stroker PowerDork
9/22/23 3:35 p.m.

My 15 y.o. daughter hit me last night with the declaration that she'd like to spend her senior year of high school in a foreign country.  Her preferences were Japan, Italy and Greece.  Doesn't speak a word of any of them--she's in her second year of French.  I won't get into the details of my reservations about the idea now, but I did want to consult The Hive just in case somebody has really positive experience with this.


nderwater UltimaDork
9/22/23 3:44 p.m.

Oh wow.  We hosted a student from Spain this summer and enjoyed the experience, but I personally can't imagine trusting my own teen to live a year on their own.  Very curious to years others' experiences.

Datsun310Guy MegaDork
9/22/23 3:51 p.m.

I have no experience.

Do it - as you get older these experiences are few and fewer available as we slog through life with jobs and kids. 

My kid is from Seoul, Korea and I said if she went to community college for a year I'd pay for her to bum around Seoul for a month her last summer.  

Hang out, find her birth mom/dad, eat food and just travel around.  She took a pass and went to Miami University instead.  Will she get that chance again?  

bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter)
bearmtnmartin (Forum Supporter) UberDork
9/22/23 6:11 p.m.

I was one and I lived. Did my final year in Ireland.

Steve_Jones UltraDork
9/22/23 6:24 p.m.

Mine did 1/2 year vs full year. We sent away children, we got back confident adults. I'd assume it depends on the kid though, if they just want to go party overseas, might be a waste of time and money. If it's a known program, they have it down to a science, and I'd think 95% of your concerns could be addressed, and satisfied. It's that 5% of being Dad that you'll never get out of your head. 

There are 2 month programs, maybe start there. 

9/24/23 10:48 p.m.

As my forum name suggest, I am something of an international air plant,  Following in my steps, my daughter did a year in Korea and has returned to live there permanently.

Learning a foreign language is only hard because we make it hard in North America. Learn to say  "I want" and "I need" + one other word,  and you are well on the way to communicating. They did it when they were babies and they can do it again.

 I wish more people got out of the hood and experienced the world. There is insight to be had. For a young person it also accelerates a lot of "growing up".


Remember that old saw that says "we will regret the things we did not do more than the ones we did"? This might be one of those moments in your life as much as hers.

Regardless I do understand the financial and emotional concerns and so should your daughter.




calteg SuperDork
9/25/23 9:07 a.m.

I did my final year in Hong Kong, was one of the best experiences of my life.

I arrived speaking not a single word of Cantonese. As NoHome mentioned, I eventually learned about 15 phrases and that got me through a year. 

Since I didn't have parents footing the bill, I made the decision based on a combo of perceived safety + favorable exchange rate.

Highly, highly, highly recommend it

Beer Baron
Beer Baron MegaDork
9/25/23 10:13 a.m.

Not a foreign exchange student, but I went to brewing school in Germany at age 30. Went knowing effectively no German. Left knowing... not much more.

As an English-only speaker, my top suggestions would be Japan or Germany. English is very common and easily accommodated. Things are safe, clean, and efficient. The bureaucracies (that you WILL have to deal with as a student) are generally strait-forward procedures.

Greece would be one of my bottom choices. Italy... a bit better, but a better place to visit. Don't know if I'd want to spend more time there than you'd get from a travel visa.

France would also be good, but I'd want to get outside of Paris proper.

Netherlands would be fantastic and almost everyone there speaks English as well. Belgium is similar, but more scuzzy.

Another great thing about Germany is that it's very centrally located to take weekend trips to visit other interesting locales: Czechia, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, France.

Edit: Also culture shock was really easy to manage in Germany. Things were generally less jarring than I expected. People understood and had patience for the American not knowing all the expectations. Moving within the U.S. was more jarring when you unexpectedly ran into a culture difference you didn't expect and then everyone stops and looks at you funny.

cyow5 Reader
9/25/23 10:43 a.m.

I did a study abroad in college (England) and an internship in Germany after graduating college, so I was a bit older for both of those experiences than your daughter, but they were great experiences. I also had done an out-of-state internship prior to going to England, but, prior to all that, I had always lived at home. I commuted in college, so getting the chance to go out on my own for a bit was hugely helpful in learning how to be an adult. As said above, Germany was very accommodating to my English-only self, and it is a beautiful country within a short distance to a lot of other countries. 

I am an extremely outgoing person, so learning how to just sit by myself and enjoy dinner (pre smart phone), was a major development for me. Same for being somewhere no one speaks your language. 

