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Has your child been a foreign exchange student?


Replies to: Has your child been a foreign exchange student?

  • hsmomstefhsmomstef Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    While this thread is back up at the top of the board, I thought I would update with how my son did on his study abroad admissions.

    My son, a homeschooled student who is 17, great stats and ECs and would be a senior next year, was determined to study abroad next year. He was not interested in going to Africa or South America, otherwise he was pretty open.

    He decided to apply to multiple programs because financial aid was needed (he basically needed a full scholarship).

    He applied to SYA China, Rotary International, YFU China and Japan (they offer several scholarships), AFS Congress Bundestag and United World Colleges.

    He was very successful and had a difficult time deciding where to go next year.

    He chose not to continue on with the Rotary International scholarship because they required a commitment earlier than the other programs and it wasn't his first choice.

    He was accepted to SYA China with excellent financial aid, accepted to Congress Bundestag, accepted to his first choice college at the United World Colleges, accepted to the YFU year to Japan and won a scholarship (partial, not full) for AFS exchange.

    He decided to attend the Atlantic College, the UWC school in Wales.

    In hindsight, he probably didn't need to apply to so many programs -- but he really wanted to study abroad, and he wasn't sure if he would get admitted and even if he did, he wasn't sure he would get enough financial aid to attend.

    The application process went well -- but it was a ton of work! He was lucky that some of the essays that were needed could be used for multiple applications. The follow up interviews were tricky to schedule -- the UWC interview was only offered on one particular day and it was a 5 hour drive from our home.

    The worst part of the process was declining the offers he didn't chose. By the time he had to decline, he had already gotten information packages, course descriptions and emailed or facebooked other kids who were chosen for the program. The only thing that cheered him up was the thought that someone on the alternate list that really wanted to go would get the chance.

    Anyway -- I encourage anyone out there that wants to study abroad to apply. There are multiple programs, from summer to semester to year-long programs. Financial aid is out there, so lack of money shouldn't stand in your way.

    I would say that the number one thing that all the programs were looking for were parent support -- strong parent support.
  • moewbmoewb Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    Thanks for the suggestion. I am sure SYA will provide the names of parents, but I was looking for more unbiased opinions. Surely, the names provided by the school would more likely be the names of parents whose experiences (or whose children's experiences) were positive.
  • montrose9272montrose9272 Registered User Posts: 228 Junior Member
    I did SYA in France 1989-90. I don't know if I'd be "unbiased"...is there really such a thing? But I would certainly be honest...I have known many students with varied experiences (in fact I volunteer to interview prospective applicants), as well as a host family that worked with students for 20 years, and who had some fascinating insights into the program.
  • 2applying2applying Registered User Posts: 12 New Member
    UWC / YFU

    Nice to stumble on this thread! My daughter, a Yale junior spending this semester and summer in them Middle East, graduated from UWC Wales. If you would like her contact info please let me know. In summary, it was a tremendous experience that continues to impact her life. And, as parents, I would urge you to visit and take advantage of the guest quarters in the castle!

    I had looked at this topic, however, for our son who has decided to defer his admission to Harvard and study in Russia. He is most interested in KEI (a university program) but has also been looking into YFU (even at this late date). Any thoughts about the advantages/pitfalls of university vrs homestay programs for an 18 year old with only one year of university level Russian? Any thoughts about either program?


  • hsmomstefhsmomstef Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    moewb -- I know that there was a poster on here by the name of Garrity that had some familiarity with SYA (and I don't think it was necessarily good) but didn't actually send a child. Suze, who posts on CC all the time, did SYA in China and also visited friends doing SYA France, I believe.

    You might try starting a new post here on the Parent's board titled "Study Year Abroad -- Anyone had a child participate" and that might get some more responses.

    I will tell you that I researched SYA quite a bit before my son applied and the negatives I heard about from different sources didn't concern me. I heard that drinking and some drugs could be issues, particularly in Spain and France -- however, the majority of the kids did not participate and since my son isn't in to that type of thing, it wasn't a issue for us. Travel is pretty restricted in China -- but the program does a ton of travel with the group. Across the board (all programs) the host families were great -- never heard of any issue that wasn't fixed right away.
  • hsmomstefhsmomstef Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    Ellen -- thanks for the info, I have sent you a PM for you email. I would love to have contact with someone whose child attended AC.

    Where in the Middle East is your daughter staying and what is she studying at Yale? My son spent last summer in Cairo with AFS and wants to go back!
  • 2applying2applying Registered User Posts: 12 New Member

    I sent you a private message.

    My daughter is with SIT in Oman and will spend the summer in the same general area but...on a fellowship. She is a NELC major (Near Eastern Lang/Civilizations).

  • moewbmoewb Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    Ok, what are those SYA insights from the family that hosted students for so many years? More specifically, I have the following questions:

    1. Do public school students find the SYA program more difficult ?

    2. How many students really have difficulties with the host family each year? The interviewer that spoke with my son told of difficulties with her host family.

    Thanks for your insights...
  • devushkadevushka Registered User Posts: 196 Junior Member
    Ellen, I'm also doing a gap year in Russia next year. It's wonderful to hear of other '07ers who are planning on doing the same thing. I personally can't give specific advice on college programs, but I know that after having 4 years of hs Russian experience, I have chosen to go on exchange through a homestay program (rotary). Does the University program offer host families? I know I chose to do a homestay because I really want to work on my fluency in conversation and I like the idea of being able to experience family life in Russia. I personally will be taking classes at Kamchatka State University (very far east Russia) and living with several host families throughout the year.

