In my last blog I gave an overview of student foreign exchange programs. This time I wanted to look a little closer at some of the major programs. With something like sending a young person to a different country to live with strangers, it’s important to be thorough. I selected these three organizations based on their reputation in the field, but please verify all information for yourself before making a decision.
AFS Intercultural Programs – Tracing its origins to the American Field Service in 1941, what would become the AFS Exchange Program began in 1947. Since then, it has worked with over four hundred thousand students world wide. Today it continues with a high volume of students, in 2013 it projects to send almost thirteen thousand students abroad. It has an extensive network of schools that it works with, in fifty different countries, and over the years has accumulated a strong support staff.
ASSE International Student Exchange Programs – ASSE is an abbeviation for the American Scandinavian Student Exchange. It was started in 1938 by the Swedish government, and quickly expanded to also include Great Britain and France. In the 1970s, it became a non profit organization based in the United States, and expanded again, this time to include most of Europe and Asia, as well as Australia and Latin America. ASSE is one of the oldest, most respected student exchange organization in the world. It can send you almost anywhere in the world. And consult the web site to look into opportunities for grants to help you pay the tuition costs.
ISE International Student Exchange – This non profit program was started in 1982, which makes it a mere pup compared to ASSE and AFS, and yet it has quickly established a wide base across the country and world. Based out on New York state, ISE staffs over forty different regional offices in America, and works with a network of over one hundred foreign organizations in forty five countries. ISE has been designated as an official sponsor of the Exchange Visitor Program by the U.S. Department of State.
Host Family – All of these programs and their web sites offer opportunities for students to study abroad. But they are all also searching for safe, dependable homes to host visiting students in our country. If you or your family is not able to experience foreign cultures by travelling, perhaps you can learn about other cultures by inviting them into your home? For a school year, you will give room and board to a visiting student, help them acclimate to our country, and learn about their home country in the process. It’s not for every family – you need the space, and the right disposition. But speaking from experience (when I was a young boy a high school student from Japan stayed with us) it can be a rewarding time.