Foreign Exchange Visits

(57 Posts)

Are they important? Do you have to have one if your child is studying the language and it is offered?
If DS doesn't do it will he be the only one?

LoopaDaLoopa Thu 07-Nov-13 09:48:29

Massively useful for language learning. Very sadly not done much any more. Definitely, definitely should seize the opportunity if offered.

Mmmm. I am having a wibble about it.

DS1 (14) is not the most confident and chatty of people and the thought of having a French student here for a week fills me with dread.

I don't think he will cope well at all staying with a host family in France for a week.

We don't have a spare bedroom and our house is quite compact.

It's £290

LoopaDaLoopa Thu 07-Nov-13 09:55:11

Seriously, it's worth it.

Yes, agree. I did it as a teenager, it was the only residential trip I did as it was relatively cheap. I assume you mean the type of exchange where you go and live with a French family and their child comes back to stay with you?

I wouldn't say it is important as such - you wouldn't be a failure at French if you didn't do it - but it is a brilliant opportunity. It isn't just about the language but being able immerse yourself in real French life rather than being a tourist.

I wouldn't have thought all the children do it. It is a big commitment in terms of money and also having a stranger to come and stay in your home for a week or whatever it is.

I think your DS should do it but I don't think he has to do it. I suspect plenty won't. There is a probably a limit imposed by the school too because the children have to chaperoned over the Channel like any other trip.

Thanks Loopa. I think a family discussion needs to be had. it's not until next summer but the school want the deposit etc.

Yes, that's the sort Big. i think DS1 like the idea of it but the reality may not be great.

I have heard a few scary stories of sullen foreign teenagers that don't want to do anything, and the language barrier being quite stressful for the other family members.

ErrolTheDragon Thu 07-Nov-13 10:00:56

DD is going on a German exchange next month - she seems to be looking forward to it, I must admit I'm not really looking forward to having the partner back next Spring - but at least this way round hopefully DD will find out what the kid likes to eat etc.

I think it'll probably be very good for DD though.

Are you concerned that she might come back and say the German girl isn't very nice Errol?

ajandjjmum Thu 07-Nov-13 10:08:11

Both DC went on school exchanges to South Africa - by themselves - and had the most amazing 6 weeks. Of course, there weren't the language issues, but they had to adapt to different cultures and get to know new people.

I knew that DS would cope, even if he didn't enjoy it - although he did. DD I was a little more unsure of, and yet she got far more out of the experience, and it really grew her confidence. She also made some wonderful friends.

They were both 16.

Sorry cross posted with your second post there.

I wasn't at all confident and was very shy as a teenager but I coped OK. I suppose it was easier for me as I did the trip to France after they did the trip over here, the first time I did it. I knew the girl I was exchanging with.

You might get a surly teenager but on the other hand you might get one who is lovely. I am still sort of friends with my French penfriend (as they were back then) to this day, 35 years later. We correspond and play FB games on Facebook a bit. We went to each others weddings too 20+ yrs ago. On the whole, whilst I think I have the longest running relationship with my French friend, nobody I knew had a bad experience.

Don't forget they shouldn't be total strangers. You are supposed to strike up a relationship with the other child before you meet. That must be so much easier with FB, email etc than it was in our day when it took a week for an airmail letter to get from here to France.

I think if DS was 16 I would feel better aj he isn't 15 until the summer. I have read the letter and it is open to all in Years 9, 10 and 12. I wonder if he takes it at A Level we could do it then?

Bonsoir Thu 07-Nov-13 10:12:50

If your school is practised at exchanges, it may be brilliant. DSS2 did an exchange to Canada and one to Spain with his school and loved both of them - but they were both hyper well-organised, had been going on for years etc.

What about my lack of spare room and compact home?

GaryTheTankEngine Thu 07-Nov-13 10:15:40

I went on one of these at 14, 15 and 16 and I would really really recommend them!

It always surprised me how much you pick up in just a week or a few days, and ever since then I've had a passion for the country I went to.

It definitely gave me an idea of how Germans actually talked - until I went there I was very much only able to say things like "Hans steht unter dem Wasserfall."

