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Do I Have To Send My Son Or Daughter Overseas In Order To Get An Exchange Student?

The word “exchange” in terms of international student exchange refers to sharing (or exchanging) ideas, cultures, and education. Additionally, it refers to the exchange student programs that have sister organizations worldwide.  In short, you DO NOT have to send your son or daughter overseas in order to get an exchange student.

Traditional Student Exchange

Exchange Student Programs Have Branches Worldwide

Most international student exchange programs have branches in different parts of the world. Those that don’t have branches have sister organizations that they are affiliated with. How does the exchange work? An organization in the United States has a student that wants to study for a year in New Zealand. They will take the student’s application and if he/she is approved, they will contact their affiliate in New Zealand. The affiliate in New Zealand will look for and secure a host family, get the student in school, and will supervise the student while they are studying abroad. This is how most international student exchange agreements work. 

Group Educational Travel With Youth Exchange Programs

Exchange Between Clubs/Chapters

There are a couple of youth exchange programs that work a little differently. These organizations arrange study abroad opportunities for students in various countries. This type of educational travel involves a group of students that travel and stay together.  Although the students’ parents cover the cost of travel, the club actually sponsors the students and finds host families for the kids. The students attend the local high school, go on group trips, and change host families throughout the year for a more well-rounded experience. The exchange often occurs between two chapters of the same organization. For example, a chapter of a club in San Diego sends students on a trip to visit with a chapter of the same club in Sao Paulo, Brazil. 

Sister City Exchange Travel

Student Exchange Between Cities

Some local governments offer exchange programs for the students in their community. These programs are typically sponsored by a non-profit affiliated with the city and are offered to local high-school and college-age students. In this case, the student is considered an ambassador representing their city in a sister city in another country.  As with other exchange student programs, they stay with host families. These are most often summer programs. 

Direct Student Exchange Programs

Exchange Between Two Families

Perhaps the idea of having to send your son or daughter overseas in order to host a student came from another type of youth exchange. Known as direct student exchange, it involves two families. Here, the organization works with two families that agree to host each other’s kids. These programs, however, are in the minority in terms of student exchange. 

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Sometimes, an unplanned exchange will happen. For example, an American family hosts a girl from China. She becomes a part of the family and builds a powerful bond with her host sister. At the end of the student’s stay in America, the host sister decides she wants to study abroad in China the next school year and live with her sibling (the exchange student). The two families agree and they arrange for the exchange with the exchange student program. The American family will have to cover the cost of travel and program supervision. They will also have to send a monthly allowance to cover their daughter’s expenses.  This is a wonderful opportunity because the kids already know each other and view each other as siblings. The American parent also feels very comfortable because they have already built a relationship with the family that will host their child. Thus, it is the perfect exchange!

As you can see, you do not have to send your child abroad in order to become a host family. In fact, hosting a student will expose your child to a new culture, a different language, and a global worldview. They’ll get all of this without ever leaving your home. Nevertheless, hosting a foreign exchange student might inspire your child and spark their interest in studying abroad. 

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