Would you let your responsible 17 year old son be a Foreign Exchange Student?


We met with the Rotary Club yesterday and are considering allowing our son to do this. It seems like a great program, and a wonderful opportunity.

He has to select 5 countries (out of a long list). The countries he’d like are: Japan, Brazil, Italy, Germany and Costa Rica - in that order. He would stay with 3 different families for 4 months each - in the same town, attending the same school. The host family supplies room & board - rotary club provides him with $75 spending money per month. We pay travel expenses. He agrees to speak at Rotary meetings in his host country as a good will ambassador and also speak about his experiences once he gets back home.

Just wondering what your thoughts are and if anyone did this as a teenager or hosted a student?


It sounds like a great opportunity for your son. I have heard great things about this program from my stepfather who was on Rotary Club for many years. I would definitely let my kids do it if they had the opportunity.

Here at the university where I work, I do a lot of the funding for the study abroad programs. Without exception the students that participate in these programs say that it was a life changing experience for them. I think gaining a global perspective is an invaluable experience.


While I don’t have any children, I did have friends who participated in the exchange program and loved it. Just make sure you thoroughly check out the host countries, the host program, and the host families if you can. Also, keep tabs on your son. While it’s recommended that you don’t contact him for the first week or two just to give him time to get settled in with his new family, make sure that after that you keep in contact via letters, emails, online chat sites, etc.


We hosted a boy from France after my first year of French class. Was a fun month! And in retrospect, I wish I had applied myself more in French and gone abroad for a month at some point. I think it would be a great experience for a high school teen. I didn’t go abroad, but spent a week in DC my junior year, in a program called Close-Up. Last day of the week, they gave us metro passes, enough to pretty much go from the hotel to the Smithsonian, said “be back at the hotel at 5pm”. So here I am, on my own, other side of the country from my family, and can go whereever in DC I want - I loved that day, if nothing else, for the independence and self-reliance. Imagining that in Europe for a month…wow, I think it’d be great!


My step sister and a couple of my friends were exchange students in high school. It was an awesome opportunity for them.

A few things you might want to go over with your child before they do it. They are going to be exposed to cultural differences that at times are going to be really hard for them. For example: The host family that my step sister lived with, they only showered once every 3 days (this was a wealthy family and the father was a Dr., he actually owned his own hospital, it was just their culture) They would wear their clothes many times prior to washing them also. This was difficult for my step sister to adjust to.

There are also potential danger depending on the country that your child goes to. I had a friend that was an exchange student in around 1989 or 90 that was in the Philippines. She was there for about 1 month when they had a Civil War and she was stuck there for a bit before they could get her out safely. Even with that, she VERY much enjoyed her experience!!!

The funniest thing is I had a friend that was an exchange student in Spain. For the first few months he was there he would speak English to the host family’s dog. He finally made a comment to his host family that their dog must not like him because he will not obey him (sit, fetch etc.) like the dog does for the family. His host father laughed and told him, “Yeah because our dog does not know English”

Everyone I know that has been an exchange student has LOVED it greatly even when there were “problems”. I would talk to as many people as you can that have been exchange students, especially in the countries that your son hopes to go to. And tell him just to be easy going.

FYI - all of them also did their exchange through Rotary International


A responsible child that I know I can trust… I would not want to deprive them of the experience.

Heck, I am working on sending my 10 year old to Washington DC all by herself for a WEEK this fall! My mother is horrified that I would even consider it. I am afraid of some things too… but we can’t live our lives holed up trying to stay safe and never really living! As my DH would say, if it’s your time, it’s your time, and ain’t nuthin’ you can do about it if it is. And if it’s not your time, then it’s not your time! He is morally offended at the idea of depriving ourselves of living a full life in the name of safety. He adores that Ben Franklin quote, " Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." (from WikiQuote) And as much of a worry wart as I am about my babies, I have to agree with him. What kind of life will I give my children if I am so busy keeping them “safe” that I let them have no experiences?

