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Frequently asked questions about student exchanges - and our answers

A student exchange is a very formative experience. We have put together the most important questions and answers for your exchange year here.

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What does a student exchange actually mean?

During a school exchange, you spend a school year, half year or three months in another country. You go to school there and live with a host family. You will get to know everyday life in another country, learn a new language on the side and make many international friendships that often last a lifetime.

Student exchange during school or after school?

"You still have so much time, you are so young, first finish school ..." Perhaps you have often heard or had these thoughts yourself and are therefore unsure whether an exchange during school time is the right thing to do. We are convinced: Taking part in a student exchange while you are at school is the best thing you can do. You can get involved in other cultures and a different family much better than later, precisely because you are still young.

Will an exchange student come to see me?

Your family in Germany is not obliged to accept an exchange student at home - but many families do it anyway. Some want to know what it is like for their own child to live with a host family. Other families take in simply because they have a free room at home while their own child is abroad - or because it would otherwise be so quiet at home.

Becoming a host family is just as exciting and enriching as going abroad yourself. Show your parents our testimonials from host families.

What is the right age for a student exchange?

If you are between 14 and 18 years old, then you are exactly the right age for a student exchange. Some student exchange organizations offer programs for young people at the age of 14, while others start at the age of 15.

Why should I do a student exchange?

A student exchange is an unforgettable experience for a lifetime! You will get to know everyday life and school in another country, make lifelong friendships and learn a new language on the side. An exchange experience is very enriching for your future. You will develop personally and get a new perspective on your life in Germany. Here you will find everything you need to know if you want to become an exchange student.

How do I choose the right country for my year abroad? Which country should i choose?

There are student exchange programs in over 50 exciting countries - here you will find an overview of all exchange countries for your student exchange. When choosing “their” exchange country, many young people first think of the language and feel more comfortable when they can already speak it very well. Or maybe you have the courage to learn a whole new language? At your age, this often happens quickly and almost on the side.

A student exchange also offers you much more than just learning a new language or perfecting a language you already know. You develop your personality further, see the world with different eyes, learn to face new challenges and to master them. How about a country like Japan, Norway or Ecuador? Just browse through our program finder and discover your dreamland.

What are the most popular countries for a student exchange?

According to the Weltweiser study, the following countries were most popular for school exchanges in the 2017/18 school year: USA, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain, Ireland, Australia, France, Spain, Costa Rica and South Africa.

Although the numbers have decreased in recent years, the United States of America (USA) is still the leading destination for exchange students. There are increasing trends for countries such as Canada, Ireland, Spain, England, Japan, New Zealand, France and China.

Do I have to be able to speak the national language before leaving for the student exchange?

For the non-English-speaking countries, it is only necessary for a few exchange programs that you have prior knowledge of the national language when you apply for it. However, it is in your own interest and is expected of you to start learning the national language as soon as you are accepted into an exchange program. This makes it much easier for you to settle in in the host country and you can make contact more quickly.

The English language skills of young people who come from the German school system are almost always sufficient to be able to take part in an exchange program. In the United States, most schools require all exchange students to take a language test. Even as an average student you can pass this without any problems - so don't worry.

What happens if I don't like my host family or school or if I have problems as an exchange student?

A student exchange is a big challenge because you are in a completely different environment for a long time and you will experience ups and downs. Informative and good preparation in terms of content will help you to adapt faster and with the necessary openness to unfamiliar situations in the host country. Good on-site support is also important because you can always turn to someone who will support you and help you solve problems.

The points of preparation and support should therefore play an important role when choosing your organization. If you find it difficult to settle in with your host family and your school, then you are not alone and can turn to experienced staff on site.

If the chemistry between you and your host family is simply not right, or if other major conflicts arise that cannot be resolved through conversation and compromises, you have the option of changing families with the help of your supervisor.

Do I have to repeat a class in Germany if I go abroad, or can I get credit for the exchange year at home?

The answer to this question depends on when you want to go abroad during your school days. If you spend the 10th year of school in 12 years of a high school diploma or the 11th year of school in 13 years of a high school diploma, recognition is possible according to the decision of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. We recommend speaking to your school management before you apply.

You can find more information in the AJA's information leaflets on the guidelines of the federal states for the recognition of a year abroad.

How can I get a scholarship or other financial support for my student exchange?

Many exchange organizations, associations, foundations or companies offer scholarships for student exchanges. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research also supports student exchanges through international student BAföG, a state grant that does not have to be repaid. Here you can find an article on the different financing options.

How much pocket money do I need as an exchange student?

Most organizations give pocket money recommendations that are around 200 euros per month - roughly the child benefit your parents get for you. However, the amount can vary depending on the country. The pocket money is there to cover a lot of things that are often taken over by your parents in Germany: From shower gel and school materials to birthday gifts for friends or the joint meeting in the evening, you will have some expenses.

