© WEP 2017
Student Exchange FAQ
All of your student exchange queries are answered by WEP!
Can I choose a location within my chosen host country?
This is rarely a possibility. The most important aspect of your exchange is the match of student to family. Your flexibility is important in making your exchange a success.
Can I choose my departure and return dates?
No, most programs require students to arrive and depart from their host countries on specific dates. School start dates, arrival orientation programs, visa rules and host country regulations are factors that determine program dates. In exceptional circumstances, a student may be given permission to arrive or depart on an alternative date. In such a case, the student must be prepared to travel independently and unassisted, internationally, in Australia and to and from the host family community.
Can I go with a friend?
You and a friend can apply for the same program but you will not be placed in the same host family. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and the only way to reap the many rewards is to fully immerse yourself in a new culture and put your energy into forming new friendships in the host community.
Can I graduate from school overseas?
No. In some countries you may have a ceremonial graduation, but it will have no bearing on gaining entry into a tertiary institution in Australia.
Can I return early if I really can’t cope?
Yes, if you are really unhappy, you can return home early. However, WEP Australia and our overseas partner organisation will work very hard to ensure you have a successful program. Most problems can be solved, and our experience tells us that students who insist on returning early to Australia regret their decision. Hopefully you will have thought long and hard about going on exchange. It will take determination, courage and your best efforts, especially in the first few weeks.
Can I travel independently while I am overseas?
Independent travel is not permissible while on exchange. However, you will be able to travel with your host family, school, receiving organisation and other community groups such as sporting teams or scouts. Again, the foremost aim of the program is educational and your priority for any holidays must be your host family who will be investing a lot of time, energy and money into your program.
Can I travel to my host country as an unaccompanied minor?
Yes, you can. But first consider if you are confident and mature enough to undertake a student exchange. If you can't fly and negotiate airports by yourself maybe you are not ready for this program.
Can my parents and friends visit me while I am on exchange?
Relatives and friends are not permitted to visit you while on exchange. Our experience shows that such visits unsettle students and interrupt schooling. Remember, this is an educational program and you must attend school full time. Your parents can meet and travel with you at the end of your program.
Do I need to be fluent in the other language?
Language experience is desirable, but not necessary, for most countries. However, at least two years prior language study is mandatory for France, China and German-speaking Switzerland and one year prior language study is required for Austria and Germany. Intensive language courses may, in some circumstances, meet language pre-requisites. WEP strongly recommends language preparation prior to departure as language knowledge is of enormous benefit in assisting you to quickly adapt to your new family, school and life.
Of course, there are English-speaking destinations (Canada, Ireland, UK and USA) available if you are not interested in learning another language.
Does the program fee cover flights with quality airlines?
Yes, the program fee covers all flight costs from designated departure airports on quality international airlines.
How much pocket money will I need to take?
You should have access to at least AU$350 a month to pay for your personal items, transport to and from school, any lunches purchased at school, school uniform (if required), subject levies, any additional immunisations required for school enrolment, entertainment, the occasional meal out with your family, phone calls, school/optional trips etc. Additionally you should take $AU500 for initial purchases on arrival in your exchange country such as school books, winter clothing etc.
How old do I have to be to go on exchange?
Generally, students must be between the ages of 15 and 18 to qualify. However, specific host country age restrictions (upper and lower) do apply. In some cases and for some destinations, mature 14 year olds may apply. With the exception of programs to Canada and the USA, year 12 students may apply for either a short-term, semester or year program, as long as the departure date is soon after graduation. It is important that students apply while still at secondary school.
How will I be supported while I am overseas?
Your host family, local coordinator and your host organisation will provide you with support while you are overseas. WEP Australia will remain in contact with the host organisation and your parents to coordinate and support your experience. In the case of an emergency, both you and your family will be able to call an emergency phone number that is answered 24/7.
How will my host family be screened?
Great care is taken to ensure suitability! All families are interviewed in the family home. Parents are also reference checked. Criminal history checks are conducted in all countries.
Is my country of choice guaranteed?
Yes, as long as you meet any age and/or language requirements to qualify for your chosen country.
What are the academic requirements of the program?
In order to be accepted into the program, you need at least a C grade average at school. If applying for an English speaking country, you are required to maintain passing grades in all subjects whilst overseas. However, in non-English speaking countries you are simply expected to display a concerted, conscientious approach to your schoolwork while you master the language. Irrespective of language skills, students are expected to participate in all assessments (exams, tests, etc).
What are the chances of being accepted into the program?
After having thought carefully about why you want to be an exchange student, convinced your parents of the idea, spoken to your teachers and completed our application form, you should be assured that your chances of being accepted are high! Provided you meet the academic, health and broad personality requirements of your chosen program, there is usually little reason for us to prevent you from following your ambition and becoming an exchange student.
What does the insurance policy cover?
The insurance policy, the cost of which is included in your program fee, is comprehensive and covers your medical, accident and hospital cover as well as repatriation, public liability and travel insurance. The policy caters for the visit of a member of your immediate family should you be hospitalised and has no deductibles.
