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EvenOdd Jul 14th, 2020 11:50 AM

Foreign exchange student in France?
I'm starting my sophomore year of hs in the fall and im pretty interested in going to France for a semester. My french is far from perfect but I've been taking classes for a few years and going sounds pretty cool...:blush: Anyway, I'm just wondering what's the experience like?, what changed from your home country to the other one?, etc.

Moderator1 Jul 14th, 2020 05:33 PM

Moved to the Europe Forum and tagged for France

Christina Jul 16th, 2020 09:25 AM

Where do you live? I don't know details on high school students doing that but I thought it was always arranged by a school. So your school would have to have a program and ties in France to do that. YOu can't just do it on your own, at least not in high school (in college, you aren't really an "exchange student", that implies something younger.
So I would suggest that if your high school has such a program, they should have advisors, presentations, and at least be able to hook you up with some former students who had done that so you can ask questions.
ANyway, I didn't do that, my high school didn't even have such a program, but I'm sure what changed would depend on what country you lived in and what type of school/city. As well as where you were going, big city or small, part of country, etc.

I could be wrong as I've never done that, but I would think it might be more beneficial to do that in college, not high school, and more fun. I just think you'd get more out of it if you really had studied language longer. And you'd be able to do more stuff in that country on your own, just like you could at home as a college student.

One word of advice, there are numerous for-profit companies out there selling these experiences and calling it being an exchange student. It isn't, you just attend classes in English in special schools or classes run by that company, you are not really an exchange student attending a real local high school at all. I think EF is one such company. I think there ARE real high school exchange programs but they are not run by companies like that but are managed by schools.

Some for[-profit companies may place you with a local family and arrange some classes somewhere, but again, you are not an "exchange student". is one of those based in London. Now I did use one of those to arrange my study in France as an adult, but I was not an "exchange student" and that wasn't my goal, it was just a company to handle the details, which they did pretty well, actually. There are also some for profit companies doing it on the other end, such as private schools in France that work this market and they may call you an "exchange student" but you are not always. Sometimes you are just paying to go abroad and study and perhaps not at a regular accredited school. The program I used arranged study at the Sorbonne, so those were real credits and the program did have a very few 17 year olds (min age allowed, they were British), but they weren't being "exchanged" with anyone.

This is an example of one operating from France, they call you an "exchange student" but some of their programs are not exchanges.
Those type of programs are not cheap. That one does seem to imply you can be a real "exchange student" in a real French high school if you are at the upper level of ability, though. I don't really know anything about it, just found it googling but it looks decent on the surface, better than some. So it depends how much money you have and who is going to pay for that. Even if your family has enough money that they agree to pay for this perhaps once, I still would rather do it in college, I think. I don't think I'd want to miss out on my regular high school experience, actually, as well as the other issues as being able to do more when you are college age on your own. I also have always been pretty independent, and even at that age, had no desire to live with a strange family, I'd rather live in a student residence around other students and with more freedom.

Jean Jul 16th, 2020 10:05 AM

Christina points out what I think is an important aspect of this idea. A company can sell you this experience, but it doesn't necessarily mean that your semester of study will count toward your high school graduation back in the U.S. You need to participate in a program that is approved and sanctioned by your home school district.

I know a few people who were foreign exchange students in high school... both directions. Classmates who went to Europe and foreign students who came to my high school. At that time (1960s), it wasn't for a semester but for a full school year. Junior year, I think. They all had very positive experiences. I wasn't interested as I had already traveled to Europe several times by that age and enjoyed high school way too much to want to miss an entire year.

suze Jul 16th, 2020 02:23 PM

Your own high school does not offer a Semester Abroad program? That would be the most efficient way to do it. Maybe ask your Guidance Counselor or French teacher for starters?

what changed from your home country to the other one?

