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foreign exchange - any experiences good or bad?

(7 Posts)
Rafaella Fri 21-Jan-05 18:00:22

My 14 year old daughter is very keen to go on a German exchange organised by her school. I can't help feeling worried about her staying with total strangers in another country. What questions should I ask the school before I agree to her going?

binkie Fri 21-Jan-05 18:10:24

How long has the school been doing this? Is it always with the same "sister" school? Where is the sister school? How many children are there in the exchange group, and do they send teachers from your daughter's school with the group, and if so how many? How long is the visit, and what sort of programme is organised for the children? How will your daughter's school choose her exchange-mate? What is arranged for emergencies, such as if your daughter is ill?

Our school did this with a school in Paris, and it was all perfectly safe and super-supervised - teachers sent with the group, very organised programme, all did everything together apart from weekends -> learnt no French whatsoever.

The only dreadful thing I recall, looking back, was how the exchange-mates were assigned: I had a particular friend who was only child of a widow and desperately wanted to be given a big family with younger children ... guess what they thought would be "suitable" for her?

JanH Fri 21-Jan-05 19:26:53

DD2 did this - when she was 14 I think, can't remember now, how shaming! The girl who came to us was very sweet but a bit difficult, insisted on having a room to herself and not sharing with DD2, which was awkward, and although older she was a bit weepy (DD2 wasn't on her leg) - also was veggie (we aren't!). I think she enjoyed the experience though and so did DD2 when she went there. (The town was Trier or thereabouts.)

Our school has been exchanging with the same school for years, it is well organised and runs like clockwork. I don't know how they decide which child exchanges with which, it might be worth asking that; also how long they have been doing it, and how many will go, and what activities are organised for them over there (and vice versa); but all in all it is a good experience and broadening. DD2 was glad to have done it.

happymerryberries Fri 21-Jan-05 19:37:07

Honest story from a guy I knew at collage which made me PMSL.

He went on a French exchange and pitched up at the house with the french family. Being typically french they sat down to a large , and wonderful, dinner, which took several hours. At the end they all went to bed showing the lad to his room, but without showing him where the bathroom was. After several hours of eating and drinking the guy was in dire need of the loo, but was terrified to go wandering, incase he blundered into someone's bed room. In extremis, he peed out the window, had a dump in his underpants and lobed them as far as he could out the window. And so to bed....

The exchange went very well and he had a great time, right up to the last day when Maman presented him with his underpants, washed and ironed.

The guy almost died with embarasment. I often wondered if Maman thought this was a starange UK custom when sleeping in a strange place; crap in your pants and chuck them out the window.

True story, honest!

Rowlers Fri 21-Jan-05 19:51:51

Oh the shame!!!
As a langs teacher in a secondary school I can recommend an exchange thoroughly, but as my DD is only 10 months old, I have no experience from a parents' point of view.
You need to consider your own child and your home life.
If she is keen to go, that's a great start. It needs to come from them. It's quite daunting at first but I have been on many exchanges and have seem many children blossom as they benefit so much from the experience.
How many staff accompany?
How many male / female staff?
How are they contactable?
What activities are offered?
What are the travel arrangements? (Is your child the type to get travel sick?)
How often are they in school?
What will they do in the school?
What if the partnership turns out to be a disaster and your DD is desperately unhappy? Are there emergency measures in place? How will it be dealt with?
What safety precautions will be taken on trips?
How long has the exchange been running?
Who is running it at your DD's school and how long have they been running it for?
You should think about how willing you will be to host a student who could be any sort of person, shy, outgoing, homesick, fussy, awkward, loud, sociable, chatty, quiet etc etc. Would you be happy to take them out and show them your local area? Are you happy to cook a different menu if you get a fussy eater? Do you have adequate room for them?
The exchange I have been on has been run by the head of langs at a neighbouring school for about 20 years. He takes a long time matching children with others with similar home life and interests. The children complete a questionnaire giving as much info as poss to help here.
I wish I'd had the opportunity at school. In this climate, they may not be offered much longer. I'd seize the chance for my DD as long as all my questions had been answered to my satisfaction. Viel Spass!!

Nome Fri 21-Jan-05 21:23:00

As a teenager I exchanged with a Soviet Russian for almost four weeks and had an amazing time. We had two weeks in camp and sorted our own partners out for the 10 day home visit after camp. The following year we went to the Soviet Union and stayed with our partners and then went to camp. A bit unusual I know!

As a languages teacher, I have been involved with a French exchange and two German exchanges. The German exchange had been running over 20 years and the French one 4 or 5. In each case, the pupils were matched with a partner well in advance and letter/emails were sent before the visit. Most pupils enjoy the trips, but there are always a couple who find it difficult being away from home and a couple who celebrate being away from home rather too enthusiastically. The usual set up seems to be foreign kids continue going to school while British kids do trips. Foreign kids usually join the British kids on one day. Weekend is spent with host family, who get together with other exchange host families and do something. Weekend activities are organised by families. This is when most kids get homesick - suddenly 48 hours stretches into eternity!
Schools cannot vet foreign parents, but they are sending you their child in return. Foreign schools usually have more pupils wanting to do the exchange than can be matched - numbers tend to be limited by how many British kids sign up. Teachers are on-call 24 hours a day to the children. Teachers are usually hosted by their foreign colleagues. Normally the lead teacher sets up a telephone tree in case all British parents need to be notified about something, like late return.

Rowlers has written a lovely list of questions to ask. You might want to find out what happens if a child takes drugs/goes shoplifting. (Not that yours would!)

Rafaella Sat 22-Jan-05 12:51:48

Thanks for all this - DD's school is dreadful on communication. They've told us nothing but are assuming she's going and making plans accordingly. They asked her if she'd be okay to have a 16yo boy to exchange with and of course she said yes! I'm going to ask for all the info you've suggested (and then say yes!). She's very shy but as she's so keen to go I think it will be good for her.

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