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Thursday, September 18, 2008

When in Rome… The Pros & Cons of Being a Foreign Exchange Student  

August marked the 20th anniversary of my return from foreign assignment—to Argentina, that is, as a foreign exchange student. People often ask me: "If your child wanted to be a foreign-exchange student, would you let him?" Not knowing right off, I decided to make a pros and cons list from the views of a 17-year-old North American girl in Argentina.

PRO: Had my very first credit card. I bought, count them, 11 bathing suits. They were sooooo much cheaper than in the States. I was able to buy so many clothes with all the money I saved J.

CON: Lots of screaming from the padres, threatening to cut me off financially. These were during weekly $3-a-minute phone calls. Oh! The torture! Certainly, they had never experienced such heat and such savings.


PRO: Went on my very first girl's vacation.

CON: I planned it all myself without a travel agency and without knowing hardly any Spanish. Don't you just have to get on a bus and head in the general direction of the beach? Let's all say it together: "Glad you are still alive, Ms. Thinks-She's-Totally-Invincible!"


PRO: So many guys liked me! Wow! Who knew? I may as well have been Bella the way all the guys were trying to, well…

CON: Mom forgot to tell me about how the only movies South American teens saw—at least in those days—were about American ho bags. NICE!


PRO: I had hot, running water in my house.

CON: Twenty-five cockroaches accompanied me during my first shower. ewwwwwwwww! They still haunt my dreams to this day.


PRO: I lived on a turkey farm for a week in the middle of the Rain Forest. How is this a PRO, you ask. This short-lived experience helped me go undefeated many times during college at the game Three Truths and a Lie. People always thought this story was my lie.

CON: The Rotary Club in Argentina wasn't at all organized. They didn't have my host families lined up ahead of time, which they totally lied about. I was supposed to have stayed with the same family all year, which considering the cockroaches wasn't too much of a disappointment. But, a Turkey Farm in the middle of nowhere with no kids and really no one I could talk to or learn Spanish from? Are you kidding me? I would have died out there. Talk about bugs!


PRO: I learned about a truly phenomenal culture and met some dear friends.

CON: Seeing them again has proven much more difficult than I had thought. And, I miss them.

So, would I let my children go on a foreign exchange? What would you do?

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65 bits of juicy gossip: to “ When in Rome… The Pros & Cons of Being a Foreign Exchange Student

  • les_mason_curt
    September 18, 2008 at 5:14 AM  

    i might let him go not for sure though.... we will see if he is interested...

  • Stonefox (otherwise known as Heidi)
    September 18, 2008 at 5:54 AM  

    Lovin' the juicy stuff over here!

    I am actually hoping my kids can go on foreign exchange trips- to AMERICA! Ha!

    Seriously, I would let them go. But with lots of research to make sure things were as "safe" as possible.

  • Krystyn
    September 18, 2008 at 5:55 AM  

    What a cool idea. Sounds like you had a great time, and a not so great time. I'm sure the pros definitely outweighed the cons.

    I would probably let my kid go, but I don't know about Argentina.

  • ParentingPink
    September 18, 2008 at 6:18 AM  

    Wow! Who knew that those boys were watching movies of ho's???? Sounds a lot like America! LOL.

    I'm impressed that you were an exchange student. Very cool. But, bet you couldn't speak any of that Latin you learned there! LOL. I think that's one reason I took it in hs & college - I didn't have to speak it! Foreign languages were never my cup of tea (or beer for that matter!).

    I've tagged you for a short meme over on my blog. It's my first time with one of these things, so I hope it's not a pain for you do do. Optional, of course!

  • georgie
    September 18, 2008 at 6:39 AM  

    can anyone say 'TOURISTAS'? that movie scared the crap outta me!

    I am not sure if I would let my beans go-we live in such a different world it seems now...middle bean just came to me and asked if he could go floating down the river with the youth group...I said 'in no way shape or form' I almost drown when i was a toddler floating the river with my parents

    I would have died with the cockroaches

  • Linda S
    September 18, 2008 at 6:45 AM  

    I think I would have said yes, but now def not Argentina...

  • Jen E
    September 18, 2008 at 6:52 AM  

    I think that totally depends on the child, their temperament and their maturity - much like many other "what ifs" I guess. I'm tempted to say, yes I would - but you know it all depends...

  • Elizabeth
    September 18, 2008 at 6:59 AM  

    What a great experience. I love how the turkey farm becomes a pro! I don't know that I'd let my child, but my neighbors hosted a girl one year and it was really cool, so who knows what I'd actually decide.

