I'm doing my grocery list, I ask what they'd like to cook the next week and get the ingredients they need.  Then I make a notation on the calendar of who's cooking on what night.  Our house rule is that the cook doesn't clean up, so I also note who is on dishes that night.  I wind up cooking 3 nights, my husband cooks 1 and each of the boys cook 1.  Then we usually have leftovers on the last night.  It's been working great.   If the trash needs to be emptied or taken out to the curb, I just tell the boys to do it and they don't argue.  My nephew is much neater than my own kids and Felix keeps his room pretty much spotless.  Most of our exchange students have left their room a mess on many occasions.  If we are having company and will need to use the bed in that room for coats, I just make sure it gets cleaned up.   Other than that, I don't bother them too much about their rooms.

I really do my best to treat our exchange students no differently than I treat my own kids.  If you don't your own kids get kind of tired of feeling like the exchange student is "special".

I found especially with our German students that school here is much easier so they don't have to do much homework because they can finish it during class.  Sometimes their time here will count when they return to their home countries and sometimes they will have to repeat their year completely.  If it's not going to count, I really don't care what classes they take as I want them to have time to have fun while they're here and not spend all their time on homework.  Usually the exchange program will require them to take certain classes (English, history, sometimes government) and then the rest of their classes can be things they don't have the opportunity to take at home - dance, photography, cooking, construction).

Best of luck with the rest of the year!
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: bopper on December 15, 2014, 02:18:27 PM
We have been exchanging Christmas gifts with our former German student/family...but I don't have any good non-food ideas! Any ideas?
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: QueenfaninCA on December 15, 2014, 03:05:23 PM
Coffee table book with photos about your area/state/nearby National Park/...
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Sharnita on December 15, 2014, 06:51:02 PM
We have been exchanging Christmas gifts with our former German student/family...but I don't have any good non-food ideas! Any ideas?

Was there anything she did or anywhere she went that might inspire a gift?
Title: Re: Student Exchange
Post by: Diane AKA Traska on December 15, 2014, 07:57:32 PM
Is the drinking age in Germany still 16?  That would be a minor concern of mine.

What you did... I see it. :)