GaryTheTankEngine Thu 07-Nov-13 10:17:28

About the room and small house - I really wouldn't worry. It's only for a week or so, isn't it?

I would recommend giving the exchange student the room and having your DC sleep on the sofa - It helps if they're a bit homesick.

I just imagine some of them going to huge houses with their own room and ensuite. grin

GaryTheTankEngine Thu 07-Nov-13 10:21:14

From my experience when I was a teenager, some people had huge rooms, some people made their visiting student sleep in the living room, but most people crammed them in their kids rooms and it worked totally fine.

My exchange family had a small house and my French counterpart slept on a camp bed and I had her room. Agree that they will need their own room but don't worry about en suites and all that. They are just average French people like you and any of us really. Some will be better off than others. In my day they seemed to try and match you both in personality and also background. Both my father and the French father were postmen so none of us were expecting anything grand.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 10:43:26

Very worth it. I did an exchange with a boy and popped my cherry and it gave me a life long love of France and French. I left the UK as soon as I could and still live in France now, with a French DH and DC. Which might put you off. I learned so much during those two weeks and other than language skills it stopped me being a fussy eater, made me much more independent and, I think in the long run a better person. It's so good for teens to leave their comfort zone and open up to other cultures. Don't worry about the small room.

Errol I think your DD is at the same school I was. Don't worry reading my post, mine was organised via a teacher but wasn't the official school French exchange. She will be much better supervised than I was grin

wordfactory Thu 07-Nov-13 11:24:07

Both my DC have done exchanges and they have been fab.

Very well organised. Excellent price.

Lovely laid back kids staying here, both my DC treated wonderfully by their French families.

Not only was it a good opportunity to speak the language, but moreover it opened everyone's eyes as to just how different life is just afew short hours away.

It is nice to know they are still going on. My old school, now DS1's school doesn't seem to do them any more which is a real shame. The chance to taste real French (or other nationality) life at a relatively low cost.

Seems like they are a good idea (ignores popping cherry bit grin ) I need to decide whether it's right for DS1.

He has past form for being v enthusiastic for things up until the point they actually happen IYKWIM.

I did one and really hated it. The girl I exchanged with went to bed at 8.30 every night and we didn't do anything in the evenings. I also just didn't like her.

I have hear tales like that breathe One Mum was telling me about pouring over google translate a lot while trying to get the guest to engage with them.

wordfactory Thu 07-Nov-13 12:08:53

Well Iguess you could end up with a very quiet one.

We have been lucky, both times.

That said, it pays (big time) to organise and plan. Hopefully school will arrange lots of activities to keep everyone busy and for the remaining time just do as much stuff as you can so there is limited time just smiling politely at one another.

I also adviced my two that when they went to France they should occassionally make themselves scarse, particularly if conversation is flagging, by popping up to their room for a breather.

Do a lot of parents go OTT with trips to here there and everywhere?

I think a week of polite smiling is probably a big fear word.

wordfactory Thu 07-Nov-13 12:36:13

Not too many sparkling as with any luck the school will have organised quite a bit.

Ours went like this:

Day 1: student arrived mid afternoon.
Day 2 : students taken on a trip.
Day 3 : students went into school with our DC (a special timetable had been arranged).
Day 4: weekend. We waffled in the morning (walked the dog, played PS3, ate brunch). Then in the afternoon I took them out to a climbing wall.
Day 4: weekend. We went to a football match. Then back home for a raost dinner and a marathon Monopoly session.
Day 5: school arranged a trip for French students and our DC.
Day 6: free day. We took our student to The London Eye, The London Dungeons and shopping.
Day 7 : he went home.

GaryTheTankEngine Thu 07-Nov-13 12:41:22

Ours always came about this time of year, for context

Day 1 - picked up student
Day 2 - Day in school with me, evening spent at a bonfire party as an example of British culture
Day 3 - They went on a trip, late home
Day 4 - Weekend - Hung round with me, maybe went to the seaside if it was nice. In the evening we'd take them to the Cerne Giant for a laugh (Three guesses where I grew up)
Day 5 - day out with other exchange students, maybe to the seaside again.
Day 6 - they went to London and then on home.

