Extended German foreign exchange(8 Posts)
On holiday a few years ago, we met a lovely German family with children similar ages to our own. We have since exchanged letters and cards a couple of times a year. Their recent Christmas letter broached the possibility of an extended 9 month exchange for their 14 year old with our almost 15 year old during the next academic year as if it were a perfectly normal thing to suggest.
My DD was horrified at the idea, mainly for social and emotional reasons - but the fact that next year is GCSE year for her (and she's not studying German!) really rules it out anyway.
I can't imagine any 14 year old who would want to leave friends and family for a strange family for such a long period - would they?
Is it more normal in Germany and how does the German education system work around it? Even with schooling in the foreign country / language, it would surely be a huge amount to miss from your native curriculum?
I think Germans are more open to this kind of thing than Brits for a variety of reasons. One being the value placed on acquiring fluency in another language (esp English) - lots of affluent Germans send their teens to spend a period ranging from a term to several years in a UK boarding school. A long-term exchange with a state-school family is an easy way to achieve the same end without the huge costs involved in boarding.
The German school system is more flexible because they don't have exams at 16+, it all hinges on the Abitur at 18/19. So a 14yo can take time out of the German system and still have plenty of time to make up anything they've missed.
It's not just Germans who do this, although they do seem to be the main western European country sending their teens to British schools. For really hardcore exchanges look at Allef or En Famille - they do 6 month + exchanges for primary-age kids. Which would be too extreme for me, but clearly there is a market for it.
We had a German student for three months once. I think she was about 16. We still keep in touch with her, 8 years later. She wanted to improve her English before applying to uni, and she went to schools with my DC. She'd taken the initiative, written to all the schools in the area and the school asked for a volunteer family to host her (and DS1 is the first to volunteer for anything )
yes it is very common, the most common destination is US / Canada and the wealthier ones like to send their kids to UK boarding school for one term or a whole year. It is usually done in the last year before Abitur/Sixth Form. I went to school in Germany and I think out of 50 of us, up to 10 went to US/UK for at least one term, many for half a year or a year. and that was in the 90s!
Thank you everyone - your comments have really helped me formulate a polite and helpful response to this family. I mentioned it hypothetically to my headteacher who reminded me of school waiting lists which almost all schools have where we live - not only can a school not hold a place open for a British student for such an extended period, they would not be able to take a foreign student in their place without upsetting the natural order of the waiting list. And of course there would be no guarantee of a place left for my child on their return to the UK.
Definitely much more common in Germany. I was an English Assistant at a Gymnasium back in the 90s and we had between 5-10 students over in the US every year. I think it's partly linked with the fact that their timescales for completing education/higher ed are much more fluid than ours - in the 90s by the time you'd factored in National Service as well lots of the guys would be mid to late 20s by the time they graduated university so an extra year to finish high school was nothing much to them.
Made for a very odd situation though when I was teaching the top year groups - I was 21 and spending my 3rd year of university abroad, and some of the 'kids' I was teaching were 20 and just about to sit Abitur (equivalent of A-levels) as you don't finish formal school until you're 19 in Germany.
Both my DDs did a 3 month exchange to a South African school. We were independent though so we carried on paying and the South African girls took the paid place of our DDs and vice versa as the SA school was also private. 3 months from Jan-March in y9 made no difference at all. DD1 still came 3rd overall in her summer exams.
It was a great experience. It gave my children a fantastic cultural opportunity (educationally it is different) and they would not have missed it for the world. Perhaps you can do something over the summer? My DDs school took in Spanish girls for one year with no exchange back. So for some cultures learning a language is really important.
Yes I had a few German friends who'd done "High School Years in the US".
As others have suggested, maybe something over the summer? I did a private exchange with a girl - she spent 3 weeks with me and I then spent 3 weeks with her. That said, we weren't great friends by the end of it. It might be better to do 3 weeks on year and 3 weeks the next. 6 weeks with one person is quite a lot. it's easy to get on each other's nerves. 6 months would be a very long time - I don't quite know how they cope with their high school years.
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