Is the exchange student life for everyone?

There are some things a potential exchange student and her/his parents should think about before they try to embrace the exchange student life.


Before you leave home, the exchange organization and the exchange country expect you to have at least a C average. While staying in the host country you are expected to maintain a C average. If you drop below that, you risk being sent back home.

Rotary expect their potential candidates to have at least a B average before leaving home.


Traveling as an exchange student (with or without an exchange organization) is incredibly expensive (Rotary is an exception to this). How will you pay for the price the exchange organization demands, pocket money and insurance?

Most exchange organizations expect all payments by the time you leave home. If you travel outside of an exchange organization (where that is possible), you have to document enough money to carry you through the ten months you are staying in the host country.

Pocket money is supposed to cover special diets (vegetarian/vegan/etc), cell-phone, toiletries, eating out, activities with friends, public transportation and extra trips with the host family/exchange organization. Your host family is only supposed to cover housing and food served in the host home.

You should try to have an «emergency fund». This will go toward covering unexpected medical bills (insurance usually reimburses) and similar surprises.

Once you have made your monthly budget, do your very best to keep it. Your parents cannot be expected to bail you out if you overspend.

Physical health

Before you leave you will have to have a medical examination and answer (truthfully) a set of questions. You will have to ensure all necessary vaccinations are taken care of.

Some medical conditions are likely to become worse while you are an exchange student. Depression, eating disorders and PTSD are all examples of health problems I have seen students struggle more with. Exchange organizations are generally negative to sending students who struggle with these problems on to a host family. Their questionnaires include questions about such health problems. If you are caught lying, it is highly likely you will be returned home.

Diabetes: I have looked around the net for blogs that deal with this issue. From what I have seen, the exchange student has a short adjustment period. After that, they seem to do as well as any other exchange student.

Allergies: Even if you tell the exchange organization about your allergy, you may very well end up in a home with the things your are allergic to. I have certainly seen plenty of examples of that. How will you deal with such a situation?


Vegetarians and vegans generally have a harder time getting a host family than other exchange students. Will you be able to live with a family that eats meat and uses animal products?


Perhaps you end up with a family with a different religious belief than your own. As an exchange student you are expected to respect your host family’s beliefs and not criticize or make fun of them. BUT they are also supposed to respect your beliefs and not force you to do anything that goes against your values.  How will you deal with a situation where a conflict between your and their values arises?


Remember that the country you are traveling to is going to be different politically from your home country. Stay away from political arguments. Your system is not necessarily any better than theirs.

Generation gap

Different countries treat their youth in different ways. In some countries the gap between adults and teenager is not as pronounced as in others. If you come from a freer system, how will you deal with being looked upon as a child? If you come from a strict system, how will you deal with being expected to make your own decisions and having a lot of freedom?


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