Whether you’re aspiring to participate in a student exchange program for summer study abroad or to volunteer as a host family, it’s important to understand the who, how and when of these exchange programs.  Regardless if it’s a summer study abroad program or a standard study abroad program, generally student visas are not required.  Most programs will manage the details involved in handling the travel documents and student visas (if needed)


The Who on Student Exchange Programs

Besides the organization supporting the student exchange there are 3 other groups of people involved. The person who will be studying in another country is known as the foreign exchange student The people who will have the student living with them for the duration of the program are known as the host family. And last but not least, the person who will be coordinating the program from start to finish, also known as the student representative.

All high school student exchange programs represent a positive life altering experience for high school students between the ages of 15 – 18 as well as college age study abroad students. Based on the international student’s application and grades, the program will determine which grade to place the student.  (Most high school foreign exchange students will be placed as a junior in their new high school). A true desire to learn a new culture, language, customs and ways will help make the exchange a satisfying one.

While there are not any specific preconceived notions on the race, religion or personalities of the types of families who host a foreign exchange student, the most important step of any student exchange program is the ability to match an exchange student with the appropriate host family. A loving family that appreciates the possibilities of giving back, gaining personal growth and experiencing a rich life lesson will have the most rewarding encounter for them and their student.

Area Representatives worldwide act as a liaison between host families and foreign exchange students, a counselor if you will, helping to ensure the successful completion of a study abroad program. Some of their responsibilities include, seeking vacancies for foreign students in local high schools, recruiting and interviewing prospective host families, the orientation of both the  host family in preparation of the arriving student and the foreign exchange student on their arrival.  The best student reps are enthusiastic, patient and reliable.

The When on Study Abroad Programs

From summer study abroad program to student exchange program, the span of study varies from international student and program.  For instance one study abroad program may begin in August and last for the entire academic school year or 10 months.  As a result, the exchange student would not return from the study abroad program until June of the next year.  Alternatively, adolescents participating in a student exchange program in the Southern Hemisphere may start January for the 10-month study abroad program.

Other student exchange programs are based on semesters. In these exchange programs, students stay for five months.  A student could commence the study abroad program in August and return to their country in January – making their stay a five-month span.

A summer study abroad program will generally last about 3 months, although some may be as short as two weeks. (Keep in mind summer in the Southern Hemisphere, is from January to April and in the Northern Hemisphere June to September).

The How on Student Exchange Programs

The student will ultimately decide which type of program is best for them to enroll in, but before an exchange student can consider beginning a study abroad program experience, certain documents are needed to participate in the exchange program.  In America, most study abroad programs require the students to enter the United States on a J-1 exchange visitor visa as opposed to an actual student visa.  The form, known as the DS 2019 is secured and issued by participating programs – including and not limited to various summer study abroad programs and student exchange programs.