Last July my daughter and I were attending our local county fair when we ran into a friend of mine. In the conversation, we started talking about my friend’s daughter who was on a six-month high school exchange in New Zealand. She was attending school in New Zealand for the first six months of her senior year and then returning to graduate with her class.


As we walked away from the conversation, my daughter talked about how she would like to do the same type of exchange program for her senior year of high school. My response to her was “what can we do to make that happen?” The process began for my daughter with researching how to make a high school exchange a reality for her senior year.


Many other countries have exchange students attending local public high schools in the United States. In fact, our local school usually has one or two students every year. However, it’s more uncommon for a student from the United States to attend high school in another country during the school year.


As an advocate for my daughter, I guided her through the process of becoming a high school exchange student. Our first stop was to talk to my friend about her daughter’s high school exchange experience. We discovered many pros and cons of going out of the country during the senior year of high school.


My daughter’s next stop was the high school guidance counselor to see how she could meet graduation requirements while doing an exchange for six months. Academically, she only had 2 required classes and 2 electives needed to graduate. She created a plan with the guidance counselor as to how to meet those requirements and still go on the exchange.


Next was selecting the exchange program. She looked at websites, requested information and made calls to several programs before selecting the program that best fit her. My husband and I had agreed that a semester program would be the best fit since a semester would still allow our daughter to graduate from high school on time.


Negotiations with our daughter as to what we would pay for the exchange and what she needed to pay for the experience. This was a process much like many political proceedings and agreements. The agreement was reinforced several times when one unnamed party was not holding up her part of the agreement. “Feet were held to the fire” as the agreement and the plan were put in place to reach the monetary goal she needed for the exchange.


I find it hard to believe that in little over one month my daughter will be on a plane to Denmark to live with another family for the next six months. I know she will leave as one person and come home forever changed through the experience.


Many believe that learning can only happen through a prescribed process; however, I disagree. My daughter has already learned many skills through the planning process for her exchange. Learning can come in many forms. Widen your definition of learning and you might just be surprised where learning can occur.


Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Kathy Magnusson M.Ed.

Kathy Magnusson, M. Ed, support parents in creating educational options for their teen. She has been in the field of education for over 20 years and is passionate in engaging young adults in unleashing their unique brilliance. As an educator and coach, Kathy has supported parents in finding ways to help their teen feel more capable and confident. When she’s not chasing after her own four teens on a farm near Roseau, MN, you can find her serenely kayaking or relaxing with a good book at the family lake cabin in Ontario, Canada.

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