Wry Exchange

Age of Exchange Students, 15-18.5
09-20-07, 12:17 am
Filed under: Exchange Program, Exchange Students | Tags: , , , , ,

 This post isn’t advice, it’s my personal opinion.  I think 15 is too young for most students to go abroad.  

High school exchange students can be age 15-18.5 at program start.  The US State Department will only accept students in that age range.  Most countries reciprocate; however some countries will accept 19 year old graduation Seniors.   I see a huge difference in students between 15 and 16, 16-17, and 17-18.

In my program, we prefer students to go out after graduating from high school.  We position it like the English ‘Gap year.’  The students are ready to leave home anyway, they just delay college for a year.  Their parents are also prepared for their child to leave.   Most colleges will defer grants, loans, scholarships while the student is abroad.  When FES returns, he should be able to test out of language classes through post-grad levels.  Talk to college counselors, they love former exchange students, and not just because they ‘have all their partying out of their system.’   High school graduates from the US will find their foreign classes tougher than here at home.  EVERY inbound student in my twenty years has said that US high schools are easier than at home.  Students who are 18 are given more freedom by their host families.  That alone will make a huge difference in the experience.   The graduates are mentally and emotionally ready to leave home.  They have stronger problem solving skills.  Talk to returning students.

The middle ages of 16 and 17 are grey areas.  What are your goals?  Do you want to go out twice as a FES?  Do you want to graduate with your class?  (It’s up to each individual Board of Education to accept credits from foreign schools, at least in my state. Find out if your credits count before you go.)
The 15 year olds are the ones who get homesick most often.  They typically just don’t have the maturity or life experience to handle the loneliness or ‘foreign-ness.’  Many times, they aren’t tough enough to stand up for themselves when problems arise.  The host families don’t give them the same freedoms the older kids enjoy.  Even if a 15 year old makes it through the year, she’ll still have to return to high school for one or 2 years.  Being an exchange student is like living 5 years compressed into one year.  It’s very difficult to go back home and fit in with friends, and obey house rules.  The kids are worldly, and think differently.  They won’t be happy being treated like a kid.

Think about why you want to be an exchange student.  Are you searching for something or running away from something?  Your experience may be improved by waiting a year.   Being an exchange student is the toughest thing most people will ever do.  We do send out younger students, we do advise them to wait.  This is just my opinion.


4 Comments so far
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So if they go after H.S., do they attend a 5th year of H.S. in their host country? Do they just attend regular classes, or something special like more foreign language?

Comment by colorblindcupid

It’s a high school exchange program, so they are SUPPOSED to go to high school. And honestly, it’s a pretty tough year, our local high schools aren’t as tough as the foreign ones. Also, the other countries don’t seem to let students choose classes too much. (It’s tough to generalize. We exchange with about 20 different countries.) If they’re in a college prep track, they take the same as everyone else. In Europe, they all go to high school as some countries have 13 years of school. In South America, the kids usually go to high school until Winter break in late November/early December, then audit college classes, travel, or take music or art lessons. It depends in Asia, if they go to Taiwan, they have high school and exchange student classes. In India, it’s mostly cultural classes. For students coming here, they must attend high school as part of their US Visa requirement. I don’t care what classes they take except for either US government or economics. I want them to see our point of view since they’re here to learn our culture.

Comment by Wry

Government rules and the rules of CSIET say that high school foreign exchange student must not have already finished school in thier home countrie. I think that is the main reason for the 15 to 18.5 age restriction. I can remember when it was 14 to 18. Most schools in Michigan will not take students who have already finished school in their home country no matter their age.

Comment by Rod Kelsey

Rod, Thanks for your comment. I disagree with you, though. http://exchanges.state.gov/education/jexchanges/about/22CFR62.pdf where I got my information. The relevant section is 62.25E1. It states: (1) Are bona fide students who:
(i) Are secondary school students in their home country who have not completed
more than eleven years of primary and secondary study, exclusive of kindergarten; or
(ii) Are at least 15 years of age but not more than 18 and six months years of age at the time of initial school enrollment.
OR is the important word.

Comment by Wry

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