  • Rachel
    September 18, 2008 at 7:03 AM  

    I lived/studied overseas for a while, too. Without a doubt, I would definitely let my child have the same experience. In fact, I'd encourage it!

  • Mandy
    September 18, 2008 at 7:22 AM  

    I don't know...there would be A LOT of praying. My mom let me go to Cancun with a friend for a week when I was 17, just the two of us, and I think back and think, "wow, can't believe she let two 17 y/o's go by themselves!!" (But I was a good girl, well mostly...:-)

  • Jen
    September 18, 2008 at 7:26 AM  

    that is some experience. I don't know if I would let my kids go. I guess if I had to answer right now, I would say maybe.

  • Rachel
    September 18, 2008 at 7:58 AM  

    Thank you for your comment on my blog. Can you tell me how you found my blog and where your from?


  • American in Norway
    September 18, 2008 at 8:08 AM  

    Yes yes yes.... I was an exchange student in Germany & it changed my life..... i was a german/poly Sci major in college.... Worked as a german translator for RCCL where I met my Norwegian husband... how I ended up in NORWAY... ... I met some of my dearest friends while studying abroad... I did it 2x's for a year each... LOVED it...
    My son wants to study in America... not really "foreign" but it is a start

  • laurwilk
    September 18, 2008 at 8:15 AM  

    Hi! I just found your blog from On The Flipside. I think our answers differed a bit! :)

    I think it's great that you went to Argentina and YES, I would definitely want my child to go. My family has hosted multiple foreign exchange students and I have been fortunate to travel all over as well. As long as you find a reputable program, I think it's a wonderful growing experience.

  • Tiffany
    September 18, 2008 at 8:20 AM  

    Cockroaches...EWWWWW. I would pass on sending my kid over there.

  • Amanda @ notsoextraordinary
    September 18, 2008 at 8:57 AM  

    after hearing that... probably not! but seriously, we all have done crazy things as teens... and to try and prevent our own from doing that... i don't know how to justify that. i guess it would really depend on the kid... or teen ha! i would have to think and pray long and hard!

  • Good N Crazy
    September 18, 2008 at 9:30 AM  

    I'd only let them go if I could go too!

    Seriously I'd like our whole family to live elsewhere, I so would.

  • anti-supermom
    September 18, 2008 at 10:15 AM  

    Man, this was so funny, but heck yes, I'd totally let them study aboard, it was one of the best things EVER-

    but I also have boys, way different.

  • Cant Hardly Wait
    September 18, 2008 at 10:21 AM  

    Yes, I would. Experiencing other cultures first hand, I think, is an important part of being an American. It helps people, especially teens, appriceate everything they have. It also helps them appriceate the world around them. I wanted to do what you did when you were in highschool, but we were lower middle class and never had the funds to do it.

  • Anonymous
    September 18, 2008 at 10:23 AM  


    our experience with a foreign exchange WAS.NOT.GOOD.

    it needs to be a "good match"....and it definitely is different for everyone.

    oh man.

  • Your sister Cari
    September 18, 2008 at 10:56 AM  

    Yes, I would definitely let my kids go, when they turn 30!! ;) (that's me winking)

  • Mamasphere
    September 18, 2008 at 11:34 AM  

    I wasn't an exchange student, but I left three days after highschool graduation to backpack around Italy by myself for seven weeks. I had a GREAT time, but looking back, I'm lucky to be alive! It'd be hard, especially with all of my crazy memories, but I think I'd let my daughter go.

  • Rhonda
    September 18, 2008 at 1:10 PM  

    Abso-friggin-lutely. I am someone who has been nowhere! I want my kids to experience all that they can. And, come on. They're daughters. Who wouldn't want to get off the roller coaster for a year? lol

  • Helene
    September 18, 2008 at 1:41 PM  

    Hmmmm, I'd definitely have to give it a lot of thought and do my research before I said yes on letting my kids go, esp in this day in age.

  • Pennies In My Pocket
    September 18, 2008 at 2:17 PM  

    Great post ... I would have bailed as soon as I saw the roaches. lol

    That's a hard question...I'd like to say that I would, but most likely my over-protective self wouldn't let her. LOL


  • Melanie
    September 18, 2008 at 2:44 PM  

    Right now I say yes...ask me next year, well even tomorrow..What a wonderful experience it sounds like you had..I would love my kids to have the same.