It's a while ago so this might not be totally accurate but this is the gist of it.

smugmumofboys Thu 07-Nov-13 12:56:12

I'm very jealous of all these schools still offering exchanges. I teach MFL and our Head is too risk-averse to allow them.

I did two when I was at school and had an amazing experience both times.

MadeOfStarDust Thu 07-Nov-13 12:59:28

Our school does not do exchanges, but they do a language trip where the kids stay in a hostel and go out and about, visiting sites, shopping in groups of 3 or 4, a day in a local school etc... DD(12) loved it...

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 13:04:15

Risk averse? Your head sounds a tad twatty. There is far less risk now than in the past. It's much easier for kids to contact teachers or family in case of issues. And they're teenagers, not tiny children. And it's France/Germany, not a war zone.

That's really sad but i guess explains why so many children over here go on trips to the uk but exchanges are uncommon.

MaddAddam Thu 07-Nov-13 13:06:54

I did 4 between the ages of 13 and 17 (France and Germany, 2 weeks at a time) and had some up and down experiences but it was a huge help in learning the languages. Now I'm trying to arrange them for my 13 and 12 year olds, their school might do them higher up the school but not in years 9 and 8, and I'm keen to get them started so I'm arranging them independently.

My dc are quite keen, but I'd send them anyway as I think learning a language is important enough to merit a bit of social awkwardness.

smugmumofboys Thu 07-Nov-13 13:12:23

His twattishness is a whole other thread Petite.

I think there is such a reluctance to take risks due to changes in parental expectations and the possibility of legal action is something goes awry.

It's a huge shame but not an isolated viewpoint, sadly.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 13:43:05

That is so sad. Is he like that for all school trips or just trips to furrin parts?

euwa Thu 07-Nov-13 14:09:47

I know what you mean sparklingbrook as we have managed to put exchanges off because DS is so shy and we really do not have space to put up someone else without DS sleeping on our sofa or our bedroom floor. I have heard from people whose DC really enjoyed it and others whose DC hated it or got nothing at all from it. Difficult decision.

Madmog Thu 07-Nov-13 14:13:27

We had a French girl stay with us last year from and agency. It's the first time we've done it and we all felt it went really well. She fitted in totally with what we planned. I gave her a choice each time, ie chicken or salmon, macaroni cheese or spag bol, cheese or ham sandwich etc, and every time she said, I like both and eat the lot. She was ready for bed by 9pm school nights which fitted in roughly with our daughter who went to bed at 9.30pm.

I only know the French I can remember from secondary school, so there were times it was hard to explain. My daughter was at the end of Year 7 and she was brilliant, explaining in her own basic French what we had said and the girl then came back to us with an answer in English, so clearly understood what my daughter had tried to say. They spent a lot of time asking eachother how to say words in the other language, so I think both sides got a lot out of it. My daughter has been more interested in French since, I think she can see if could be useful after all. They now write to eachother, my daughter will put what she knows in French, but sometimes there are English sentences and the other girl always uses English.

I think the thing is not to worry about it too much and just go with the flow.

bachsingingmum Thu 07-Nov-13 14:25:15

There are 7 years between my two, and for a while in between the school stopped them because of child protection concerns. DD1 did two organised ones, one to France (which went OK) and one to Germany which went brilliantly. She's still in regular contact with the German girl, and they organised their own personal exchanges afterwards. DD1 was so enthused she went on to study languages at uni and is now living and working in Germany and has a lovely German boyfriend.

With DD2 they have just restarted them and we recently welcomed a German 15 year old. They were good friends by the end of the week and she's looking forward to the German leg next June (sadly just after GCSEs).

I think the going to bed early thing has a lot to do with being exhausted after concentrating all day to understand and speak in a foreign language. I'd try to offer a separate room for that reason and explain to your DD/DS. Our experience with all of the girls we've had is that they were keen to try anything foodwise (marmite, English mustard, Yorkshire puds, tea with milk). We've never had any problem feeding them.

