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What is an Exchange Student?

By J. Beam
Updated May 23, 2024
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An exchange student is a high school or secondary education student who relocates to another geographic area to attend school for a predetermined length of time. Typically, the exchange student relocates from one country to experience the culture of another country. The arrangements are made by organizations who coordinate exchange programs for all parts of the world.

In most cases, an exchange student is placed in a home with the family of a student who has already participated in the exchange program or who will be participating at the same time. The families the student stays with are called host families. The host family has certain responsibilities under the contract of the program, and the organization who places the student is required to be in communication with the family and student during their visit.

An exchange student has the opportunity to explore different cultures and education systems while visiting his or her chosen destination. Many students choose to visit the native country of a language they are learning, while others choose to visit a country whose economics or culture they want to learn more about. The duration of an exchange may last six weeks or one year, depending on the program and what experience the student and his or her family are looking for.

Many aspects of an exchange student’s visit are handled by the organization he or she has chosen to use, including temporary enrollment in a host school, living arrangements with the host family, and means and frequency of communication with home. The family who hosts the student should be thoroughly prepared for the student’s visit. They are responsible for the student's living arrangements and must adhere to the guidelines set forth by the exchange program.

If your child wants to be an exchange student during his or her academic career, it is wise to thoroughly investigate any program before you enroll. Many high schools have certain organizations they work with exclusively and can refer you to the necessary point of contact. It may not be absolutely necessary to host a student for your own child to participate, but is generally recommended and may be required for participation in some programs.

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Discussion Comments

By anon116 — On Apr 15, 2007

it's also smart to make sure that the exchange program is conducted in compliance with the home school's academic requirements, otherwise, the units or credits taken at the exchange school may not count towards the exchange student's degree. for example, some home schools will not recognize units at certain schools, or some home schools do not allow the last semester of a student's college or university degree to be taken abroad. this can set the student back in his or her anticipated graduation date! definitely check your school's rules before you go!

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