Before considering a school exchange abroad, you need to do a bit of soul searching to answer some essential questions described in more detail in Step 1:
- Do you speak the language well enough?
- Are you between 14 and 18?
- Do you think you can live away from home for several months?
By now, youâ€™ve discussed these with your family and are now researching your options. In this section we cover some key issues you should consider to help you choose and apply for a school exchange.
There is much to learn during a school year abroad, such as how to adapt to new situations, integrate into a new culture, learn a new language and discover a new perspective on life. However, this is not your school and so itâ€™s not business as usual in terms what courses are offered.
Use the following checklist to help you determine which type of program is right for you.
Research your destination
Choose your program, its length and the country you are going to visit!
If you want to learn Spanish, will you go to Spain or South America? Not only is the local culture completely different, but so is the natural environment and of course the accents. Learning Spanish in Spain could be compared to learning English in England, whereas Spanish in Argentina might be compared to English in Australia!
How long do you want to go for? Some schools offer short exchange periods for one term or one semester, while others only accept students for a whole year. If youâ€™ve never traveled without your family before, you may want to try a summer program first, such as a homestay, where you experience living with a family in a foreign culture and find out how well you cope away from family and friends for a few weeks.
Do you need to convalidate? This is a process where you translate the grades and credits you earned during your exchange with the host school, for credit in your high school back home. Convalidation requires that you submit official, signed and sealed school transcripts to receive a seal of validation (apostille) from identified agencies to certify your grades as authentic. You can then provide the grades to your high school for transfer credit.
Do you want to graduate abroad? Some schools offer this option if you are prepared to follow a two-year course of study, such as our A-level programs in England, or by taking 12th grade in the Nacel International School System (NISS), where you can graduate with the American high school diploma and advanced placement courses.
Once you have decided on a program, gather as much information as possible about the school system, courses, grade system etc. â€¦ With this information, you can create a simple report of your program abroad, with the classes you expect to take.
Ask your school
You will need your school’s support before the trip and after you return.
Your school counselor can help and advise you about your plan to study abroad. You need to prepare a clear and objective presentation of your study abroad program, to negotiate for transfer credits with your school. You can also speak with your language teacher and try to involve him/her in the procedure, especially if he/she encourages you to study abroad or has a good knowledge of the educational system abroad.
Remember that schoolâ€™s in most European and Latin American countries follow a fixed curriculum with mandatory subjects. You canâ€™t pick and choose the courses you take, and each country teaches literature, history and geography from its own perspective. Donâ€™t expect to read American literature in Chile!
Add it all up
Work on an overall budget for your trip abroad.
You will need to factor in the following costs:
- Cost of the program
- Medical insurance
- Return flights
- Trips and excursions
- Visa and immigrations requirements
- Pocket money
Apply to the program
Nacelâ€™s school exchange programs are selective.
Before you apply, we organize a phone interview to discuss the program with you and ask you a number of questions to determine whether you have thought through all the points discussed so far, in this article. We also ask to speak with your parents and even with your siblings, to help us understand if your family is ready to see you leave home for an extended period of time; to make sure they will help you through difficult times, while you are away from home, without giving in to the temptation of shipping you home at the first signs of homesickness!
You will then need to fill out the application form, get your school transcripts for the last three years and a recommendation from your language teacher. These will make up your application file that will be presented to your future school principal who has the last say in your grade placement. A good academic average will increase the likelihood that you will be placed in your corresponding grade. This in turn will make it easier to transfer the courses you take into matching credits in your home school.
Youâ€™ve been accepted on the program.
Now the real work begins. In the next article, read how to prepare for your upcoming trip and anticipate the inevitable challenges that you will confront during your time abroad.