The amount you spend will also depend on how you spend your free time, whether you have expensive hobbies and how often you do something. You will need more in the first and last month than in the rest of the time. For the first time in your life, you will be solely responsible for your expenses and you will learn a lot in the process.

What requirements do I have to meet for a student exchange?

Above all, you should bring your own motivation for a student exchange. You yourself have to feel like this adventure and this challenge, not your parents. Without the support of your parents, this project is not possible either.

You should also be ready to adapt to other circumstances. Maybe you have several host siblings or a dog in exchange - maybe you live closer or further away from school than you do now. Much will be different from your family at home. You will miss some things, but you will also learn to see and appreciate many things with different eyes.

Your host family and your school also have expectations of you: meet them with open-mindedness and respect. Above all, be curious about a different way of life and look forward to many new experiences!

Until when can / must I apply for the student exchange?

A good time to apply for a student exchange is after last year's summer vacation. The application deadlines vary depending on the program country. Normally you should have registered at least four to six months before the desired program start. In some countries, later registrations can still be accepted on request.

The earlier you apply, the longer the preparation time. And that makes sense, because your exchange organization needs time to be able to place you in a host family and in a school.

How can I imagine my future host family?

Host families are as diverse as the host country itself. Your host family will therefore not necessarily correspond to the traditional family picture with father, mother and child, but single or single host mothers or fathers and same-sex couples with or without children can also be your host family. Some host families told us about their experiences.

When will I receive information about my host family on a student exchange?

Finding a suitable host family is often very time-consuming: the partner organization abroad wants to make sure that you are well accommodated and takes a close look at the host family. Conversely, the family would also like to find out more about you and their obligations in the student exchange beforehand.

It is therefore possible that you will only find out the name of your host family shortly before departure. Often there is also a bit of luck, whether it goes very quickly for you or a host family address is only determined after a few months. The timing of the placement does not say anything about how well you go together.

Can I choose a host family as an exchange student?

Usually there is a mediation - and the family is then determined. The partner organization has made sure in advance that the family is able to take you in like another family member.

However, some organizations also offer the option of living with a host family of your own choosing, for example with friends of your parents. This is more common in the United States in particular.

Is it possible to change the host family?

It can always happen that it does not fit between you and the host family - even if your contact person on site will always try to ensure that living together is possible in the long term before suggesting a change. A change of host family is basically always possible, but first of all you expect everyone involved to bring up what is not going as you expected and try to find a solution.

Which school class will I attend as an exchange student?

The school in the host country decides which school class you will be placed in. It usually takes your age, your grade level in Germany and your language skills into account. Some subjects may be harder for you than at home, others easier.

Can I choose my school subjects?

The choice of subjects is very different depending on the host country. Because the school system is a little different in every country. It is recommended and also sensible to take the national language and also the subject of history. This way you automatically get to know your host country and its language better.

Mathematics is also a subject that should be studied further during the exchange year. In addition, every country offers school subjects that cannot be found in the curriculum in Germany. That's what makes going to school abroad so exciting! You can find more information on the school systems in our information on the respective exchange countries.

Who is my contact person for the school exchange on site?

During your exchange, it is important that you have someone to turn to if you have any questions, worries, fears, or if you are homesick. Even if you think you don't need to, it is important to know that there is someone you can speak to at any time.

Your exchange organization in Germany works with a partner organization in your exchange country. They will not only give you your host family address before you leave, but also the contact details of your supervisor, who will be at your side on site. She often organizes meetings during the exchange period, where you can get to know other exchange students and their host families.

Can my parents visit me during my year abroad?

We advise against visiting families during the exchange program, as this makes it difficult to get used to and experience a foreign culture. Some exchange students are instead planning a trip with their parents at the end of the exchange year, for example.

Can I register for a student exchange with my girlfriend?

An exchange year is an individual experience for every young person. You become part of a host family that takes you in as a full family member. You will make many new friends at your school and get to know a whole new world overall. These are experiences that you should discover and experience for yourself.

In principle, however, it is possible that you and your girlfriend register for an exchange year with the same organization. Experiencing the preparation together may even be helpful for both of you. At the beginning of the exchange year, your experiences will certainly be very different, because every student exchange is just as individual as the young person and the host family who experience it together.

Can I speak to someone who has been to my exchange country beforehand?

We would even recommend that to you. Our testimonials from former exchange students about their student exchange give you a good impression of the experiences of other young people. The evaluations of the individual programs by former participants will certainly help you further. If you don't personally know anyone at your school whom you can pester with questions, then your exchange organization will be happy to help you with contacts.

Are you interested in the student exchange?