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crest332 Oct 10th, 2005 07:29 AM

Foreign Exchange student
My daughter is considering a year abroad as a foreign exchange student with Rotary International. She was interested in Germany but does not meet the language requirements. The same is true for France and Spain. So now she is really lost as to where she would like to go. As I have never travelled anywhere in Europe or Asia, I can't provide any insight.

Some of the countries she has shown some interest in include Japan, Czech Republic, and Austria. Yet she is totally open to options at this point.

Does anyone have any experience either as an exchange student or the parent of an exchange student? Or any recommendations for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?

aggiemom Oct 10th, 2005 07:45 AM

How about somewhere in the UK? It's different enough to be interesting but there is no language problem (or, not much, anyway!).

Or the Netherlands? My daughter is considering spending a semester there in her junior year of college. English is widely spoken.

crest332 Oct 10th, 2005 07:59 AM

For most countries (with the exception of those I mentioned), she would not be required to know the language before going. Through immersion most kids sufficiently learn the language in approx 3 months. So she does not have to limit herself to countries where English is prevalent, though of course it may make it easier for her.

I think she wants something even more different than the UK.....the Netherlands is certainly worth exploring. Thanks for that suggestion.

Anyone else? By the way she will still be in high school, just over age 16, when she goes.

ira Oct 10th, 2005 08:30 AM

Hi C,

Which countries does she qualify for?


moldyhotelsaregross Oct 10th, 2005 09:15 AM

I'm glad that you are allowing her this opportunity. I did three summers abroad with various universities and consider myself very fortunate for having these experiences.

Do you have any specific questions?

crest332 Oct 10th, 2005 10:50 AM

Moldy I love your screen name!

There are over 50 countries available but some- like the oft-requested France and Spain- limit it to students who have at least 2 - 3 years of the language. A few have age limits so they aren't an option. The South American countries were described as more 'wild' and so aren't as appealing to her. I want her to choose a country where I can feel relatively secure about her safety.

I guess I'm just looking for any insight as to what country's customs, culture, lifestyle, schooling, tourism, history, etc would provide the best overall experience. Any suggestions are welcome- as is any advice as to how to research the best place for a student vs for a traveler.

Therese Oct 10th, 2005 11:15 AM

Given that she doesn't already have a language to use, it really doesn't make too much difference which country she chooses so long as she's flexible and willing to enjoy the experience that's provided. The biggest factor isn't really the country (assuming that we're talking about Europe) but the sort of community she ends up in: rural town/farm vs medium sized town vs large city, and she may or may not have much say so in that decision.

Given that she was considering Germany she'd probably find the Netherlands, Belgium, or Denmark (or another Scandinavian country) to her liking.

Italy's very cool as well if she wants to go with southern Europe.

Underhill Oct 10th, 2005 12:00 PM

See whether your daughter would be interested in Grenoble, France. There's a large contingent of international students there.

ira Oct 10th, 2005 12:26 PM

Hi C,

I would choose, in this order:

Italy: For something entirely different
Netherlands: Lovely, warm, welcoming people
Denmark: Same as above, although learning to speak Danish will be an accomplishment :)
UK: Two countries divided by a common language


Neil_Oz Oct 10th, 2005 01:05 PM

There's a world outside of North America and Europe. English is quite widely spoken in Australia and New Zealand, for instance.

jules4je7 Oct 10th, 2005 01:19 PM

I went to Brazil for a year on the Rotary Exchange program back in the 1980s, out of all the exchange programs, I think Rotary is by far the best and best-managed in terms of care and support for students, and I've met many kids who've gone over through different programs.

I studied German for 2 years in high school, and yet I was still sent to Brazil, which speaks Portuguese. The point is, depending on what district you're going out of, you may have no say whatsoever in where you go, regardless of what language you've studied.

The kids I knew that had the greatest difficulties went to Japan -- and I think it's because it's such a HUGE leap in culture and language. The kids who went to Australia seemed to have the best time, considering there's no language barrier to speak of, I was not surprised.

Wherever she goes (assuming she's been chosen), I would wholeheartedly support her going. It changed my life in a big way -- and for the better, and I don't know a single exchange student from my days overseas who regrets their experience either.

If you have any other questions, feel free to e-mail me at [email protected] and I can try and help more.

Julie in Denver aka Jules

crest332 Oct 10th, 2005 01:45 PM

Just to clarify- there is a list of countries (30-50 maybe) from which she can choose. New Zealand and Australia are no longer available. Middle East countries are not an option. she is not sent to a country based on the language she has studied. But some countries do have specific requirements such as language or age. We've heard there is a very good chance of getting her first choice or at least her second choice. But she only selects the country- she could be sent to a city or a more rural area. Wherever there is a participating Rotary club and host families.

crest332 Oct 10th, 2005 01:47 PM

Thank you all for your recommendations and comments. Any and all advice is welcome!

