Why Should You Go On An Exchange Year?


Elea Gasmi

Italian exchange student Sara Ciceri and Brazilian exchange student Betina Averbuch arrived to Fort Collins in January, for the second semester of the school year.

Elea Gasmi, Writer

An exchange student is a high school student who decides to live and study abroad in a host country, usually for a period of either a semester or a year. Exchange students usually live with a host family and attend classes at a local high school. An exchange year allows students to discover and experience a different culture up close. It is a great opportunity for students to learn the country’s language and meet people from all over the world. 

An exchange year has many benefits for students who decide to experience it; the most popular one probably being learning the host country’s language. A complete immersion in a new country is the best way to become fluent. That way, students get to hear slang and idiomatic expressions used by native speakers in everyday life that they don’t usually learn about in language classes at school. Living in a host family helps with learning the language as well, as students will have to communicate with them in everyday life. 

An exchange year allows students to travel and meet people from around the world. They get to share their experience with native people from their host country, as well as other exchange students. Host families and exchange students share a lot together. They learn a lot from one another’s cultures, and at the end of the year, a host family can even become like a second family for the student. Many exchange students assure that the people they meet and the memories they make during their exchange year will stay with them for a lifetime. 

“I really liked football season because everyone is cheering for our school. I love how important school spirit is here. Homecoming, trips with my host family, school assemblies, and New Year’s with my friends are all memories I know I will remember forever,” Belgian exchange student Elise Corman said when asked about her favorite memories of her exchange year. 

Even if an exchange year can create many lifelong memories and relationships, finding yourself alone in a foreign country also comes with difficulties. Homesickness, the language barrier, social and cultural differences, or having a hard time fitting in and meeting new people are all problems that exchange students will eventually have to deal with throughout their experience. Having to face these problems alone and having to figure out solutions on your own helps improve confidence, open-mindedness, maturity, and independence, which are all important character traits to develop as teenagers. It prepares students well for challenges they will eventually have to face in their lives. 

“Apart from the language, I learned to develop my social skills, to solve problems by myself, to not judge people who are different from me, and to be more open-minded and independent,” Spanish exchange student Sara Miranda-Ramos said when asked about what she learned during her exchange year. 

If I were to go on an exchange year, it would be to experience different cultures than my own, and to see another way of life

— Hope Harris, sophomore

An exchange year offers many opportunities for college applications and resumes, such as obtaining another country’s high school diploma. As students get to attend classes at a local high school, they might also discover a new way of learning, and a new career path that they are interested in. 

An exchange year is a great way to experience another country’s culture and traditions. As the student lives with a host family and attends a local high school, they get to experience in the field a different way of life, diet, or school system in a way that they probably wouldn’t have experienced if they simply visited the country as tourists. 

Even though it is a great opportunity for students to learn more about a culture they’re interested in, an exchange year requires students to get out of their comfort zone, which can seem scary for many. Living with a host family, speaking a foreign language with native speakers, living away from relatives and family for a year, and having to adapt to a different way of living and thinking are all good examples of what students will have to go through if they choose to go on an exchange year. 

“I’d be interested in discovering another country and culture, but moving away from my family and my friends for a whole year is a big commitment, and it’s scary. An exchange year is also expensive, and I can’t afford it,” sophomore Rylan Nicholson answered when asked if she wants to go on an exchange year. 

Depending on the organization and the type of exchange that students decide to do, the price of an exchange year can vary from $10,000 to $30,000, which is not affordable for many families. Several organizations offer scholarships for students with high academic records, as well as for families with lower incomes.

An exchange year is a great opportunity for students to experience a new life outside of what they know and to grow in many aspects of their lives. Improving communication skills, confidence, and independence, as well as getting to experience a different culture up-close allows students to grow and stay open-minded.

Experiences such as exchange years remind us that we should always stay accepting of people who are different from us, and that it is always important to say “yes” to new experiences.