Travelling abroad broadens their horizons and let’s them see there’s a whole other world beyond what they are used to. It’s also a lesson in humility. But up until now, only a privileged few were afforded this opportunity.
There are various ways to tap into a number of these programmes. Here are a few suggestions on how to get started.
From ages: 14-18
The independent institution has a number of offerings, including volunteering and gap-year opportunities.
Their high school intensive programme takes pupils as far afield as Australia, Brazil and even Bolivia.
“Students tend to favour the two-month programme during the December period so that they don’t miss too much of school,” says Claudia Organ, AFS programmes manager.
She finds destinations such as Germany, France, Italy and Turkey are a favourite among the kids. Once they are settled with a host family and integrated into the school, they are placed in a class that is the equivalent to their grade back home.
Organ adds that the programmes range from two to 10 months, but does recommend them to do an online language course if visiting a country that doesn’t speak English.
“The perks of the programme is to get to learn a new language, but it does take an adjustment period,” she adds. “They also have a contact person to help with any adjustment issues - because they are in a new country, it can be hard sometimes.”
In this case, AFS has an emergency service that is manned round-the-clock in all their destinations.
Student programmes range in price, depending on the destination and the duration. A high school intensive programme in France between one and three months will cost R50000, whereas a year in Australia will set one back R150000.
The cost covers everything from airfare, host family placement, visa applications to medical insurance.
FSA Youth Exchange
From ages: 14-19
FSA Youth Exchange has been in operation since 1996. Founded by Lodie de Jager who was a German schoolteacher in the Free State from 1984, it was only fitting that she start a cultural exchange programme between South Africa and Germany.
“The only requirements is that children must be attending school and they need to go through a screening process,” says FSA’s Suzanne Baker.
She mentions that many pupils hear about their exchange programme via their school, mostly from their German teachers who encourage them to apply.
Pupils don’t need German as a subject if they are going to be there for four weeks or less, but she does recommend some understanding of the language for pupils on longer exchange programmes.
Baker is proud of the fact that all their host families are screened, and when compared to other companies, FSA charges the least amount - the average cost for next year’s programme is R20000, excluding visa applications and pocket money.
Pupils are welcome to apply via their school representative or online.
Rotary Youth Exchange
Age: 15 -19
The Rotary Club Youth Exchange gives teens from disadvantaged backgrounds an opportunity to join the programme. The only requirement is that they are a leader in their school or community.
Student exchanges are sponsored by Rotary Clubs in more than 100 countries, but students are responsible for their own airfare, travel insurance, travel documents and spending money.
Long-term exchanges last a full academic year with students attending local schools and living with multiple host families.
Short-term exchanges range from seven days to three months, and are often structured as camps, tours or homestays.
German International School Cape Town
Age: 16 - 18
As part of their promotion of the German language and culture, Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt (DSK) offers an annual two-week exchange programme for Grade 10 pupils with schools in both Munich and Hamburg.
“The destination city alternates each year and pupils from the respective German partner schools visit us in Cape Town,” says DSK marketing manager Sandra Farrenkothen.
“As an important part of the experience, pupils are hosted by local families. Pupils from the German as well as the English stream can choose to participate.”
She adds that their French pupils also have the opportunity to participate in a two-week student exchange with a school in La Reunion every second year.
“Regardless of which opportunity our learners choose, they all come back with a greater understanding of different cultures and way of living. For some, it is their first time away from home, for others their first time overseas.”
Student exchanges are for parents’ accounts, but Farrenkothen reiterates that learners can apply for financial support if need be.