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09/08/2019

how do i become a foreign exchange student?

QUESTION
how do i become a foreign exchange student?
i want to go somewhere that speaks english, and my grades are average, but where do i even start? help!

ANSWER
The two main English speaking options are Australia and New Zealand, but travel to those countries is expensive (more expensive than other countries), and visas are competitive. It’s common for Americans to want to study in an English speaking country because they are afraid of not speaking the language, but I cannot encourage you enough to take a risk and go to a proper foreign country with a different language. Most programs have no language pre-requisite.

You should start by looking into exchange agencies. They are the ones who facilitate your exchange, get your visa, and find you a host family abroad. I write a blog on exchange, and wrote a post about the top agencies: http://highschoolexchange.wordpress.com/2011/02/21/a-guide-to-exchange-organizations/. The only one on that list that does NOT send Americans abroad is EF Foundation. All the others do. Please note that none of them send Americans to the UK (I have a post about that, too).

If you’re serious about going, you would fill out an application, which is just like a college application. You answer short questions, talk about your hobbies, why you want to be an exchange student, write an essay, get letters of recommendation, and provide a copy of your academic transcripts. Most programs require at least a C average GPA. Then you have to go to an interview with the exchange organization. Many programs don’t guarantee what country you’ll go to, most notably Rotary and AFS (because if you are accepted, those programs cost less than most).

Good luck! I definitely recommend being an exchange student, but breaking out from your comfort zone is essential. Consider a non-English speaking country!