Student exchange programs in high school.
Today, more than any other time in history, we are observing cultures come together in different ways. Due to technology and instant communication platforms, students have a stronger connection and understanding of the world around them. They can carry the world in their pocket, explore other countries, and talk to friends in real-time all around the globe.
Due to this unique exposure, Millennials and Generation Z have different views about the world they are growing up in—one that is quite different from any other generation in the history of the United States. And, as those views have changed, many young people have noticed there is a world outside of their own neighborhoods and backyards—a global connection to explore, learn, grow and build relationships.
History Of Student Exchange Programs
According to Christine Lin, CEO of Cambridge Network, “After the Second World War, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expanded efforts for students to study internationally to develop international understanding and trust between nations further.
In 1946, the United States established the Fulbright Program to improve intercultural relations and cultural diplomacy. The program has sent over 200,000 American students to over 150 countries. The number of international students studying in the U.S. has steadily increased since the 1940s.
Last year, the U.S. welcomed more than 32,000 secondary student exchange visitors in 2018. The number is much more significant, including college and university students. In all, the U.S. welcomed 1.09 million international students in 2018, according to the 2018 Open Door Report from The Power of International Education.”
Why Students Come To The States To Study
Whether young people want to experience a different way of living, learn a new culture, or immerse themselves in English, student exchange programs can provide these special experiences.
According to Study International News, sending your child abroad to study may seem like a scary prospect to many parents. The benefits of the experience, however, can largely outweigh the risks.
Study International News states some exciting benefits about exchange programs:
- Several universities and international schools today are emphasizing the importance of global exposure and international perspectives. When students are exposed to people from other cultures, they can also enrich their own perspectives. They can learn from those who have different points of view and ways of thinking. Also, they can develop tolerance and grasp an understanding of people who have different cultural outlooks.
Master The English Language
- The best way to master a language is to speak it with native speakers in an immersive situation for some time. For those in countries where English is not the first language, sending your children abroad to study in an English speaking country can be a great way to improve their English skills. As academics in the host country will also be in English medium instruction, they can also improve their writing and reading skills before their peers.
Build Self-Confidence And Get Ahead
- Living in another country can help build confidence, develop cultural sensitivity, and can also help students understand a wide range of life circumstances. When young people move away from their comfort zone, they can have the chance to adapt to new surroundings. Although it may be daunting at first, the experience can eventually help young people move from the social aspects of the English language to the academic one.
- It can take anywhere from one to three years to learn the social parts of the English language, and five to seven years to learn academic English.
- Going to school in a new environment can also help students learn differently as well. In Western countries like Australia and the U.S., students are encouraged to speak up in class, write creatively, solve problems, create presentations, and think critically. Sending teenagers from an Asian country where the school culture is quite different can help them develop essential skills at a faster rate.
Prepare For University Life
- When teenagers goes abroad to study, they will have to become more independent. Although they will be staying with a host family, they will be expected to clean up after themselves, do their homework, and keep up with their grades.
As more employers and universities look for those who have spent time abroad, the experience can also be appealing to colleges and potential employers.
The economic impact brought in from international students in the States cannot be under-valued. In many cases, entrance to high school education in the States can attract students to stay for higher education.
The sector contributed $42 billion to the U.S. economy in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce; this does not include the additional revenue from student spending for food and clothes.
The impact on the economy is powerful as host family stipends help to create additional income for American families. International students helped to create and sustain more than 455,000 jobs for Americans last year.
These students contribute to the growing and vibrant communities through the inclusion of different racial, national, economic, and religious perspectives. Thus, educators and domestic students can connect with a common mission of mutual understanding, maintain cultural interchange, and have equitable access to global educational opportunities.
There were 23,527 new secondary student exchange visitors in 2018, according to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, Office of Private Sector Exchange, and an estimated 25,000 international students attending U.S. high school in 2019 according to industry sources.
International students who study in the United States contribute to America’s scientific and technical research and can bring unique international perspectives into U.S. classrooms. In turn, this can help prepare their American counterparts for global careers.
