I want to become fluent in French by being an exchange student
June 15, 2008 6:09 PM   Subscribe

Studying abroad in high school. Recommendations? Advice? Anecdotes?

I'm planning on doing this during the fall semester 2009-2010 (as a junior). Specifically to France.

I'm looking for company recommendations, advice, anecdotes, and whatever else you can say about the topic

Sorry if this question seemed a little disjointed.
posted by majikstreet to Travel & Transportation around France (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do it, if you can and it's financially feasible. I wanted to all through high school, never did, and regret it terribly.
posted by elisabethjw at 6:25 PM on June 15, 2008

If for whatever reason you can't make it in high school, don't lose hope. Most universities have agreements for undergrad exchanges (typically in 3rd year) and the majority that I've found allow students to pay home tuition while abroad. This works out nicely if you're worried about international student fees at the university level. I'll be doing one myself (to Scotland) this fall.

That said, I've heard good things about Rotary Club exchanges for ages 15 and up.

Incidentally, you can't beat learning a second language through full immersion. Good luck!
posted by betafilter at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2008

Do it. I went with AFS to Germany for a year over my senior year. I took night classes junior year so I could graduate. Make sure whoever you go with has a liaison for you in case there are issues with your family, if it's really bad don't hesitate changing families.
It'll be very hard, and by hard I mean completely exhausting. It took me a good six months to have a good grasp of spoken, conversational German even with three years of high school German. But it's great when you dream in your second language. My host family didn't like me traveling, so after the program I stayed for two months and Eurailed around Germany and Europe. It was one of the best and most rewarding years of my life so far.
Do your best not to associate with other Americans simply because you share a language. I still have some great friends from the US who were also exchange students with me, but there were others in the program that used the other Americans as a crutch to get by. Some others never learned the language over the course of the year.
I was put into 11th grade in the Gymnasium, but they let me sit in on a 5th grade class for their German grammar lessons which helped a lot, and the kids loved it.
posted by princelyfox at 6:38 PM on June 15, 2008

Do a summer program, I had the time of my life. AFS Sicily woo! I've had friends that have done the "real" study abroad and honestly I would wait for college to do that. Host families are extremely hit or miss. Of myself and many other I know, about 25% loved their host family, about 50% (like me) had a mediocre experience with their families, and another 25% were in hell. One of the bad things about some study abroad families is that often they want an exchange student because its often recommended as a way for their kid to learn english if they are falling behind in school in the subject. A lot don't realize what they are getting into and sometimes the other siblings don't like having a new de facto sibling/friend to haul around.

I had a great time in the summer program even though my family was a bit bleh. I traveled all around with a bunch of American and other European kids, it was great. I did AFS, I had a friend that did rotary club in Switzerland, her experience was very up and down, not easy, but she still thinks it was probably worth, but a hard year nonetheless. I think studying abroad for long periods of time is better in college because you don't have to risk being with a bad family and you just have a lot more freedom to shape your experience. I transferred to the UK for the second half of my undergrad degree and it was a very different experience than when I lived with a family.
posted by whoaali at 7:36 PM on June 15, 2008

I would start saving and instead travel abroad as a college student. I went in high school and didn't appreciate it. I was also treated like a baby every step of the way and missed out on quite a bit because of that. But I appreciated international travel much more as an adult with a year of college under my belt.
posted by sian at 7:49 PM on June 15, 2008

Don't do summer - do high school. It'll be such a maturity jump that it'll be worth whatever you miss. Also the language exposure will give you a leg up later.

All the different companies have drawback and advantages.
posted by k8t at 8:20 PM on June 15, 2008

I absolutely recommend this. I went to Germany my senior year of high school, and it was totally awesome. Both of my host families treated me largely like an adult, so I was mostly able to travel and do what I wanted.. (Think like a college kid living at home in the US.) Really though, the travelling isn't the best part. People who recommend travelling instead don't understand exchanges, IMHO. An exchange is about learning how another country lives, what their philosophies are, how they educate themselves, what their nation is concerned about, what they really eat, how they get around, what language they speak, learning the language itself, and so on. There is so much depth to an exchange that you really only get a taste of when you travel.

