Interested in International Exchange?

Amira Beck, Staff Writer

From the months of January to March 2020, I lived in Germany. While I was there I visited the Czech Republic, wandered through beautiful castles, learned how to live and work on a horse ranch, and made plenty of friends. I lived and went to a high school in Germany, and though I did not plan this trip through an exchange program, I was able to experience many of the same opportunities. Although exchange programs are a completely viable way to plan such a trip, I organized much of it myself to spare the hassle. I hope to offer some insight on how to independently plan an international trip, as it can save you a lot of time and money with the right tricks. 

First, decide when you want to do your exchange. Think about if you’d like to go during your junior or sophomore year, and how long you want to go. I started thinking about my trip during my freshman year and decided that 6 months would be too long to be away from home, so I decided to inquire about a 3-month exchange. Have an idea where you want to go, but keep in mind that sometimes the circumstances will make somewhere else much more attainable. 

Second, if you are interested in going through a program, do some research into international exchange programs. I couldn’t find any that met my needs, so I went off and organized the exchange myself.

Third, meet with your guidance counselor. Counselors will help you to figure out how to make up credits that you may miss during your time, allowing you to stay on track for graduation.

Fourth, begin with your friends and family. Ask if they know anyone who lives out of the country: I was able to stay at the house of an old acquaintance. For example, if you’ve met an exchange student who has spent some time at your school, ask if their family might be interested in hosting you, or if they know of friends who might. 

It is not necessary to know the family that you stay with beforehand, but some FaceTime calls to get to know them better will be helpful. Once you’ve found a family, arrange a payment plan, like a monthly rent amount. This will cover the cost of food and living expenses while you’re with the family. Plan to pay about 600 USD per month.

Fifth, contact a local school in the area. Speak to the director and share your situation; they will often happily work with and host you. Meet with your counselor again before you go, as now that you are in contact with the school where you will be going, they may be able to offer some more insight on how to receive your credits.

Finally, book your plane tickets. Plan to bring about 100 USD of personal spending money per month. 

Remember: your time on an exchange is a once in a lifetime experience. You will learn so much and have a lot of fun. You will experience a new culture and change the way you think. A new household will give you new ideas to come back to, and when you are home you will gain an appreciation for things you would never imagine.