PARENT STORIES

 

SANDRA AND JEFF SENT THEIR DAUGHTER COURTNEY TO DENMARK

"In December 2016, we put our 16-year old daughter on a plane at Christchurch International airport on the first step of her journey to Frederikshavn, Denmark.  Letting her go was one of the hardest decisions we’d ever made, but it was also one of the best. 
 
As parents, you want to keep your kids safe and sound but you also have to let them grow up.  Were we worried? Of course we were.  All the what if’s come to mind and you do start to second guess yourself. 
 
Our worries vanished after we Skyped our daughter’s host family.  They were wonderful and fully appreciated our concerns.  Their oldest daughter was away in Michigan, USA on a year’s exchange so they knew how we felt.  They showed us all the preparations they were making for our daughter’s arrival and we relaxed immediately. 
 
We were relaxed until we put her on the plane that is.  We hardly slept while she was travelling.  All the concerns of will the flight be on time? Will she find her way to her next flight?  She had to clear customs in Copenhagen and then change terminals to catch a domestic flight to her host family.  How will she cope with this?  I watched each of her flights online as she travelled to the other side of the world.  The relief when her host Mum sent us a Whatsapp picture of the whole family with her at Aalborg airport was amazing. 
 
After that there were no worries.  Her host Mum kept us up-to-date with what she was doing as for the first few weeks we tried not to contact our daughter to allow her to settle in.  That worked very well.  By Christmas she had well and truly settled in with her family and at school.  After that we were in regular contact with her and she was so excited to tell us what she had been doing.  She wasn’t that good at sending us pictures but her host Mum was.
 
We didn’t worry about her again until she was travelling home.  Once more there was very little sleep and I again watched her flights across the world.  Picking her up from the airport was wonderful.
 
Would we let her do it again, or her younger brother?  The answer is a resounding yes.  We sent away a very quiet, shy girl and got back a shy, mature young woman with a quiet confidence that she can do anything she wants.  Her teachers are already noticing the difference and she is using the experiences she had to enhance her work.
 
We now have a Danish branch of the family and hope to have their son staying with us next year.  Our daughter is already planning to return in 2020.
 
In conclusion, let them go.  You will worry but that’s what parents do."

 
- Sandra and Jeff sent their daugher Courtney to Denmark for a short term programme in December 2016

 

ALISON SENT HER DAUGHTER CHIARA TO THE USA

"Sending my 16 year old daughter away for a whole year was possibly the most daunting thing I could have anticipated. Supremely confident that she had done well with study and exams she was keen to make a change for her final year of school, and so we started to look at alternatives to just staying put! We went to an information event and suddenly the vague idea became a “well, why not?”. The level of organisation and assurance on the part of the staff was impressive and we considered that we could proceed with confidence.

When the time came for Chiara to embark on this journey, we were of course aware that we would miss her terribly; but we were also very excited for her to go and experience all the opportunities living with another family and in another country would bring. We had lots of communication with her “new” parents, and so we felt comfortable with where she was heading. It was a huge shock for her – going from summer into the depths of a massive snow storm which threatened to close major airports – and to get used to how they do things “over there”. Going to school on the traditional yellow school bus was a real “pinch-me” moment!

The year has gone so quickly, and everything from traveling into New York City, school, prom, Broadway shows, summer camp, Halloween, working on the school paper, seeing the changes of seasons and making lots of new friends has all had an huge impact on her. Chiara has been away for 10 months as I write this, and she has been through a rollercoaster of emotions as she changed from being the “new” girl to being one of the gang and really belonging. She said to me only the other day – I only have eight weeks left… I can’t believe I have to leave so soon! She still has Thanksgiving and Christmas to celebrate with her amazing family and friends before we get her back home and on to her next phase… University!

The Your Education team has been with us all the way, from just checking in to see how we all are, to using Chiara’s fabulous photos to show others just how much fun an exchange can be. Organising Chiara’s flights and confirming details of some of her activities has all been done efficiently and with a sympathetic ear if I felt I was having a “mummy moment”. This experience has been life changing for Chiara, and for us as a family too as I predict we will have lots of visitors when Chiara tells us that a friend from New York needs a bed!"

LEE SENT HER SON CAMERON TO AUSTRIA

 

I first heard about the Your Education exchanges when my 16 year old son, asked me “ Mum – how do you feel about International School Exchanges?” After my positive response, he informed me that he had opted to attend an information evening at his school, and had gathered information that he wanted to discuss with me.
 
Cameron and I then looked through all the material together and discussed at length what he felt he could achieve from such an exchange, should it be possible. I felt that the application process alone would be educational for him, regardless of whether he was successful in being selected.  
 