LJ Oct 10th, 2005 01:49 PM

As a teacher of students from all around the world at a high school in Italy many of whom do not speak the language, I would NOT really suggest Italy or any other country that poses a language barrier to a young woman of 16 who has never been away from home for an extended period before (as I gather is the case).

While it is indeed a wonderful opportunity, and I do endorse the Rotary programme without hesitation, you are asking a lot in terms of adjustment of a very young person.

I woud strongly advise that you encourage your daughter to explore those countries that speak the same language: both the UK and Australia will provide her with the cultural differences that make such a venture meaningful to youth without the added stress of trying to manage a full school year in a language not her own before she has shown any evidence of her abilities in a second language.

I have held the hand of miserable teens who are in over their heads and far away from home too many times to want to see your daughter in this position. Let the first time be different enough, but not a brutal immersion in an incomprehensible world.If this goes well, then she will develop an appetite for this kind of study/travel and take on the language barriers of any country.

jay Oct 10th, 2005 02:06 PM

My daughter did the Rotary exchange in Finland. They speak fluent english. She had a fantastic time and went back the next year by herself. The family that she stayed with came to her graduation and we went to their daughters last June. I will be glad to answer any other questions that she or you may have. I can also put you in touch with my daughter who is attending college in England.

jules4je7 Oct 10th, 2005 02:35 PM

While I respect what LJ said -- I do think that it largely depends on your daughter's ability to adapt and learn.

I knew some kids who struggled to learn Portuguese when I was an exchange student in Brazil, others who mastered it quickly, and people like me that had to have it spoon-fed to them and learn by making the usual blunders.

It depends on your daughter's maturity, but I wouldn't send her to an English-only country just to avoid her struggling or having to learn a language the "hard way" through immersion. Personally, the day I stood on a hill two months into my year crying over homesickness was the day I grew up and realized I had 10 more months to go and I'd better make the best of it. Mom wasn't there to say it to me, I did it myself. Sometimes a foreign country can make a kid realize that THEY have the inner strength to learn and grow, even when it's hard.

I would double-check as to how much "choice" you really have. I think sometimes they give you a wish list -- and at first make it sound like you can make your own selection -- but in reality that may not be the case -- unless things have drastically changed since I did it. My FIL is a Rotarian involved in the program, and I don't think it's changed in that regard, but I do know it varies from district to district as well.

Happy travels,


kwren Oct 10th, 2005 03:25 PM

I spent my junior year of college in Edinburgh, Scotland. I can tell you that their English was like a different language at first because the accent of the people I met at the airport, in the taxi, in the dorm was so different that I couldn't understand it at all! Good intro to a foreign country!!! No matter where your daughter goes, it will be a wonderful experience and she will gain a true sense of independence. Even if she goes to an English-speaking country, the culture will be different, the experiences will be amazing and whe will meet people of all sorts and be able to learn to travel on her own. For me, by being able to concentrate on my classes easily instead of focusing on learning the language, I could enjoy the other aspects of the culture and life abroad more fully.

I'm sure that learning a language by Immersion would be a whole different experience if the learning of a foreign language is of more importance to her. I think it depends on the goal of the experience - cultural or language-oriented?

From another perspective, I place French exchange students in families for 3 weeks in the summer. All are supposed to speak English, but the ones who can't speak it as well generally take a bit longer to warm up to the families since they can't carry on a conversation. These kids tend to try to spend time with other French kids because it doesn't require as much effort. They don't always get as much out of the experience when this happens. (Of course, there are also some who speak English well and don't make the attempt to speak anyway so it does depend on personality as well.) It is easier on the host families when the exchange student speaks the language - at least a little - the initial bonding is very important and the kids in the host family can be impatient, as any kids can be. If your daughter speaks the language and is outgoing, I'm sure there wouldn't be problem. If she has started another language at school, at least have her go to a country in which that language is spoken to give her a head start.

My recommendation - anywhere where she can communicate with her host family. Homesickness sets in most quickly when the exchange student is lonely. If she goes to Europe, I think the schools have good length vacations so she can get some independent travelling in (and maybe mom and dad can visit her once during the year!!!)

ira Oct 11th, 2005 05:49 AM


crest332 Oct 24th, 2005 08:01 AM

Well, we had to submit the final application last week, including her country preferences so she chose, in order, Italy, Netherlands, Japan, Czech Republic and Venezuela. The app indicated that she must be willing to accept any of the 5 choices. The Rotary rep had previously told us that, in the past, many have received their first choice and almost all were placed in one of their top three choices.

In a few weeks we have district level interviews and shortly after that she will know if she has been selected to go. But if she is selected, she won't know which country until early January.

LJ Oct 24th, 2005 08:44 AM

Thanks for update: keep us posted. I wish you and your daughter the very best of luck in getting her first choice(s) and the wisdom to make the experience great, even if she doesn't...judging by her parent's thoughtful and thorough approach, I doubt this will be a challenge for her!

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