Exchange students for school – the good, the bad and the ugly!

Long time no blog…been very busy and no time to update everyone but the latest instalment is about our latest exchange with France at school. We had 15 students aged 12-13 over for the first time and naturally I thought what a great idea to take part. We had one boy stay for the week and by the sounds of it we were very lucky!  I put my own feelings together with the views of a couple of mums who took part in the program and this is their verdict.

Do you think taking part in an exchange program is a good thing at school age?

Yes wonderful idea as it helps your child learn their language and vice versa.  It also helps learn about different cultures.

Do you think age 12-13 is right or too young and if so what is the right age and why?

I think that 12 -13 years old is really too young. Although they may get the incentive to learn a new language and culture and stick with their English lessons they are really out for a free trip and some fun. Being in class for a couple of days is just a jolly as they don’t really want to learn anything, unlike the kids who go to the school on a daily basis (or atleast their parents).  Also they speak virtually no English which does not help and many had surprisingly never ever been away from home before, let alone on a plane abroad.  A few years older and the kids that did the exchange would probably be those that are really interested in learning languages, say S3 may be the best around 15 years old.

What was the best part of the exchange?

Meeting kids from another culture and seeing how our kids related to them and communicated with them and tried to look after or protect them. It was quite amusing to hear the franglais being spoken like “DOOOO YOOUUU WAAANT TOOOO PLAAAAAAY FOOOT BAAAALLL?” in a french sort of accent with amuzing hand signals and a ball!  Also getting to know the child that stayed with us to the extent that we miss him already even after one week…maybe should adopt an extra 12 year old. AND none of our kids fought with the extra visitor in the house!

What was the worse part of the exchange?

For some it was not being able to feed them.  Some families gave 3 meals some nights in an attempt to find something their french child would eat whilst on our side we fed them everything from haggis to roast beef and he tried and completely ate everything. It was evident that the foreign view of french children eating everything that is served to them is not entirely true these days with some just wanting pizza, hamburgers and coke or nothing at all.  Also we ended up with our kid with broken ribs after being pushed over in an attempt to get first to the football!

What was the funniest part?

Seeing the french reputation as lovers is really true –  a 12 year old the size of a 5 year old smooching a 12 year old girl twice his height reminds one of the film “A little romance” with Laurence Olivier!  To see the look on the Scottish kids faces was a scream and comments like “Real smooching mum! Real kissing!”

Seeing the French kids all being dragged away from the gambling machines at the bowling alley!

Watching the Scottish girls making a play for the French boys, who were not the least bit interested only being here for a week, with their own girlfriends anyway, and being more interested in “skinning” the Scottish at football.  I have to say they managed that admirably too.

Do you think you will keep in touch?

Hard to say really.   Would be nice if the kids did anyway. We would like to but some of the French kids have no home phone line in the house or broadband in their home so keeping in touch is really back to the old pen and paper. It will be interesting to see if we get a thank you letter or not as a week has gone by so far with no contact.  Also although some of the Scottish parents spoke some French which helped a lot of the French parents speak no English so are probably wary of phoning to thank anyone in case they cannot communicate.

How do you feel about your child going to France to stay with the other family next year?

Still quite nervous about that as we have no contact with the parents and some of the kids here were pleasant but a bit wilder than ours in general.  Time will tell.

Would you take part in an exchange scheme again?

Perhaps but would be more wary of how the child was matched to our child prior to the exchange.

Did you and the family enjoy the experience?

Mostly the parents and kids said YES.

2 thoughts on “Exchange students for school – the good, the bad and the ugly!

  1. My twelve year old girl is going on a French exchange with school next week for 8 days to a family who seem to speak no English and my daughter’s French is pretty limited. Am I right to be worried?!

    1. A little. However if she is going with the school she will be with a group of English speaking kids some of the time (atleast half you would hope) so she should manage. We will be facing the same dilemma as our son is due to go back next April. I do hope it will be fine as he is excited about it anyway. I must say though that having had no thank you or feedback from the other family since the student’s return home has not been encouraging for us at all. Perhaps a note is winging it’s way to us via the school but as yet not a peep despite everything we did at this end. We just hope he will be treated in just as nice a way over there. She will hopefully learn sign language well if nothing else! What we found here is all the kids visiting us had mobile phones and were all texting and phoning their parents daily, and each other. That really helped them from their side of the exchange. So my advice, send her with a mobile phone activated ready to get in touch with the UK and update you. I would hope your child’s school would atleast allow that. Good luck and let us know how it goes!

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