What happens if I have a problem with my host family?
You will have a local coordinator to assist you in coping with any difficulties you may have while overseas, and includes any problems with your host family. Most of the problems experienced by students are due to miscommunication and culture shock so an independent mediator is often all that is required. If problems persist you will be able to contact WEP’s international partner organisation who will be available to help you solve the problem.
What if I have graduated?
Except for programs to Canada and the USA and provided you are under the age of 18, you may still be eligible! Year 13 programs give you the opportunity to take a break between school and tertiary studies, and more time to assess your future goals and options. Alternatively, if you are over 18, why not consider going on a volunteer or work and travel program to some of the amazing locations on offer throughout Asia, Africa or South America! See more at www.volunteerabroad.com.au
What if I would like to stay with a family known to me?
It may be possible to live with a family that you already know. However, the family will have to be screened and approved, prepared and supported by our partner organisation in the same manner as any other host family. School enrolment must also be available. Placement with relatives is generally not approved.
What sort of teenagers become exchange students?
Students possessing all manners of different personality traits successfully become WEP exchange students. Whilst all of them share a common curiosity and tolerance of other peoples and cultures, our students can be outgoing or reserved, quiet or loud, imaginative or productive, or just a bit of everything!
What type of host family will I have?
Host families come in all shapes and sizes. They represent a complete cross-section of each host community and the richness of family diversity in today's world. Families can be "nuclear" (mum, dad plus children), "empty-nesters" (older couples or singles who now have grown children), couples (de facto or married) of any age with or without children, blended families, same-sex couples, single parents with children, single adults and more. Most importantly, all families are volunteers, eager to host students and are carefully interviewed and screened to ensure that they will make an appropriate host family. Host families in Canada, UK and Ireland receive a government-mandated stipend to assist with the costs of hosting.
When should I submit my application?
Please refer to our website current application deadlines. However, we recommend that you submit your application as early as possible to ensure it is complete before applications close. WEP Australia and the receiving organisation need to ensure that you are suitable for the program, that you have the support of your parents and school, and that your expectations are realistic. The application is integral in finding a match between the student and the host family, to assist in solving any problems while you are away and to ensure you are in agreement with the legal requirements of the program.
When will I be advised of my host family?
Normally, you will be advised of your host family well before you leave Australia. In some countries (e.g. Spain and the USA) and for some students, host family information may not be available until shortly prior to departure. Prior to departure from Australia, all students will receive host family, host school and local coordinator details.
Where does the money go?
WEP Australia is a registered (with Education Departments), not-for-profit organisation that works with independent international partners to organise exchange programs. As a result, the program fee is based solely on the cost of program components, both in Australia and overseas.
The program fee is allocated between the overseas organisation, WEP Australia, travel and independent contractors for flights and insurance.
The portion of the fee going to the overseas organisation (approximately 50%) subsidises the recruitment, screening, criminal background checks, appointment and orientation of the volunteer host family, facilitation of host school enrolment, recruitment and training of the local coordinator, arrival orientation, supervision of your program and provision of 24/7 support while you are in your host country.
The portion of the fee going to WEP Australia (approximately 20%) subsidises the organisation of your program from the Australian end, ensuring your application is processed, assessed and prepared for the international organisation and you are interviewed in a timely manner, provision of a departure orientation and resource materials (including student and parents handbooks), bookings of relevant domestic and international airfares to and from your final destination, detailed assistance with the visa process (where applicable), registration for a comprehensive medical/liability/baggage insurance policy, and support 24/7 in Australia and in your exchange country.
The portion of the fee set aside for flights and insurance is approximately 30%.
Will I be homesick?
In the beginning it is rare for students not to have feeling of homesickness. However, managing these situations by yourself, along with our support, is one of the great benefits of going on exchange. It builds self-confidence, maturity and a sense of perspective.
Will I have to repeat school when I return?
WEP Australia is unable to say whether you will have to repeat school upon your return. You should discuss your plans with your school before deciding to go on exchange. In most cases students in years 9 and 10 are able to go away for a semester or a year and fit back into the same year level as their peers upon return. For older students this is less likely to be the case and quite often students must repeat the year of Australian schooling that they have missed. If you are concerned about this, jump on the phone! We can provide lots of helpful tips and advice.
Will I need a visa?
Generally, for programs of three months or less in length, no student visa is required. For longer programs you will need to get a student visa. WEP Australia will assist you with this process. Note: visa costs are not included in the program fee.
Will my Australian family have to host a student?
No, your family will not be required to host an exchange student in return. Of course, we would be extremely grateful if your family did consider offering another student the same hospitality and care that you will receive.
Will my parents receive support while I am away?
Yes, the staff at WEP Australia are available to you and your parents 24 hours a day for emergencies. We are more than happy to discuss your progress during office hours. In some host countries, in accordance with the culture, your parents will receive written reports on your progress.