A student exchange program is a life-changing, one-of-a-kind experience for any student, regardless of their age. For high school students, the opportunity is often even more rare and exciting. The chance to become immersed in a new culture, make lifelong friends, and learn about themselves and the world around them is an incredible opportunity for a teenager to have, and one which the best exchange programs for high school students can deliver.
High school is often the best time for students to embark on an exchange program. According to research from the NIH, the teenage brain is perfectly primed to learn and adjust; it’s highly adaptable to new experiences and situations, and thrives from taking on exciting new challenges. In fact, a challenge like studying abroad actually helps the teenage brain mature and build its circuitry, setting up adolescents for success in the best possible way.
High school is one of the best times for students to join study abroad programs. It’s an age where high schoolers have unique needs that exchange programs can satisfy.
Of course, study abroad programs for high school students must meet the needs of the parents of exchange students and the host family as much as the students themselves. Sending your child overseas to study is a huge decision, and not one that parents make on a whim!
So, how do you know what a good exchange program for high school students looks like? At Ayusa, we have over 40 years of experience when it comes to placing high school exchange students in the best possible school and home environments for their needs. We’ve seen first-hand how important it is to find the right fit for each student, and how rewarding it can be for students and their host families alike!
In this piece, we'll take a look at what makes the best exchange programs for high school students. We’ll unpack:
- What you should look for in high school exchange programs
- The biggest needs of high schoolers from an exchange program
- The pricing of high school exchange programs
- What prospective parents and host parents can each expect to pay
Check out all the info we’ve put together to learn what’s essential in an exchange program designed for high school students!
What Do the Best High School Exchange Programs Include?
The best exchange programs for high school students should:
- Immerse the student in a foreign culture and encourage them to have unique experiences.
- Allow the student to develop new skills and become more confident as the program progresses.
- Give the student a more global outlook of the world that will stay with them through adulthood.
The best high school exchange programs go far beyond simply arranging for students to study abroad. They include many key features that enhance the overall experience. Here are some of the characteristics of the best exchange programs for high school students.
Comprehensive Pre-departure Preparation
The best exchange programs for high school students provide comprehensive pre-departure preparation for students. This includes thorough orientation sessions that cover:
- Cultural differences, etiquette, and how to behave in a culturally appropriate manner.
- Language basics to ensure the student is comfortable enough to speak and understand the fundamentals.
- Safety guidelines including laws of the country and rules of the specific exchange program.
- Expectations for behavior both in terms of academic performance and with the student’s host family.
Students should also receive guidance on obtaining necessary visas, passports, and insurance.
Pre-departure preparation ensures that students are well-prepared, both in terms of having everything they need and also being emotionally ready for the journey ahead. Thorough preparation also helps to set realistic expectations about their destination country and their host family, which builds the foundation for a successful exchange experience.
Thoughtful Matching With Host Families
Host families play such an important role in the success of a high school exchange program. After all, the relationship between an exchange student and their host family can last long after the program ends! The best exchange programs take great care in matching high school students with suitable host families who are:
- Welcoming and excited to host an exchange student.
- Supportive of the student, the program, and the overall experience.
- Interested in cultural exchange and engaged with the student and the exchange program.
Host families are also thoroughly screened and selected based on their willingness and ability to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the student. A strong relationship between the student and host family can greatly enhance the exchange experience, as the student becomes an integrated member of the family and gains a deep understanding of the local culture.
High-Quality Academic Programs
The cultural experience that comes with studying abroad is what makes exchange programs so special, but ensuring that students still keep up with their regular studies is also important. This is especially critical for high school students who are looking to attend university and need to show strong academic performances, regardless of where in the world they are studying.
The best study abroad programs partner with well-regarded local high schools that offer a rigorous curriculum and provide opportunities for exchange students to interact with local students. This allows exchange students to continue their education while abroad and also gain a global perspective on different educational systems.
Ongoing Support and Guidance
The best exchange programs for high school students provide ongoing support and guidance to students throughout their exchange experience. This includes:
- Regular check-ins with program coordinators.
- Access to emergency support if needed.
- Assistance with any challenges or issues that may arise during the program.
Program coordinators should be readily available to address any concerns and ensure that students are adjusting well to their host country. While it’s been shown that longer exchange programs deliver more benefits to students, it’s also critical that the student receives the support they need for the entire duration of their experience.
At Ayusa, we understand just how important ongoing support is for high school students studying abroad. Our professionally trained community representatives are assigned to each exchange student and their host family. The community representative maintains regular contact with the student and their host family on a monthly basis and offers support wherever it’s needed.
The community representative is also responsible for working with the exchange student’s school to create a quarterly report on the student’s academic, cultural, and social experiences as the program progresses.
Cultural Enrichment Activities
Immersing in the local culture is a central aspect of a high school exchange program. The best programs offer a wide range of cultural enrichment activities that expose students to the local customs, traditions, and history.
This may include language lessons, cooking classes, cultural excursions, and community service projects. These activities allow students to fully experience the local culture and develop a deeper appreciation for their host country.
Opportunities for Personal Growth
A high school exchange program is not just about academic and cultural experiences, but also about personal growth. The best programs provide opportunities for students to:
- Develop leadership skills.
- Enhance self-confidence.
- Foster independence.
Living in a foreign country, navigating new situations, and overcoming challenges can greatly contribute to a student's personal growth and development.
Returning home after an exchange program can be both exciting and challenging for high school students. The best high school foreign exchange programs provide reintegration support, which may include:
- Debriefing sessions.