MLP Thu 07-Nov-13 14:35:05

It's one week - it will pass. I think it is worth the "risk". I wouldn't worry about the lack of space. We often have out of town friends crash on the sofa/aero mattress.

wordfactory Thu 07-Nov-13 15:09:24

We were told not to worry about the students having their own room, and advisedf that our DC may have to share in France.

As it happened we have the space and DC both had their own rooms in France, but it was made clear this shouldn't be a problem.

smugmumofboys Thu 07-Nov-13 15:34:03

All other trips are fine, it's just exchanges. I'm taking fifty students to France next year and, as a school, we offer a wide range of visits all over the world.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 15:43:52

How strange. I'd have thought staying with a family would be pretty much as safe as it gets.

starving Thu 07-Nov-13 16:28:37

DD has done this twice, first time age 14 and then this year age 17. The school only offer it to these age groups. It gave her so much confidence in her spoken German. Fortunately she isn't a fussy eater and neither was her exchange so food wasn't a problem. Her school insist that the exchange person sleeps in a proper bed, so when exchange was here she had dds bed and dd slept on a futon in the same room. They wanted it that way because by then they were quite good friends. When dd went to Germany on both occasions she was offered her own room but declined it and was happy to go in same room as partner.

DD really enjoyed it and would recommend it to others

BanjoPlayingTiger Thu 07-Nov-13 16:32:59

I did this twice as a teenager. The first time I didn't get a lot out of it and didn't get on very well with my exchange partner, but the second time it was excellent. I am still friends with my exchange partner and we visited her last year as part of our summer holiday. We have now known each other for nearly 20years!
It is one of those things that you just have to do and hope for the best. I am really glad I did both of mine.

Thanks for all the replies, It's so helpful to hear of others experiences, and I didn't realise some schools didn't even do them. Hurrah for DS1's untwatty Head.

We have been chatting about it, but not yet decided.

absentmindeddooooodles Thu 07-Nov-13 17:10:09

I went on one of these exchanges when I was 14. A german one. First time abroad. Very shy. Couldnt really afford it. No spare room. Tiny house. It was the only tripI went on Iin school. Really couldnt recommend it highly enough.
It was fab!

We kicked my brother out of his room for the week. Did some research on the kind of food the exchange student would like. Did very cheap day out at the weekend and generally carried on with normal life although on best behaviour! smile

Going over tjere was a brilliant experience for me. Came back and totally aced my german gcse!

I think if you can do it, then it will be a brilliant experience. Really worth doing.

Bonsoir Thu 07-Nov-13 18:36:43

DSS2 had his exchange partner in his room, and he stayed in his exchange partner's room, on both occasions. DSS2 is not particularly fussed about comfort, however. I agree that exchange partners ought to be given the bed if there is a bed/futon issue and making an effort with food and generally trying to make the other child as comfortable as possible ought to be the norm, though Parisian parents are notoriously neglectful!

AphraBane Thu 07-Nov-13 19:12:41

DD1 is currently doing a language exchange to France - for three months! She's 15, so a bit older than your DS Sparkling,, but she's also pretty shy, and we also don't have a spare room.

We also don't live in the UK (so it was a French-German exchange rather than French-British), and it's noticable that UK exchanges are both less common and not as long. A week is better than nothing, but it's a taster rather than a way of achieving real fluency.

The key components to success are:

- Your DC really wants to do it (it's not your idea and they're reluctantly going along with it)
- Both families make a real effort to make the guest child feel at home and understand that what may come across as 'sulkiness' might actually be teenage hormones combined with total shyness and difficulties with the language.

In our case, it was DD1's idea all along, and she's had to make a real effort to overcome her shyness, but (maybe as a consequence) we're immensely proud of what she's achieved. She's even in a different school year to her exchange partner (seconde rather than terminale) so she's had to go into a completely strange school group and do all her lessons in French. It's taught her a lot, not just in terms of language skills, but also self-confidence and independence.

Neither family (us and the exchange partner's family) have a spare room. In both cases the host children moved into a bedroom together and enabled the guest child to have a room to herself, which I do think is important. If you're in a 'strange' environment, it's nice to have a zone where you can have some privacy.