My 10 year old is very responsible and trustworthy, and she will also be in an environment that will give her little opportunity to get in trouble. At her age, that is important. A 17 year old, on the threshhold of adulthood, who is responsible and trustworthy? Let them go… if you don’t they may regret the lost opportunity and blame you for it. And if they are responsible, they have earned it, haven’t they?


duskyjewel, I share your attitude. If I haven’t impressed upon my child what’s right and wrong by the time he’s 17 - I haven’t done my job! I think in one short year he will be an adult and need to make his own choices.

Also - regarding safety, every single day I send him out the door might be the last time I see him. I hate to think like that - but I could say “no” to a foreign country, and then he could get killed coming home from school. Sadly, it happens.

So I think life is for the living - and while he’s young, not married, NOW is the time for an adventure like this! :thumbsup:

Thanks for everyone’s opinions… keep 'em coming!


Absolutely! IMO, travel matures kids in a way nothing else can.

Go for it!


We would not have hesitated if either of our two sons had been given the opportunity. Those kids will remember their experiences all the days of their lives.


I would let my child go if they wanted to.

My sister-in-law went to Japan for a semester and LOVED it. She still talks about it and it’s been 18 years!


I did both. I was an AFS exchange student to Italy when I was 16. It was the most enriching and memorable experience of my youth. When I was a junior in HS my family also hosted a rotary exchange student from Zimbabwe. Same set-up as what you are talking about 4 families (one of which was mine), 3 months each, same town, same school.

All of it was wonderful. I’d highly recommend it. However, I undertand it’s hard to let go of your child for something like this. I’m not sure, as a parent, if I’ll be able to! So, I would say, yes, let him; at the same time, not sure I could!



I have a friend who did this and loved it and still, over 30 years later is friends with the family that hosted her. They still visit one another on occasion.


I hear ya, Sue!! I was all for it in theory… not sure I’ll be so pumped when it’s time for him to go? :blush:


So good to know though that it was a positive experience for you.
I am having a much easier time imagining my son going, rather than one of my daughters. Isn’t that so sexist?


I would absolutely let him go - it might be the hardest thing you’ve done as a parent, but it will be so worth it for his education and emotional growth.

I had the opportunity to do a rotary exchange, and I can’t remember why I didn’t end up doing it - I still regret not going to this day. We hosted about ten different exchange students (not through Rotary, though) over the course of my high school and college years, and my parents continued hosting exchange students until my youngest sibling left home two years ago. It was a wonderful experience for us.

I don’t know about being an exchange student, but of my siblings who were at home during the host years, every one of us has lived abroad for at least two years, visiting our exchange students’ families and experiencing other cultures like they inspired us to do. If you end up being the host family in return, it will change your children’s lives. We all consider ourselves citizens of the world - we live anywhere, but are always happy to return home. It does make my parents a little lonely now that they have an empty nest and three of their four children regularly out of the country.

I’ve been in Korea for five years. My younger brother dated a German girl that he met in our exchange program. They broke up amicably, and her family invited him to live with them for a year as he was doing an apprenticeship. Then he lived for three months in Oman in the middle east as well. My sister also went to Germany, Italy, and Costa Rica, spending about two years in Germany, six months in Italy, and three in Costa Rica. Friends call us the “international family”. We all speak between two and four languages. We are all confident and react well to uncertainty. We have all had interesting opportunities in our lives, educations, and careers because of the international experiences we’ve had growing up and living overseas. I highly recommend it.


I know that here, the org works hard to place the exchange students with people of like faith. I’ve been hit up in the grocery store by a lady from the Parish asking if I would host a Catholic teen from Spain.

My stipulation would be a Catholic family, or at least a town where Mass is available.


I have heard of a Catholic exchange student being prevented by the families they were staying with from going to church. However, that was a German exchange student in America. Although, it’s probably not too common of a problem.


Someone voted that they hosted a student and hated it. I’d love to know why? (so as to tell my son what NOT to do)


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