Everything :-) starting with the language! But we'd need to know where you live now, to make further comparisons. If you live in New York City and are going to Paris, you might find it fairly similar. But if you live in a rural area in the USA but are going to a city in Europe for school, obviously would be a big change.

janisj Jul 16th, 2020 02:40 PM

The whole OP is confusing to me. Any high school exchange programs I'm aware of are more official - arranged by the high school or at least pre-approved by the school so one gets credit.

Sassafrass Jul 16th, 2020 08:37 PM

I have been involved with several programs, as a teacher with exchange students in my HS classes, as a host for students in a Summer program, as a host for a teacher accompanying students in a Summer program and as temporary host for year long exchange student. These experiences can be really iffy, some fantastic and a few horrible. The time I was a temporary host was because the student had been placed in a horrible situation, then moved to one that was no better. She became friends with my daughter and came and stayed with us. When I was teaching, one of my students was also in a wretched situation. I managed to get her moved, but it was difficult. The problem is, it is not easy to find enough people anxious to have a student live with them. These companies, even working with the school, sign students up, then have to place them. In Europe, the host families are paid. In the US, they are not. I won’t go into all the business aspects, but it is not usually an actual exchange.

They are expensive, and sometimes have some of the same issues, but if you can afford a Four week Summer program, with a stay with a family, consider that. You could do that next Summer if the Covid situation is better. At least, it would not be for a long time. The company usually hires a teacher to accompany the group, so you have someone to go to if there is a problem. The group usually stays in one town or area, and one family will always take another student if there is a problem. Unless you are really outgoing, have traveled a bit and speak the language pretty well, that would be a good start without disrupting HS or risking a whole semester of issues. On the other hand, if you are super outgoing, very independent and can live under most any circumstances, including loneliness, then the semester might be OK, depending on your school’s curriculum and schedule.

The advice to do it as a college semester abroad is good, IMHO. You can get yourself out of a bad situation more easily.

I have one other suggestion. Delay college by a semester. Do a home-stay, language immersion course in your country of choice. There are many of these and you can read reviews by students. You mentioned France, I suggest Aix en Provence as a place to start looking. There are many students there. It is small enough to be walkable, Large enough to have things to do, with great transportation to other places, including Paris. Consider also your other interests when looking at possibilities.

PatrickLondon Jul 22nd, 2020 02:59 AM

Don't forget, too, that academic systems vary from country to country. There isn't necessarily a cafeteria of courses you can just slot into temporarily, even if you had 100% command of the language.

I'd suggest contacting the local Alliance Franšaise for any information and advice they can give:

kerouac Jul 22nd, 2020 08:33 AM

Here is the official French government website for foreign students coming to France:

Fleur_de_Lis Jul 24th, 2020 02:54 PM

Perhaps we're all making assumptions too quickly here - maybe the OP's school DOES offer a program and they're simply asking us whether we've done anything similar and what our experiences were like? While I didn't do a whole semester, I did do a summer exchange program - a French student came and lived with my family during the school year for a month (and she went to school with me), and I then went and stayed with her family for a month in France (I think I got the better end of the deal, since I didn't have to go to class and got to travel all over Southern France). Either way, it was a fantastic experience and it sparked a lifelong love of France. I think it was a great opportunity to see and experience another part of the world/culture that I never would have been exposed to otherwise, and it even helped me realize what I wanted from my college experience; I knew I wanted to go somewhere else far away from my hometown to see more of the world, just like I did when I went to France.

So I think it could be a great experience for you, if you're really invested in the idea! I do agree with some of the other posters that a summer session is a bit less of a commitment than a full year - but if you want to do a full year, there's a really fun book written by Laura Bradbury about the year she spent doing a high school exchange in France called My Grape Year - highly recommend. (It does have a little bit of a whimsical romance element, but aside from that it actually is very upfront and straightforward about the delights AND the challenges she faced as a foreigner - in this case, a Canadian - going to high school in France).

janisj Jul 24th, 2020 04:26 PM

"Perhaps we're all making assumptions too quickly here - . . ."

My only real assumption is the OP is a one and done. ;)

Hope he proves me wrong and comes back someday.

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