The first step in becoming a foreign exchange student is to submit an application to an organization that facilitates international exchange programs. AFS (originally American Field Services) is one such organization in the United States with exchange programs in more than 50 countries and a large network of volunteers, educators and staff. Most university students may apply through their own schools.
Tuition fees come from the student’s own resources and scholarship funds. For high school students, an exchange lasts six months to a year. Participants attend high school in their host countries through a student visa. Exchange students coming to the United States are issued a J-1 cultural exchange visa or an F-1 foreign student visa. Individual colleges and universities offer study-abroad programs of varying durations.
American high school students who apply to AFS must meet a minimum GPA of 2.8. Students integrate themselves into the daily life of the host family and become involved in the local community. Many exchange programs require students to have basic conversational ability in the host country’s language. Some programs require international students coming to the United States to pass a test for English language comprehension. Other programs have no language requirements because most exchange students achieve fluency in the host country’s language within a few months.