  • Mekhismom
    September 18, 2008 at 4:15 PM  

    I would. At that age I was very independent because I started traveling alone at an early age. I will do the same with my son and hopefully he will be mature enough to travel to a foreign country too!

  • angie
    September 18, 2008 at 5:26 PM  

    I did a 2 month exchange in Germany and it was one of the best experiences of my life. But, even having a list of cons I'd have a hard time letting my kids go b/c after all, they'll be living with someone else.....hum........

  • Elle
    September 18, 2008 at 5:37 PM  

    Oh how to decide - sounds like it is more pro than con - cute site and post!

  • Mikki
    September 18, 2008 at 9:05 PM  

    nope, nope, nope. Mostly because I would just miss them too much-totally selfish. I know.

  • jenjohn
    September 18, 2008 at 10:33 PM  

    Hola! I am the mother that incurred the equivalent of a small country's foreign debt to finance that wonderful year she is remembering. To answer the question: would I send my child on a foreign exchange - it depends. I can definitely say that what you don't know when you are a parent is maybe a good thing - especially about the trip to the beach. Some great things happened as a result of this wonderful year: she speaks spanish fluently and met Heather Clawson. I went to visit Jyl and Heather, Jyl and I took a boat across the Parana River into Paraguay, rode an un-airconditioned bus to Asuncion, flew to Bariloche (ski resort) and took boats and buses through the Andes to Santiago and then flew back to Argentina through the alps (not over them). What a great trip - just don't mention Fruit Loops to either Heather or me! I guess you just have to know your child before you send them off on an adventure like this!

  • Jenifer
    September 18, 2008 at 11:38 PM  

    I don't think I could do it, but my husband would encourage it for sure! Thanks for dropping by my blog, I always love seeing a new name in the comments!
    (The wind storms in Phoenix are so cool! We love them.)

  • Lindsay
    September 19, 2008 at 8:32 AM  

    I think I'd lean towards NO...especially at 17. Things are just so different now, it's scary. What an experience though!

    My SIL stayed in Romania for a few months a few years ago - but with a family they had connected with at church - that would be a good way to go abroad.

  • Jaime
    September 19, 2008 at 12:58 PM  

    Ooooh, that's tough. I don't know if I would or not? Let's start with missions and go from there...

  • TheCynicalOptimist
    September 19, 2008 at 1:56 PM  

    Well that explains why on my trip to Greece in college all of the men hounded me day and night... good to know... check one on the ol' "i knew that was too good to be true" list.

  • MoziEsmé
    September 19, 2008 at 3:47 PM  

    I hate the idea of it, but then I thought I was quite ready and determined to go to boarding school at the age of 12.

    I would probably not encourage my kid to go, but would probably support her in her endeavor if she chose that route - and give her lots of advice on MEN before she left!

  • A New England Life
    September 20, 2008 at 5:16 AM  

    What would I do?

    Well both of my girls have been asking to be Foreign Exchange students since one of their close friends family hosted a girl from France this past Summer. They absolutely fell in love with this sweet girl.

    I proceded to tell them, other countries aren't like America, and you never know what you will end up with. Chances are they will NOT live anything like they live now and I think they would both be very homesick. That said, it would depend upon the country and the program.

    Luckily for me they are both so busy all summer long that I doubt they would even have time. And even if they did push the subject, my husband would undoubtedly say No Way.

    Good for you in having the experience though! Definitely an experience that will stay with you forever ; )


  • Rebecca
    September 20, 2008 at 9:54 PM  

    HOOOT! The things we do in those invincible teen years!!!

    My 15 yo and I were just talking about that today...strange coincidence, if you believe in coincidence!

    Would I let her go to France to live for a year so she could learn French? Yes. But I get to pick the host family!!!

    Had to laugh at your mom's comment! She sounds just like my mom!

    Thanks for stopping by my blog (from Wordless Wednesday)! I'm glad we "met"! ;^)

  • Sandra Foyt
    September 23, 2008 at 1:28 PM  

    My daughter is already saying that she is moving out at 18. If she finds out that there is a way to go sooner, you can be she'll be on her way.

    Of course, if she goes, I'm going too!

  • Anonymous
    November 27, 2008 at 3:03 AM  

    i'm currently an exchange student in Romania, and i have to say that it is the BEST decision i have ever made. however, it's not for the faint of heart. i've had to make so many difficult decisions, deal with untrue gossip from my new "friends", and be responsible when all I really wanted was just to call my mom in america and say "MOMMY, BRING ME HOME!" but honestly, if your child is mature, then i say DEFINITELY go for it :D

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