What Parents Need to Know About Student Exchange Programs
Although there are various benefits in becoming an exchange student, there are no guarantees that an exchange program will always be the right fit for every student.
It is imperative that parents due their best to ensure they know everything about the agency they choose before they send their child away to a foreign country. When your child is hundreds of miles away, and you’ve put your trust into the hands of strangers in a foreign country, the outcomes can be risky. Although there have not been many issues in this industry, parents need to know their children are safe no matter where they choose to go as an exchange student.
The Student Exchange Process
The process for entering a student exchange program looks like this: An approved sponsoring organization in the States will place students. International exchange students must pay a sponsoring organization a fee for its placement and oversight services. The process begins in a student’s home country, where they sign up to come to the U.S. through their schools or independent organizations. The U.S. partner organization then reviews the application for admission.
According to Cambridge Network, with a base of 2,500-3,000 incoming students per year, by and large, said that the vast majority of experiences for students, schools, and host families are positive.
What To Look For In A Student Exchange Agency Coming To The States
There are many things parents and guardians should look for before signing on with an exchange agency to ensure the safety of their children.
To ensure the safety of students and to have the best fitting experience, CSIET, The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel evaluates and certifies long-term international student exchange programs at the secondary level.
CSIET accredits programs that meet the following criteria:
- Commitment to CSIET’s Standards of Excellence;
- Engagement in the development and sharing of Community Preferred Practices; and
- Advancement of the educational value of international student exchange.
Students can participate in U.S. exchange programs through two primary conduits: through “J-1” visas, designed primarily around the objectives of cultural exchange, and via “F-1” visas for academic programs.
For these programs, the exchange students’ families pay for the tuition costs.
They also pay for the home-stay expenses and agency fees for the organizations that facilitate their selection and placement matches into schools and homes.
CSIET has played an increasingly active role in recent years by establishing the standards and guiding the accreditation of F-1 secondary student recruitment efforts.
These efforts center on the areas of stewardship, transparency, engagement, and partnership. They recently announced new and higher standards for best practices for non-U.S. based F-1 international student recruitment agencies.
Chris Page, Executive Director of CSIET, stated, “Simply put, they deserve the best possible fit for enrollment in a U.S. secondary school.”
Also, schools should ask their recruitment and admission partner agencies if CSIET certifies them as compliant with the standards. This inquiry gives the organizations an extra layer of verification to prove their good standing to U.S. schools.
When Things Go Wrong
However, a recent problem in the industry sector, while highly rare in nature, has demonstrated how the extended network of those who work in international education are willing to band together to ensure every student and family experience is excellent.
In 2019, a smaller exchange agency notified their student families, host families, and high schools that the company could not pay their tuition fees.
Host families owed for the various amount of incoming students, all legal minors, who had already arrived within the U.S.
Recently, the company announced it had officially closed.
Agencies Come Together To Help
Many agencies in the sector responded with alarm, concerned foremost for the students and families affected. Also, they were profoundly worried about the damage a concerning situation of this magnitude could have for the U.S. international student exchange sector at large.
Unofficially, these agencies turned to Cambridge Network as one of the largest and longest-standing service providers for ideas on how to proceed.
Cambridge Network stepped in to protect the stranded students by covering their costs on their behalf for their first year of services and reached an agreement to make sure all students were taken care of in the best way.
People Make A Difference
In conclusion, given the many benefits of student exchange programs, parents from foreign countries must do their due diligence to ensure their children are safe, happy, and that the agency they work with is up to all standards, as noted above.
Cambridge Exchange manages more than 2,000 host family relationships with a record of 3.8 million incident-free days of service, and has been acknowledged by Boston Global Magazine as a top 100 woman-led company. They have been an Inc. 5,000 honoree for multiple consecutive years as well.
Christine Lin is the CEO of Cambridge Network since 2009, directing the exchange experience of 2,500 students and 240 high schools in 39 states. Under Lin’s leadership with COO Barbara Liang, Cambridge Network has been named one of the 100 most important Women Led Companies in Massachusetts by the Boston Globe for three consecutive years and has been named a finalist for 2019.