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Can Exchange Students Choose to Go Home Before the School Year is Done?

Each year roughly 80,000 high school students come to the United States to study. The majority of these students plan to be here for a full academic year. Although this might be their intention, in a few rare instances, the student might have to cut their trip short. This might be because of an illness, an emergency at home, and other times, the student might decide to return home because they are homesick. Note that this does not happen often, but if it does, your agency will work with your student to arrange for an official withdrawal and a return home. 

Early Withdrawal From Exchange Student Program is Discouraged

When a high school student asks about studying abroad, they are encouraged to sign up for a full year. The reason being, along with providing them with ample time to adjust to the academic environment, being in the USA a full school year will afford the student the opportunity to get involved in an array of sports and extracurricular activities. Additionally, they can participate in holiday celebrations, attend the prom, and even graduate with their class. If they leave early, they will not get the full benefit of the program and will miss out on a lot of valuable experiences. 

That said, your local program will do their best to counsel your student through whatever difficulties they might have that is making them want to return home. Still, a student might be adamant about returning home. Be sure to show them love by continuing to support them no matter their decision. 

A Family Emergency Might Require a Student to Leave Early

Most often the student wants to return home due to an emergency such as an ailing parent or grandparent. Anyone can understand the urgency to get home quickly in this circumstance, but advise your student not to panic. Have them talk to their parent(s) and encourage them to stay in regular contact so that they will know what is going on. Hopefully, the emergency will pass, but if it does not, your student and their parents may decide that it is best for them to return home. Be sure to get in touch with your agency’s local representative to help you, your student and their family navigate through this tough time. 

Foreign Exchange Student Goes Home Early Because of Homesickness 

All foreign exchange students get homesick during their time abroad. Staying in touch with family and friends can help, but too much communication with home can hinder their adjusting to their new environment. If your student is homesick, you’ll want to encourage them to make new friends and become active in their school and community. Staying busy is the best way for them to overcome homesickness. In this way, most students won’t be homesick for long. In fact, it should go away in just a few weeks after they’ve become used to their surroundings. 

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Unfortunately, no matter what you do, a few students always have trouble making the change. They miss their friends and family too much and are just miserable being away from them.  If your student is adamant about going home, you’ll want to support them. 

Student Chooses to Go Home Early Due to Health/Safety Concerns

Accidents happen all the time to exchange students like twisting an ankle while playing basketball or slipping and falling on the ice. They might also get sick for a short period of time because of a cold or flu. However, sometimes a student may become very ill while studying here in the United States. This might be something like being diagnosed with cancer or a long-term disease like asthma or heart disease. After seeing a physician and a treatment plan is devised, it may be determined that it is best that the student is cared for by their parents in their home country. 

Just as rare, a student may choose to go home because they are afraid for their health and safety. This happened during the coronavirus pandemic. Because of fear, many, many parents contacted their international student exchange program and asked for their kids to be sent back home. After schools were closed permanently, they returned students from every program to their home countries. This was a strange and sad time for both students and host parents. 

The Withdrawal Process

As soon as you think your student might be at the point of deciding to go home, you should contact your agency representative. The earlier the better as all international student exchange programs offer counseling services and are skilled in helping students make the right decision for themselves. The student’s parents will also be notified so they can also help the student decide whether to return home. 

If your foreign exchange student still chooses to go home before the school year is done, they will need to request to do so in writing. Next, they will be instructed to complete a withdrawal form. Along with their signature, a parent’s signature will also be required for students under the age of 18. Using this form, the student will be withdrawn from both the school and the exchange student program. A representative from the program will also make travel arrangements and notify your student’s parents about their arrival. You’ll also be given the student’s itinerary as soon as possible. 

Although you’ll likely be disappointed that your student is leaving early, you should fight the urge to show any negative emotions. Instead, remember that they probably have mixed emotions about leaving early.  They might also be sad although a little excited about returning home and seeing family. Try to make the situation better by planning a special outing for them with your family. You could also invite friends over for a small gathering to give them a grand sendoff. Be sure to have a camera close by to take lots of photos and make many memories. Another idea is to recreate things they might miss by leaving early like the prom or graduation. 

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