Both the girls also made a real effort to get to know each other beforehand, via Facebook. We also mailed with the other mother quite a bit to clear up issues like favourite foods, allergies, extra lessons, who pays for what. We achieved a real parity with what we 'offered' the other child - we took the French girl for two weeks to the Austrian Alps and southern Germany, and DD1 has just spent a week in Paris and a week on the Cote d'Azur (staying with friends rather than luxury hotels etc). I think there would have been a bit of bad feeling if one family had taken their guest on a brill holiday but the other family had done nothing nice or special - and that's about making an effort rather than spending oodles of money.

Leeds2 Thu 07-Nov-13 21:05:30

My DD did one to Spain in Year 10. Spanish girls came to school in England for one week, then English girls went back with them for a week. During the week in England, English girls went to lessons as normal and the Spanish girls went on coach trips to London, Bluewater (?) etc. So the girls were entertained during the day. We really only had to look after her for one weekend. In the evening, they seemed to play on the wii, or watch English films with Spanish subtitles!

LittleSiouxieSue Thu 07-Nov-13 21:40:15

Both my daughters did an exchange with a South African school for a whole term! - and they travelled there and back without any parents. There were two girls selected from each year so they travelled together with the BA unaccompanied minors programme. I cannot believe the angst here about going to France and having someone back! Other girls travelled to Australia and New Zealand. My DD1 was 13 years 5 months when she went. It was a cultural exchange and we had a SA girl here for a whole term. Yes it takes some organisation but both my DDs thought it was a highlight of their young lives. Even the 'hard labour' punishment meted out to DD1 when her knicker drawer was found to be untidy in the boarding house has gone into folk lore here! Hard labour was getting up at 5 am in the morning to clean the toilets before school started. I am proud to say my DD took did it and earned respect as a result! A week in France is a walk in the park.

Well it may not be a walk in the park for my family Sue. sad Sorry for the angst but I have had some really helpful replies, and I am trying to decide what to do.

I am glad your DDs both had good experiences.

Eastpoint Thu 07-Nov-13 21:55:27

We have a 12 year old staying with us at the moment. My DC will go back there next year. They seem to be getting on well, the schools have arranged activities for the visitors to do during the day & then they come home together. We have put them in the same room so it is less lonely. With the wonders of FaceTime they can be in touch with their family as much as they want & we have overheard descriptions of dinner being delicious (not intentionally). I would go for it.

beafrog Thu 07-Nov-13 22:43:33

I think exchanges are brilliant - best way to learn a language properly and your children learn as much in a week as they do in a year of lessons at school. My DC have done two and I wish they'd had the opportunity to do more - they've loved it.

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 22:46:37

OP if your DS is showing even slight enthusiasm I would go for it. No angst needed. Where are you? Can you think of a couple of cheap but entertaining things you could do with a kid from abroad? That could even be a Sunday afternoon eating pub food (a lot of French kids would relish the idea of going to a proper British pub and/or eating proper fish n chips) and a country walk. Or, even, if you live in a big city, a walk through town at night so they can tell their friends that city centres in England are as crazy as they see on French TV (they'll probably tell their friends that they went clubbing and snogged a petite anglaise but that's just adolescent lying).

Ime when a French person, even a kid, goes to the uk they will be happy with seeing their stereotypes come alive, a walk by a river or sea and maybe some computer games or even reality tv shows like BGT or x factor, stuff we have over here. All else fails make them do sport, send your ds to the pool or football pitch or park with them. Really. They aren't all that different from us but maybe like a bit more physical activity. Ie walks/runs/swims or whatever.

We're Worcestershire so plenty to see and do Petite. Perhaps I am over thinking as usual but DS can be a bit flakey as far as enthusiasm for things goes, and with it being 6 months away etc.....

PetiteRaleuse Thu 07-Nov-13 23:26:53

Plenty of time to book, distract him then build up to it then. <piles on pressure> sorry.

smile Yes. I feel slightly less panicked now. Teenagers eh?

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