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Student Exchange

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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.

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.

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 ;-)

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.

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.


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