What is a school exchange? It is the chance for students from different schools in different countries to visit another school and share their experiences. It provides an excellent opportunity to practice and learn a different language and to expose the student to a different culture and different style of education.
For the success of this programme it is necessary for the school to make contact with likeminded schools, single sex or mixed, religious or non-religious.
There are many attractions for both families and pupils of being involved in an international exchange, one of course being financial. Simply for the cost of a return flight a student can spend between four to six weeks in a school in Washington, USA or Ontario, Canada, for example.
It goes without saying that it is a serious commitment that both the family and school must make. As regards the school, a very serious selection takes place in selecting their students who will make the exchange. Students must write a personal statement explaining why they would like to make an exchange and what they hope to gain from it. References are required from the students´ teachers and tutors and they are submitted to a personal interview in the foreign language that they will be using on their exchange. For a perfect selection it is also of prime importance to know of any dietary requirements, disabilities, allergies that the student may have. It would be a mistake to match a student with a fear of dogs with a family who are dog owners! Furthermore, one has to take into consideration the accommodation that the family can provide for their host.
Once the list of exchange students is drawn up the two schools then communicate with each other in detail to make the perfect matches. The school informs the students and subsequently the parents come to a meeting at the school to meet each other and finalise details and requirements for the journey. Email addresses are shared and the two host families begin to get to know each other.
The advantages of the experience are hundred-fold! Friendships are formed, many that last a lifetime and go beyond the individual students but also long lasting relationships between the families develop too. The students learn about the history, geography and literature of their host country through attending the lessons and going on school and family excursions. They develop their communicative skills in the foreign language through being totally immersed throughout their stay. The student, who ideally is between the age of 13 to 16, develops and matures socially through the experience. They see different approaches to teaching, have different classroom experiences and begin to form their own judgement about different ways of life.
All in all an international exchange is very enriching for the school, the student and their family.
International exchange coordinator Colegio Orvalle 2014-2016