American high school students on French exchange

Why you’ll never regret organizing a school exchange

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Teacher’s Perspective: School Exchange

For Paul M., a French teacher from Medford, MA, a school exchange is more than just a field trip abroad.

“As a language teacher, it’s where the rubber meets the road to show my students why they need to learn this language and when they will use it,” Paul explains, “it makes it more real for them and inspires them to go further with the language and culture than we can in class.”

Paul´s school has a long-standing history of exchanges, having organized an exchange in France with the same school for the past 20 years.

Going beyond a simple tour

Paul believes that a reciprocal high school exchange can shape an adolescent youth’s world perspective at a formative age.

His students (and their families) host their exchange partners in the fall and then are invited into the homes of the French families in the spring. “You´re on the inside looking out,” Paul says, “rather than on the outside looking in,” giving students a chance to develop their cultural competency and explore their own cultural identity.

Many of Paul students keep in touch with their exchange partners long after the program and some have even gone back to visit them years later.”It’s where the rubber meets the road to show my students why they need to learn this language and when they will use it. It makes it more real for them and inspires them to go further with the language and culture than we can in class.”

Teaching valuable life lessons

American students often get caught up in the competitive U.S. academic culture with pressure to maintain GPAs and get into their top school.

For Paul’s students, living with a French family, attending school and socializing with their exchange partners exposes them to a different mentality and allows them to reflect on their own lifestyle.

One student shared with Paul how she learned through her exchange partner to live in the moment and not stress about the little things. “It’s life learning,” Paul says, “they figure things out by themselves and that´s what makes it valuable.”

Burst the High School Bubble

On an exchange, students learn how to function independently as they adapt to another culture and communicate daily in a different language. Realizing they can get by on their own in a foreign country prepares Paul´s students for college and career. In their post-trip survey, Paul says, his students often describe the exchange as “the best thing they´ve done in high school.” Last year, one of Paul´s students delivered a commencement speech about her exchange experience, stating it was one of the most memorable experiences of her high school career.

“The experience is special and unique for every kid.” Paul describes, “it gives them a friend in another place, it opens up their world to what´s going on outside the US, and it gives them that sense of independence that they are sometimes lacking in their high school bubble.”“The experience is special and unique for every kid.” Paul describes, “it gives them a friend in another place, it opens up their world to what´s going on outside the US, and it gives them that sense of independence that they are sometimes lacking in their high school bubble.”

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