Friday, April 27, 2012

Student Exchange Programs: The Basics

Are you one of the thousands of students considering studying abroad in the upcoming school year via some type of student exchange program?  Do you still have several questions with regard to these programs—questions as to how student exchange programs work and what you can expect?  Student exchange programs offer you a unique opportunity to study and live in a foreign country for a time; an adventure that will allow you to gain a fresh new perspective, both academically and culturally.  Thousands of students take part in student exchange programs each year, and just like you, many of them will have questions regarding some of the specifics involved once acceptance to the program has been granted and finalized.   To help answer some of these questions, below we have outlined some of the basics associated with student exchange programs, including what they are, how they work and a brief description of some of the potential accommodations while living in the host country.

Student Exchange Programs:  What They Are and How They Work

Student exchange programs, which are typically academically based, are programs in which high school and university students are given the opportunity to travel to a foreign country to study and live for a semester or full academic year.  The courses students study while living abroad are almost always part of their home school’s curriculum, and the instruction is provided by a teacher who speaks the student’s native language.  In most cases, students will receive credit for the coursework they complete while participating in student exchange programs—credit that will be applied towards either their high school diploma or university degree. 

The word “exchange” in student exchange programs is used because, typically, these types of programs are reciprocal.  In other words, let’s say an American student wanted to travel to Spain to study and live for a semester.  By applying for a student exchange program, not only can this dream be realized, but in “exchange,” a Spanish student at roughly the same academic level will be granted a similar opportunity to study and live in America for an equal amount of time.

Student exchange programs are a fantastic vehicle for learning how education systems work in other countries, but the learning experience to which you’ll be treated will not be limited to the classroom.  Most student exchange programs offer day trips and cultural excursions, giving you an once-in-a-lifetime chance to visit the country’s significant landmarks, dine on the local cuisine and experience firsthand the language of its people.  New friendships are inevitable when studying abroad, friends you will no doubt keep in touch with and cherish for many years to come.

Student Exchange Programs:  Accommodations

There are a number of residential options for students studying abroad.  For high school students, accommodations are typically provided by a host family—a family that volunteers their home and time to enhance the quality of the study-abroad experience.  Meals are also provided free of charge with this option, but perhaps the best part about staying with a host family is all the great information they provide for students—information regarding the customs, traditions and culture of the host country.

University students can also opt to reside with a host family, but they generally have many other residential options available to them as well.  On-campus housing, in residence halls or dormitories, allows students to enjoy the complete university experience.  The close proximity to classrooms and other university services, as well as the countless number of opportunities to forge new friendships, makes on-campus housing a very attractive option.

The final housing option for individuals in student exchange programs is to rent a flat or an apartment, either alone or with one or more friends.  This can be rather costly, but for motivated students seeking a measure of independence and freedom, the extra cost may be well worth it.

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