After lengthy discussion we agreed he should consider a 2-month programme over December / January so as not to affect his NCEA levels 1 and 2 too greatly, that he preferred to travel to a country where he would need to learn a new language, and one where he would be exposed to many significant cultural differences to that of our small home town of Arrowtown, or his boarding school in Christchurch.   
 
Once we committed to the application process it was with huge excitement that he learned on his 16th Birthday that he would be heading to stay in the heart of Vienna, Austria, in just four months’ time. 
 
We both wrote our own separate letters to his potential future host family and waited impatiently to learn more about who he would be living with. The information arrived and we made contact soon after to start a wonderful relationship that settled the nerves of both Mum and son and also that of his host family! 
 
We were surprised to learn that his host parents were a divorced couple (but still very good friends who happily still share all the main family occasions) and that Cameron would be moving, every 2 weeks, between both homes during his exchange. This didn’t phase him, as Cameron lost his father to a heart attack a few years back it was going to be a novelty to have a part-time Dad!
 
Cameron began regularly emailing and skyping his 16-year-old host sister and I emailed his future Host Mum. We skyped as families a couple of times, with both families getting better at listing down questions as we thought of them in advance of the skype calls so that we could share and learn as much as possible. This helped immensely with details like that he needed to pack a suit to wear to school! They knew about Tim Tams from NZ and Australia so requested several flavours to be taken over. We also learned that he would be learning to cook with Chefs every Monday so he started being more aware about cooking in general as prep and important details like that he would travel to and from school on the subway and often get changed at school, what type of school bag was allowed, what type of school shoes to take, etc. They also asked for details like what size ski boots and skis he used so they could go borrow ski gear for him, rather than Cameron travel with that bulk.  
 
The days and weeks flew by getting close to departure day. Cameron was busy with NCEA Level 1 so that distraction calmed his travel nerves until the immediate week of departure. Suddenly the day had arrived for his sister and I to wave him off on his adventure, and then just wait for news.
 
Given the ease of sending texts and messaging, Cameron found it best to send short messages quite frequently, which kept us satisfied back at home. Phone calls were much harder to manage with the vastly different time zones and he had a very busy schedule of commitments that kept him on the go.  
 
That was the saving grace for him in that first two weeks when the home sickness was definitely a challenge.. but in reality, he didn’t have too much time to dwell on it. By the third week, the familiarity with his new family, the understanding of his/their daily routines and those of his new school all helped to settle him down. 
 
From home, it was nice to just send regular brief texts of encouragement back, and see the messages become more informative over time. The occasional photo would come through which helped convey to me he was making friends and learning and experiencing new things every single day.  His host family were keen to help him in any way they could. His host sister was fabulous as she had been away on an exchange to the USA the prior year and used that experience of her own to understand what to do to help Cameron adjust.  
 
There is no doubt that initially Cameron found the bombardment of everything around him being different really challenging and confronting, but he quickly realised that the more he tried to integrate, the more he challenged himself to communicate in their local language (German), the more things became exciting, interesting and amazing.  He made the conscious choice to extract as much from the two months away as he could. 
 
At his new school he had some fabulous teachers, but he also had a few teachers who would have been happy if he had opted to go to the library instead of attend their classes. Their reaction motivated a typically determined Kiwi lad, who persisted in attending, to learn this new language from zero prior knowledge, to be able to actually interact, asking questions, in those classes by the end of his two-month term. Young brains have a tremendous capacity to learn and absorb. 
 
What Cameron learned and absorbed from his two-month International Exchange was profound!  Obviously, he made great inroads into a new language skill, but he has also learned a vast amount more than some additional academic skills from his temporary school and from the personal interaction with his host family. He has gained a greater understanding of tenacity, patience, determination, and empathy. He also has a basic comprehension about European history, a much better understanding about travel and personal safety and a far greater awareness about the human race and the differences between many cultures, societies, socio-economic groups, and religions.

I don’t mind admitting that it was a major financial stretch for me to support Cameron on this exchange, but it was also one of my best decisions ever!
 
Cameron has returned with a maturity more advanced than the day he left. He has realised several things that motivate him even more, now that he is back at school here in New Zealand. He has a far greater appreciation for his upbringing and education in New Zealand.

He has returned with a focus and determination to study harder at College, to qualify in a career that will allow him to get back out there and see a lot more of the world and to afford to be able to do it in some style.  What more valuable lessons could a parent ask for from an exchange?
 
Now, my next mission, is to save hard, to try and get my daughter on a similar exchange in the years to come …. 

 

 

CHRIS AND FIONA SENT THEIR SON GEORGE TO
​THE NETHERLANDS

"When our 16-year-old son George came home from school talking about doing an exchange we were supportive of the idea and talked about which country he might want to experience. Both my husband and I had talked to George about our overseas experiences when we were younger. He eventually chose to go to the Netherlands for two months. 
 