- Reflection activities.
- Opportunities to share their experiences with others.
This helps students process their emotions, reflect on their growth, and integrate their exchange experience into their lives back home.
As you can see, the best student exchange programs for host families and students alike account for a lot more than simply connecting an exchange student with a host family. Thoughtful, nurturing exchange programs start supporting the student long before they leave their home, and long after they return to it.
How Much Is the Best Student Exchange Program Going to Cost?
The cost of a high school exchange program can vary depending on numerous factors such as:
- The destination country and region
- The program duration
- What’s included in the program
- The type of education (public vs private)
While there are some cheap foreign exchange programs for high school students, these often don’t cover a majority of the costs listed below, leaving natural families and exchange students further out-of-pocket.
It's important for students, their families, and host families to all understand the costs associated with studying abroad, and which party covers each expense. Here is an outline of the main costs associated with a high school exchange program and who is typically responsible for each.
Housing is a significant cost associated with studying abroad. In Ayusa’s exchange program for high school students, each student lives with a host family. The host family for an international student provides a home for the student during their stay and is responsible for the costs associated with housing the student. In some cases, the student may be responsible for covering their own expenses for items such as personal toiletries or other specific needs.
As with housing, the host family for an exchange student is responsible for providing their exchange student with food. Host families must provide their students with three meals a day for the duration of their stay. Students and their families are encouraged to budget for instances where the student might need their own money for food, such as if they are having dinner at a restaurant with their new friends.
High school exchange programs charge program fees to cover the costs of program administration, support services, and additional activities. Program fees may also include airfares and education costs if the program is coordinating these. The exchange student’s family is responsible for covering the cost of program fees, it never falls to the host family.
The cost of education, including tuition and school supplies, may be included in the program fees or may be a separate cost that students and their families need to consider. Students usually attend local schools as part of their exchange program, and the tuition may be covered by the program or the host school. However, in other cases, students may need to pay tuition fees directly to the school or cover other educational expenses.
Transport and Travel
Travel costs, including airfare, transportation within the host country, and other travel expenses, are typically the responsibility of the student and their natural family. It's important for students and their families to budget for travel expenses and make appropriate arrangements for flights and local transportation. High school students in exchange programs are typically not allowed to drive during their stay, and are encouraged to instead:
- Use public transport where available.
- Buy or borrow a used bicycle if available and safe.
- Ride with friends from school who already drive.
Host families are not expected to act as taxi drivers for their host student, but offering a ride occasionally is often highly appreciated!
Insurance and Medical Care
High school exchange students are provided with health and travel insurance before their program begins. The cost of this is usually included in the program fees and organized through the exchange program. If a student requires medical care while overseas, this is covered by their health insurance and never falls to the host family.
As you can see, international student exchange programs come with a various different expenses. A majority of the costs are the responsibility of the student’s natural family, and are covered in the program fees. The cost of hosting an exchange student is relatively minimal, as host families are really only responsible for covering the costs of housing and food for the student.
What Is the Best Foreign Exchange Program for High School Students?
So, what is the best student exchange program for high schoolers? At Ayusa, our mission is to foster connections between families around the world through student exchange. Our nonprofit high school study abroad program helps give our future leaders the chance to broaden their horizons and experience the world like never before. We connect exceptional international students with generous host families across the United States who are willing to share their lives with a new family member.
We also understand that a high school exchange program is not the same as studying abroad at a university. A majority of high school students are experiencing new levels of independence, and have not previously been away from home, let alone in a foreign country, for a significant period of time. That’s why our program incorporates some unique features, specifically designed to ensure the mutual success of high school exchange students and their host families.
Comprehensive Support for Exchange Students and Host Families
At Ayusa, our professionally-trained Community Representatives are a key component of our high school exchange program. A dedicated Community Representative is assigned to each host family and their exchange student and stay with the same family for the duration of the program. This gives stability and continuity to both the host family and their student and allows them to each form a personal relationship with their Community Representative during the program.
One role of the Community Representative is to be a point of contact during emergencies, along with Ayusa’s regional and national staff who are available 24/7 for emergencies. Another key role of the Community Representative is to maintain regular contact with the student, their host family, and the school. They are available not only for emergencies, but also for general check-ins, to make sure that the student is adjusting well to life abroad both academically and socially.
Community Representatives give natural families the peace of mind that another set of eyes is looking after their child, while also ensuring the student knows that they always have an adult friend to turn to whenever they need them.
Careful Matching of Students and Their Host Families
One of the most important keys to success for high school exchange programs in Europe or the United States is the careful matching of students with their host families. At Ayusa, we go the extra mile to make sure that host families and students are carefully paired together in a way that ensures mutual success.
Our huge network of host families from US cities, towns, and rural areas, combined with our access to students with diverse cultures and backgrounds from all over the world, helps us pair students and families based on common goals and interests.
Become a Host in the Best Exchange Program for High School Students
Becoming part of the Ayusa community has a lifelong impact on exchange students and host families alike. Hosting an exchange student is a huge commitment, but Ayusa is with you every step of the way.
With Community Representatives and programs to ensure that exchange students adapt well to life with their host family, students and host families alike are set up for success with Ayusa.
So, what is the best foreign exchange student program? When you contact Ayusa to start your journey, you’ll soon see what sets our team apart. We’re here to answer all of your questions and provide all the resources you need to make sure this program is a good fit for you. If you’re enthusiastic, curious about the world around you, and open to new cultures and experiences, it likely is!
Ready to join the best exchange program for high school students? Request more information or start your application today!