RichardNZ HalfDork
9/25/23 11:05 a.m.

My daughter did foreign exchange in Germany when she was 16 or 17. Three months over there and after a short interval, for Christmas IIRC, her exchange came to stay with us. Fabulous experience at the time and yes she grew up a lot while she was away. I think the betting of host families is fairly intense although I did hear of of one girl who had issues here but they were able to move her somewhere else pretty rapidly. My daughter is still Facebook friends with her exchange and visited with her and her family while in Europe last year.


mtn MegaDork
9/25/23 12:09 p.m.

No direct experience with the high schoolers, but I sure wish I had my stuff together enough to have at least looked into it.


This information is probably too dated to be useful anymore, but my aunt did it in the 60s or 70s (Spain) and had a great experience, and through that connection my dad's family had a Japanese girl live with them for a year. They are still in regular correspondence with her now 50+ years later. 

I know probably 6 more people (that I'm aware of) that did it in college. All of them, ALL of them, have only good things to say about the experience. One complained in a joking way about the "pillow" that was provided on a train ride. 

I know of 2 bad experiences people have had with the program. One was as a host, a French kid nearly stole about $600 of electronics in 1995. The other was a person who you just knew shouldn't have been on that type of excursion. Not mature enough, not emotionally intelligent enough, and not able to embrace and appreciate differences. I think this person's parents were hoping it would be a life changing experience and kick-start adulthood, and it was probably a 50/50 chance, but it didn't go well and that was not a surprise to me. I would think this is an outlier though. 

nderwater UltimaDork
10/21/23 1:20 p.m.

Was that our first ChatGTP powered canoe?

DarkMonohue Dork
10/21/23 4:24 p.m.

In reply to nderwater :

Not by a long chalk, unfortunately. It was the second one in this thread alone. 

I can't contribute experience as a parent, but I did spend a year as an exchange student a few (read: thirty) years ago. I ended up on an island in the North Atlantic. For some reason it made sense to go after graduating high school (several kids in my class did that, though I can't remember why), which rendered academics completely moot. Couple that drastically reduced responsibility with a sudden spike in opportunity - the country had a huge teen drinking issue at the time - and a very poor exchange rate, and I spent most of the year chasing girls, drinking beer, and goofing off. In some ways the year was a horrifically expensive vacation and in some ways it was the year I grew up. It's a matter of perspective, and my perspective changes frequently.

People make a big deal of the cultural aspect. I have mixed feelings about that as well. I'm mostly an introvert, not really eager to share or make myself vulnerable, and I don't get much value from museum displays and theatrical performances and traditional dances. The real lesson was that people are largely the same everywhere but often see things differently depending on their shared experience and their own individual interpretations.

For whatever it's worth, I never heard of any female students, here or there, encountering any real trouble. Exchange students tend to be accompanied either by adults or a group of peers pretty much all the time, and their host families generally keep pretty close tabs on them. I don't think they're much more vulnerable than local students in similar situations. 

jwagner (Forum Supporter)
jwagner (Forum Supporter) HalfDork
10/24/23 6:48 p.m.

My son hosted a couple of German high school students, and his son is planning on heading there in a year or two.  Great experience for everyone.

KyAllroad MegaDork
10/25/23 10:07 a.m.

Circa 1988 There was a boy from Sweden who came to my high school in rural, backwards Kentucky.  I felt sorry for him and it wasn't a great year for him in general.  I'm not sure he was ready for the amount of backwards we were.

Fast forward to 2007 My (ex)wife and I decided to host an exchange student.  Our kids were young and we thought it would be good to expose them to some outside culture early on.  We ended up with a girl from Hong Kong for her senior year and spent a good deal of time with the exchange student community.  Very helpful and inviting people.  We stayed in the program as "foster" exchange parents when kids needed a few weeks away from whatever family they were placed with (apparently we seemed like trustworthy souls).  The kids we hosted thrived and enjoyed their time in the states.  Apparently 20 years makes a difference.

I recommend the experience, my kids didn't for other reasons but seeing more of the world is never a bad thing.

Scotty Con Queso
Scotty Con Queso UltraDork
10/26/23 8:27 a.m.

My wife's family hosted a FES back in 2003 from Argentina. We now consider her family.  Our next international trip will be to Argentina.  She's been back to the US a couple of times since then.  Seeing their bond has been awesome so I'd recommend it.  

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