If you do go, I highly encourage you to go with the goal of basically becoming "French" - that is, eating French food with your family, going to school and doing your best on assignments, having French friends, doing whatever the French do on the weekends, and trying to interact and speak the way the French do. There were far too many other exchange students who treated their exchange like a year-long vacation. They certainly got drunk a lot and had tons of fun, but in the end, they didn't have German friends, barely spoke German, and didn't even really know their host families.

Finally, I'm going to second the recommendation that you go with Rotary. Here's why:
  • People in AFS, etc. pay for their exchange. In Rotary, you pay plane tickets, but then get a stipend in your host country (mine was 60 EUR per month).
  • Students in Rotary Programs have 2-3 host families during their year - this means that you get to know a few different lifestyles. It's also fairly common to not get along as well with some families as with others, so in Rotary you get the opportunity to try different people out.
  • Rotary has get-togethers with all the exchange students in your region of the country. This means that I know people not just from Germany, but from Japan, France, Mexico, Australia, South Africa, and tons of other places. These get-togethers are also some of the best parties I've ever been to.
  • Finally, the family you stay with is one that has sent or is going to send their child on an exchange. This means they'll have been vetted the same way you will be, and also means that they're likely to understand and be very interested in your experience, since their child will be, has been, or is going through something similar
Rotary claims they have a lot of rules (no drinking, no girlfriends), but believe me, they are followed by absolutely no one. I'm also not trying to knock other programs, but my experience with Rotary was so fantastic that it would be irresponsible for me not to recommend it. Regardless of who you go with, I really hope you decide to go. If you have any follow-up questions, feel free to ask me.
posted by !Jim at 8:39 PM on June 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I highly recommend high school, especially if it's going to be in a country where students stay in the classroom and the teacher comes to them (Japan, etc.), as opposed to the American system of going to the teacher's classroom. Classmates become like family.

College anywhere in the world (to my knowledge) consists of traveling from classroom to classroom, there's no more one-room classroom.
posted by Xere at 11:02 PM on June 15, 2008

It may be worth trying to talk to your local private high school. (Jesuit or otherwise) to see if you could possibly latch onto their exchane program. Sort of an exchange exchange... If you go to a public highschool maybe your headmaster will be friendly with the headmaster of a local private school. It would seem to me a win-win if they can cooperate and get you on board with an already established program. As far as advise? Well I went to Germany for my 2nd Senior semester. I think there was a school there, but there was a pub between my house and the school...
posted by Gungho at 4:37 AM on June 16, 2008

I went to Germany through Youth For Understanding my junior year of high school and had a blast. The set up was as such: Before we left, there was a regional YFU pre-orientation where we spent a weekend in college dorms and they prepped us for the trip. This was all YFU exchange students in our region going to all countries. When we arrived, we had a weekend orientation with all of the exchange students to Geramany in one place (same thing, it was in a hostel). Then we were split into groups for regional orientation/language classes that lasted a month. We stayed with families during that month and had German (and maybe 1 or 2 foreign) "counsellor" types. Some students stayed with their families after that, others were moved to other families elsewhere in Germany. I was fortunate enough that my family wanted me to stay with them, so I stayed with them during the rest of the year. They were wonderful, and generous, and treated me like their own daughter (I had a host sister my age that I got along with great). I know of people who weren't in great situations, and YFU worked with them to switch host families as needed. This was an amazing experience and I highly recommend it. I recommend YFU as well, I thought they did a great job and were quite generous with the scholarship funds...they offered both partial and full assistance.
posted by echo0720 at 11:55 AM on June 16, 2008

I was put into 11th grade in the Gymnasium, but they let me sit in on a 5th grade class for their German grammar lessons which helped a lot, and the kids loved it.

PrincelyFox -- same here, the 5th graders were great fun!

posted by echo0720 at 11:56 AM on June 16, 2008

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