Become an Exchange Student

Frequently Asked Questions

Please read below for answers to common questions about becoming an exchange student. For any questions not answered in our FAQ below, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

For U.S. Students wishing to go abroad

Do I need to be fluent in a foreign language?
Not exactly - as it depends upon which country is your exchange destination. As an exchange student, one of your main goals will definitely be to improve your skills in the host country’s language to the best of your abilities. Your host family and school do not expect you to be fluent when you arrive. However, students exchanging to the USA have minimum language proficiency requirements. Students exchanging to other countries via NWSE need to have at least one year of high school foreign language study of the language of the exchange destination - OR - have taken at least one summer (approx. 3 months) of intensive foreign language courses to bring them to a minimum level of proficiency.
Can I select my classes before I arrive at my host school?
In most cases, exchange students are assigned to classes based on the academic requirements and class availability at the host school. You may not be able to choose/receive all the classes you wish to take. While we are happy to inform the host school of your preferences, there is no guarantee that you will be placed in all your desired courses. Generally, exchange students register for their classes only after they have arrived at their host school. Check with your NWSE coordinator and/or your host family for the specific class registration procedures at your host school.
Will I get credit for my school work abroad?
There is no guarantee that you will be able to take the classes abroad that your home school may recognize for "credit". Whether and how you may receive credit for any of your school work abroad is something that you will need to determine together with NWSE and your own school before long before departing on your exchange. It is in the end your sole responsibility to find out and comply with any requirements that your school may have for transferring/receiving academic credit from abroad.
Will I have an orientation?
Yes. As an NWSE exchange student, you will participate in a pre-departure orientation in your home country as well as a post-arrival orientation in your host country. These orientations are designed to help you make the most of your program and have a safe and successful exchange experience.
Who will help me if I have problems?
As an NWSE exchange student, you will have an in-country area coordinator who is there to assist you in the event of problems. You can also always contact your program coordinator at the NWSE office or call the 24-hour NWSE phone line if you need help. We are committed to supporting all of our students to help them have a safe and happy exchange experience.
How much money should I bring on my exchange?
While you are abroad, you are responsible for covering all your personal expenses. As spending habits and local prices vary greatly, it is difficult to say exactly how much money you will need to bring. NWSE generally recommends that students have available at a minimum $200 per month plus $250 per semester for personal expenses, although more funds may be required (e.g. if you regularly use public transportation). Please also check our Exchange Countries page for the program fees and information about other expenses. If you have further questions, please contact us.
Do I need to have a passport and visa?
You will need a valid passport to apply for your visa or residency permit and travel abroad. You can learn about how to apply for a U.S. passport here. NWSE will provide you with detailed information on how to apply for your visa or residency permit. However, it is your responsibility to take all the required steps to obtain the visa or residency permit and pay for all the associated expenses. Please note that some countries require you to travel to one of their consulates in the U.S. for the visa application.
Can I choose where I get placed?
Because it is our priority to find suitable and motivated host families for our students, we do not guarantee placements in a specific city or area in the host country. Experience shows that the success of the exchange is unrelated to the geographic location of the placement and depends largely on the relationship the student is able to build with their host family, peers, and others in their host community. If you already know a family who is willing to host you in one of our Exchange Countries, we may be able to consider placing you with them. Please contact us for more information.
Will I have a host sibling of my age?
Host family composition varies greatly. While some families have children who attend high school, others may have younger children, older children who no longer live at home, or no children. As an exchange student, you are expected to be sufficiently motivated, open-minded, and adaptable to build a positive relationship with your host family regardless of whether they have children of your age.
Do I have to have very good grades at school?
While applicants for the NWSE program are usually expected to have an average grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 out of 4.0, NWSE considers a wide range of factors when making a decision about a student’s acceptance. If a student can demonstrate appropriate qualifications in other areas, NWSE may accept a student with a GPA below 3.0.
Do you accept graduated students?
Students who graduate from high school within a few months of the desired program start are welcome to apply for NWSE outbound programs to any country except England, Japan, Norway, or Sweden. Graduated students are subject to the same academic expectations on the program as other students.
Can I travel during the program?
As an exchange student, your priority is to learn about your host country’s culture by participating actively in the day-to-day life of your host family, school, and community. If you wish to travel during the program, you must request permission from NWSE well in advance of the desired trip. Some travel during the program is generally prohibited, e.g. trips to the home country (except under certain circumstances).
When will I find out about my host family?
After NWSE has received your application and has interviewed you, it may take anywhere between a few weeks to several months before your placement is confirmed. Recruiting and screening a host family and securing a student’s school admission are complex and time-consuming processes. NWSE will inform you of your placement in time for you to make all the remaining necessary preparations for your travel and program start.
Can my family also host an exchange student?
Hosting an exchange student is a wonderful opportunity for the entire family to share in the exchange experience. Please visit our Host Family page for more information. If your family hosts an NWSE exchange student, you may be able to take part in an outbound Reciprocal Exchange with substantially lower program fees. Please contact us for more information about the availability of this program option.


For students wishing to go to the USA

Please visit our German or Japanese pages or request more information. We look forward to hearing from you!

May I participate on a sports team at my host school?
Neither NWSE nor any other exchange organization may guarantee or promise participation on a sports team at any host school. Each host school or school district has it's own requirements and procedures for participation. That being said, almost all students desiring to try out for a sports team are allowed to do so.
How long will my exchange program last?
Semester and reciprocal exchanges usually last 5-6 months. Academic year exchanges last approximately 10 months. J-1 exchanges are limited to a maximum of one academic year in length. F-1 exchanges may allow for significantly longer exchanges. Contact NWSE directly for more information about F-1 exchanges.
Can I graduate from my high school abroad?
Neither NWSE nor any other exchange organization may guarantee or promise graduation from any host school for J-1 exchange programs. Each host school or school district has it's own requirements and procedures for graduation, or may have potential other alternative ways to recognize that you attended their school.
How can I apply?
It's easy! If you already want to send a full application to us, simply register online. Fill in the registration form completely and submit it according to the instructions. Make sure to also contact us by email or phone with any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you!
Can I choose what city or state I live in?
NWSE does not normally guarantee your placement in a specific city or state, unless you are on a "direct exchange" or "direct placement". For all other placements, we send your application information to our Academic Coordinator network and match you with a family or exchange partner who we feel would be the best match for you. For "Direct Placements" - If you can suggest a host family and host school in the specific area in which you wish to study that meet all NWSE qualifications for acceptance, then we may consider your request as a "Direct/Private Placement". In such instances you will enjoy substantial reductions in our program fees.


“This completes my third year hosting as a double placement, and I would not even consider a placement through any other agency. The three of us got along delightfully and…

Lane from Washington, USA

“This was our first experience. Everything went very smoothly for us. My husband, who was pretty nervous about the whole idea [of hosting], loved the experience. He texted me the…

Laurie and Glenn from Montana, USA

“I think the greatest reward I got from my exchange was not only the better English skills but also every experience and lesson I had learned. It changed myself and…

Nawaporn from Thailand

“What I love the most about my exchange in America is my host family. I will definitely come back to America to see them and all my friends. The food, school,…

Sol from Spain
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