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Youth Exchange and Home Exchange

by John Mensinger on March 21, 2012

Youth exchange allows students to visit other countries and experience another family, language, and culture. Often these visits are reciprocal—you send your child to another family for a few weeks or months, and then they return your kid with one of their own. A leader is Rotary International, which has programs for an academic year or a few weeks. I was in charge of youth exchange for Rotary District 5220 and endorse these programs. My daughter completed youth exchanges with Japan, Mexico, and Spain, two via Rotary, one was a Sister City program.

There are connections between home exchange and youth exchange besides families that appreciate other countries and cultures. The agencies that invented home exchange, Homelink and Intervac, have youth exchange as one of their options. Home exchange vacations allow families to experience another culture and make friends. This can lead to youth exchange. We traded our son with house swap friends in Paris who had a daughter. A British home exchange family had a son who was especially sociable. He’s been back to see us and other friends in California twice. My son got even by spending a month with his family traveling in the UK.

Is it possible to go to a website and find a youth exchange, much as you would a home exchange? While Homelink and Intervac offer this service, their systems are not focused on the needs of youth exchange. For example at Homelink, less than 4% of their listings are for youth exchange. Two websites, Lingoo and Language for Exchange offer a marketplace for youth exchange. Their focus is on helping students learn other languages. They know the best way to learn a second language is by living in a family that speaks that language. Lingoo and Language for Exchange appear to be good websites, though they both suffer from the fact that demand for youth exchanges in English speaking countries is much greater than demand from English speaking countries.

My French partner at Home Exchange University, Didier Leclerc, is active in youth exchange with his own children. He and I have decided to set up a website to facilitate youth and student exchange. World Family Exchange is under construction; please help us improve by giving it a try.

 




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