    From the sounds of it, I think it all comes down to personal preference. Again, I am not familiar with the university program in which your son is interested, but for me, I would have been nervous about participating in a university program because they tend to be a lot more academically oriented and I am worried about my skills in handling such an intensive courseload. My program will have me taking classes, but when it comes down to it, the Rotary program is much more of a "cultural exchange" program than an academic one and classes just don't matter as much. Sorry I couldn't be of more assistance. I hope your son has a good time in whichever program he chooses.
  • montrose9272montrose9272 Registered User Posts: 228 Junior Member
    It depends on the school, but students who went to boarding schools generally found SYA the same or easier (because there is more free time, and less homework to encourage you to do something besides sit in your room and study in a foreign country for 8 months). Most students who came from public schools found the actual work harder than usual (perhaps the same or less homework, but more challenging than they were used to). Other private school kids were in the middle.
    There usually aren't problems with the host family--they are carefully selected, and often experienced; the problems are with students who cannot or will not adjust to living abroad.
    My host mother interpreted this as follows. She told me a great deal about each of the 17 students who had come before me. I asked her: "You seem to host mostly guys....were there any girls?" She said that one girl had worked out OK, but that the other had not. Her evaluation, having seen 20 years of students and knowing the experiences of the other families, was that guys would either solve their problems or not, but keep the responsibility for adaptation on themselves, but that the girls tended to blame the families, the school, and everyone around them, and not solve the problems they had. Some ended up going home eventually. On that basis, she preferred not to host female students.
    The year I went SYA, there were a few girls who kept moving from one family to another, and unfortunately never really settled in, so at least in that year, her conclusion seems to be well supported.
    Of course, 80% of the girls in the program had no discernable problems.
    My parents hosted a Danish girl while I was in college. She wouldn't really pitch in at all, and pretty much expected everything to be done for her, so she ended up returning to Denmark.
    If you go abroad, you need to realize that you are an ambassador of our country, your family, and your school, be grateful for the experience, and make the most of it, for you are unlikely to ever have such an opportunity again. The families are not paid more than a basic stipend....they mostly do it because they find the experience rewarding. My host family knew exactly what would help me grow the most, and pushed me in that direction, just as they had helped each prior student to find their own path.
  • theatrewormtheatreworm Registered User Posts: 177 Junior Member
    hsmomstef- tell your son congratulations
    i was in a similar situation... i applied to uwc and rotary, found out about rotary before uwc, but am attending mahindra uwc of inida next year :-)
    im excited!
  • hsmomstefhsmomstef Registered User Posts: 3,579 Senior Member
    wow -- congrats on Mahindra!!! My son vaccillated between choosing Mahindra as his first choice or Atlantic College. It was a tough decision -- but he decided on Atlantic College for a couple of academic reasons (they offered Arabic and had some other classes he wanted).

    PM me your email address and I will send it to my son -- I think he would love to see what you think of Mahindra.
  • great lakes momgreat lakes mom Registered User Posts: 2,944 Senior Member
    I've had kids on various abroad programs, and hosted numerous Korean university level ESL students. This year I was wrestling with the difference between university level exchanges and Rotary, which is HS based, as one of my graduating daughters is going on a second Rotary exchange. She was in the Czech republic as a HS junior, and will be in Peru next year. In terms of really learning a culture and place inside and out, I'd vote for Rotary. It is an intensely personal experience with usually 3 families, often in smaller cities, attending schools with local HS kids.

    Devushka, being able to attend a university is wonderful! My d doesn't yet have her city placement, so we're not sure of the details, or what will be available whereever she goes in Peru. She was in a small city in the Czech republic, became functional in Czech during the year. No small feat, given the difficulty of the language. She brought her violin, and took lessons. The academic part of the year though was really a wash...as she didn't understand enough to follow along in school...or in the case of math, didn't want to! French, though she could participate, was not challenging enough. So she attended school, and read widely in English. On return, she certainly appreciated her American HS in a new way!

    Some of the difference between university and HS exchange is availability of American peer group. My son went on semester long university exchanges to Ecuador and Barcelona, Spain. He always had an American peer group he was studying with, so his social time was often spent with other Americans, rather than people in the host culture. So his Spanish, while improved, was not effortlessly fluent in the way that happens with many Rotary exchangers

    Rotary students are often the only Americans, if not one of the few foreigners in their town. Rotarians the world over work very hard to make exchanges a good experience, with travel to surrounding countries in some cases, ski trips, canoe trips, language immersions weeks, and various sorts of weekend gatherings with other exchange students from all over the world. Exchangers even get an allowance from the local club.

    My son was in homestays on exchanges, one wonderful, and in the other case, the host mom was in it for the money, and there wasn't much interaction. His Spanish improved immeasurably in the second homestay, as the family spent quite bit of time with him, were very caretaking and sweet.

    I love my Korean homestay students. Some want lots of family contact, have gone on vacations with us, shop with me, cook with me, help with whatever I'm involved with. Very gratifying relationships. Others spend their time studying with friends, and we only see briefly for meals during the week. Just guess who improve their English the most! There are quite a few Koreans in our local ESL institute, and spending time with our family means saying 'no' to ever present social opportunities with friends. So I applaud those who really want to be part of our family, as it is taking a harder road.

    One young man in our community was fortunate enough to go to UWC. What an amazing opportunity! Academic, international and exceptional in many ways.
  • moewbmoewb Registered User Posts: 107 Junior Member
    Thanks for your response. My son would welcome more challenging work (though not more homework) so that part should work out ok. If the sheer volumne increased (over the 4 hours a night he does now), that would be an issue.

    As for adaptation, he's fairly willing to pitch in with household tasks, and is fairly good natured. He does not tend to 'blame' others but will resist arbitrary rules. I guess it will be a learning experience for all of us...
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