This article is intended to help you understand the different forms of youth exchange, so you can decide which form meets your specific needs and requirements best.
Youth exchange has been around since almost a century. Originally membership clubs, or so called service clubs, like Rotary International and the Lions Club, sent young people around the globe to experience new cultures. Over time colleges, universities and public institutions started offering organized student exchanges.
Typically, groups of students were offered the possibility of spending a semester or entire year in another country. Generally, these exchange participants live with multiple host families. During their exchange, they are expected to perform daily tasks within the household as well as attend school or college in the host country.
Over the last few decades short term exchanges have become popular. These typically involve direct youth exchanges between families, which most often coincide with major school holiday periods.
Nowadays many different forms of youth exchange exist. Here are some of the most common forms:
Organized Group Exchange vs. Individual Exchange
Organized Group Exchange
Many different exchange programs exist which offer individual kids or students the possibility to join an organized group exchange. The size of the group can vary anywhere from half a dozen to a few dozen kids. Normally, the participant will be hosted individually (or sometimes in pairs) at host families. In some cases the participant can also be offered alternative accommodations (see below). This often changes the nature of the experience, though, into more of a cultural group travel with organized excursions.
Youth exchanges can be organized in an individual way. This offers more freedom of choice in duration, destination, specific living environment, amenities, etc. An individual exchange can easily be done in the form of a foreign homestay. All over the world family homestays are offered. There are good websites dedicated at offering homestays around the world, ranging from free to (semi) commercial. (Read more about homestays below.) In all cases, please do make sure that you understand the conditions and expectations.
We recommend seriously considering combining an individual exchange with a reciprocal homestay (see below). The fact that there are no financial interests involved, and the mere awareness that the host family’s child will also be staying at your place in return, will often make a huge difference in the efforts, dedication and involvement shown by the host family – making the experience more pleasant and authentic.
Commercial Exchange vs. Non-Commercial Exchange
There are plenty of commercial and semi-commercial programs out there. Program fees vary from hundreds to thousands of US dollars or Euros (excluding flights and daily expenses), depending on the destination, duration and the agency. Mostly these programs are privately managed and run outside of the education enterprise. If you are considering a youth exchange organized by a (semi) commercial agency, make sure you research the exchange program, the conditions, and you check out reviews of previous exchange participants.
There are also plenty of exchange programs offered by not-for-profit service clubs, private membership organisations and educational institutions. Also YouthExchange.club offers the possibility to arrange a youth exchange in a reciprocal way; without any financial compensation or incentives for the host families involved. You simply take good care of each other’s children and offer them the best possible experience abroad!
Reciprocal vs. Non-Reciprocal Exchange
A reciprocal exchange simply means that there is a two-way exchange. This can mean, for instance, that John will stay in Adam’s house in Cape Town, South Africa, for a while – while Adam will also be staying at John’s place in Ottawa, Canada. A reciprocal exchange can be either simultaneous as well as non-simultaneous (see below).
A non-reciprocal exchange means that there is not really an exchange of kids. Such an exchange is, essentially, only one-way.
Simultaneous vs. Non- Simultaneous Exchange
A simultaneous exchange is a form of reciprocal exchange, which involves a synchronous swap of two exchange youths. So following our earlier example: John will be staying one month with Adam’s family in Cape Town, South Africa. In the meantime, Adam will be hosted by John’s family in Ottawa, Canada.
As opposed to a simultaneous exchange one can also choose to organize the exchange in a sequentially manner. In this case, John would be coming over to stay with Adam and his family for a certain period in Cape Town, South Africa. Later on, Adam would be coming over to Ottawa, Canada, where it is John’s turn to show Adam what his life is like with his family.
Homestay vs. Alternative Accommodations
Homestay is a popular form of accommodation whereby a visitor stays in the house or apartment of a local family. The length of stay can vary from as short as one night up to several months, or even an entire year. Host families’ motives vary from merely looking for ways to provide cultural exchange opportunities for their own children abroad – and foreign children in their respective countries, to ways to earn a supplementary income. Consequently, homestay conditions vary greatly. A family homestay can be for free, but can also be offered in exchange for monetary compensation, in exchange for help on the host’s property, or in exchange for a stay at the guest’s property either simultaneously or at another time.
Generally, a family homestay is an excellent way to immerse yourself in a particular culture, become familiar with the local lifestyle and improve language skills. In case of youth exchange, host families often play a pseudo-parental role, giving advice and supervising students’ activities. Host families can also act as cross-cultural advisers, helping the students understand and adjust to their new culture.
In many places all around the world you will able to find families offering a homestay. There are several good homestay network sites dedicated at offering anything from free to (semi)commercial homestays, such as homestay.com and homestayfinder.com. Should you choose for a homestay with some form of (monetary) compensation, we do advice you to formalize the terms and conditions – especially in the case of a longer stay – e.g., in the form of a homestay contract.
Needless to say, the alternative ways to arrange your accommodations during an exchange are countless, ranging from hotels, youth hostels, guest houses, dorm rooms and other student housing. Make sure you think your personal requirements through thoroughly and just choose the way which fits you best.
Youth Exchange Club
YouthExchange.club™ brings a major innovation to the youth exchange concept. We offer the first online community exclusively dedicated to a fully reciprocal homestay exchange. Being a community, makes it easy for our members to exchange with similar people around the globe. We provide you with an online platform where you can easily arrange your own homestay exchange with like-minded exchange families, without dependence on a service club or (semi) commercial exchange agency. This offers youths a chance to live and breathe the local culture, to make friends as well as memories and to explore cultures in the most authentic way.
Exchanges organized through YouthExchange.club are always non-commercial and reciprocal homestay exchanges. These exchanges can be either simultaneous or non-simultaneous. It simply depends on what you’re looking for and what you and your exchange host agree upon. Finally, nothing stands in the way of organizing an exchange for a couple or a small group of kids (say, for instance, a couple of brothers & sisters, or several friends), but obviously most exchanges organized through our site tend to be individual.