Lauryn Atkin, Amy Watt and Madeleine Gear all took up the opportunity to study overseas with Auckland-based agency Your Education. Jacqui Hesketh, the Your Education Rotorua local area representative, says participants pay domestic student rates.

“This means it is affordable for Kiwi families to send their kids overseas.”

Students must be at high school to go on the programme and between the ages of 15 to 18. There are 15 countries involved with the exchange.

Amy Watt, 18, went to the Swedish capital Stockholm on a two-month exchange over the last New Zealand summer.

She says it was her first time to Europe.

“I wanted to go to a Scandinavian country and have a white Christmas. I like skiing so I wanted to go to Sweden.”

Students are able to choose the country they go to, and in some cases the region or state.

While in Sweden her host family took her to London, Denmark and Finland.

She says the best part of her exchange was becoming close with her host family and getting to experience the Swedish culture.

France was the only place to go on Madeleine Gear’s list.

The 16-year-old says she wants to become fluent in French, and likes the French culture.

She went to Paris for two weeks to an intensive language school and then to Nantes for six months.

Having only arrived back in July, she says she got to see a lot of France during her exchange.

“My favourite part of the exchange was getting to experience the culture through my host family. It’s a lot different from being a tourist. I also miss the cheese and pastries.”

France is one of the few countries that require students to have a year of learning the language prior to going on exchange.

Jacqui says the most popular country to go to is the United States. Three of the five Western Heights High School students who have gone on exchange have gone to North America.

Lauryn Atkin, 17, lived in a small town in Tennessee for five months.

“I really wanted to travel, and it was a way for me to force myself out of my comfort zone and stop being so shy and everything. I really wasn’t confident enough to in my language skills to learn another language and adapt, so the States seemed like the right choice.”

The two other students went to North Dakota and Texas.

Lauryn says the exchange helped with her confidence.

“It was kind of forcing myself to actually speak to people and go to places and do things.”

Jacqui says going on exchange builds up confidence and rapport with students. Lauryn says she had the typical American high school experience, with yellow buses and lockers included.

“Basically it was exactly what you’d see on TV.”

All three girls say they didn’t get homesick at all as they were having such a good time.

They have kept in touch with friends they made and their host families.

Their school experiences overseas were very different from school back home. None of the girls had to wear a uniform, however Lauryn says her school had strict rules about what could be worn.

The girls found out about Your Education through Jacqui visiting their school.

To other Rotorua students who were thinking of going on a Your Education exchange Madeleine says she encourages them to go.

“You’ve not going to lose anything.”

A friend of her’s had expressed interest in going to the US after hearing of their experiences.

Jacqui says the aim of Your Education New Zealand is to sent 50 to 60 students on exchange each year. For every Kiwi student that goes on exchange New Zealand must reciprocate, hosting a student here. They do not necessarily have to be from the countries where the New Zealand students go to.

The agency is a signatory to the New Zealand Ministry of Education Code of Practice.

The three girls praised Your Education.

Lauryn says she liked the personal touch, being able to meet with a real person before she left and how the organisation checked in with her about how the exchange was going.

Source: Daily Post

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