A love of travel can be fostered early in life by parents who encourage their children to immerse themselves in various cultures. One way for students to do that is to participate in student exchange programs.
Many schools are affiliated with exchange programs, and families can look into programs on their own as well. For example, the nonprofit AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service) is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent AFS organizations.
Study abroad and exchange programs vary in length and the ages of students. Some may be a full-year program consisting of 10 months of education, while others may last just a semester or trimester. Exchange students usually are placed with private host families who have been carefully vetted and are eager to participate in the program and share their rich culture with students. Exchange students will enroll in a public or private school, depending on the cost and parameters of the exchange.
Parents and students considering exchange programs should take the following into consideration as they look to learn more about their options.
• Age limits vary depending on the program, but many work with high school students between the ages of 15 and 18.
• Apply for a student visa from the country a student plans to visit. This process may take some time, so build it into your schedule.
• All fees are the responsibility of the student visiting the host family. These fees may include, but not be limited to, insurance, tuition and application fees. Students and their parents will be responsible for their travel expenses. Students also should take a decent amount of spending money with them so they can fully experience the country and city where they will be living.
• Foreign language experience may be required if you are traveling to a non-English speaking country. Make sure you know the requirements or restrictions.
• Host families typically undergo stringent background checks by representatives of the placement agency or organization. Therefore, students and parents can rest assured that these are secure places. The placement group also will work to address any issues that may arise during the exchange to ensure all parties are happy and safe.
Foreign exchange programs enable students to immerse themselves in different cultures and understand the international education process.