After he was accepted he was very fortunate to have won a scholarship. This meant that he could go on exchange and he earned that himself. 
 
Your Education prepared us all brilliantly and we prepared our son as best we could. We said a fond goodbye at the airport one Saturday afternoon and felt a little empty as his rather lonely figure disappeared through the gates.
 
With email and Skype technology we kept in touch with his adventure on a regular basis.Within days of arriving we had photos of him with his family in a National park enjoying themselves. 
 
One day George met with all the exchange students in the Netherlands. They all visited a museum, had lunch and ice skated. George wrote back that it was the best day ‘ever'. He was very excited to meet all the different exchange students and kept in contact with many of them during his stay - attending birthday dinners and other get-togethers. He made lots of friends and learned about different cultures.
 
George’s family were very easy going and he was given a lot of freedom to do the activities he wanted to do. He had a Mum, two sisters and a brother. They took him to the Xmas markets in Cologne.  
 
He attended a school in Veenendaal - was given a bike and rode to school each day. He attended a Bicultural class where some English was spoken. He made friends and was supported and made to feel welcome. 
 
One of the lasting memories I have of his travels is of his regular Skypes - we talked and talked about the people he was meeting and the things he was doing.
 
We have an amazing son - he coped so well with the differences, he found ways to solve problems by himself and he came home with a deeper understanding of who he is and what is important to him.
 
Maybe he got a little homesick at times and the food was a challenge to him at times, but we cannot say enough about how fantastic it was that George has had such an enlightening and enjoyable experience.  
 
He has grown an enormous amount and is developing further on a deeper knowledge of who he is and what he wants to do with his life.
 
Thank you YOUR EDUCATION!!!"

 

LISA SENT HER DAUGHTER GEORGIA TO FRANCE

"I still remember the day that Georgia came home rushing through the door with a Your Education pamphlet in her hand.  She was euphoric and couldn’t stop babbling about the talk given at her school that day .  

Looking back now I think one of the hardest parts for me as a mother, was just the actual journey itself that Georgia was going to take from New Zealand to France all on her own.   I was petrified she was going to get lost trying to catch her connecting flights or worried that a flight would be delayed and she would miss the next one.  As it turned out, I was worrying about nothing – the flights and connections all went superbly.

Georgia spent the first four weeks with a host family in Paris and attended a Language Preparation Programme in the city daily.  She had not learnt French at all in High School and so we knew that she was in for a huge challenge.  Those first four weeks were one of the highlights of her exchange and we both highly recommend it to anyone considering going to France.  In a way it was like a gradual immersion into French life as on the programme there were other foreigners there also learning the language and so it was a bit of comfort for her as she didn’t feel so alone.  The family in Paris also spoke quite good English, so the language barrier wasn’t such a big shock.

After the Preparation Programme had finished Georgia was then scheduled to spend the remainder of the year with another host family down the south of France in a rural area.  And this family didn’t speak English.

The home sickness hit at about 3 months into her journey.  I didn’t want the exchange to be all happy sailing and one big holiday.  We didn’t send her there for that reason but rather for her to gain life skills; to learn strategies on how to cope and how to deal with situations in her life. 

Jeff and I went to France for a month what a wonderful time we had visiting both families.  And if I had the choice I would do it all over again.   Our friendships with both families grew even more and now both of them are planning on coming to New Zealand to see us which is fantastic! 

The biggest surprise and memory from our trip there though was hearing Georgia’s French.  OH MY GOODNESS!!  She was like a local!! It blew us away.  We sat at the family dinners and Georgia was conversing like she had lived there forever. It was astounding. Georgia says now that she doesn’t even need to think about how to say sentences, it just comes out.  We are so very very proud of her!

This journey has been a once in a life time experience for not just Georgia but for our whole family and if we could do it all again we wouldn’t hesitate.  We would jump into it in a heartbeat.  Thank you Your Education from the bottom of our hearts <3."

 

HELEN AND PETER SENT HER DAUGHTER AANA TO THE USA

"It was August the 15th 2016, a Saturday night. My husband Peter and I were walking out of the Volleyball stadium when my phone started ringing. This call was the call our youngest daughter Aana had been waiting for, a call that changed our lives for the next six months. We picked Aana up from her sister’s place on our way home and told her the news, a family had picked her, a family thousands of miles away in the small town of Orange in Texas, USA. She would have a mum, a dad and a host sister, three dogs and one cat – she burst into tears of happiness.

The excitement turned to a bit of panic for myself when we were told the next day that she would be on a plane by Wednesday night. Thankfully through the ongoing support of Your Education, everything prior had been sorted, so it was just a matter of packing, last minute immunisations and some souvenirs to purchase.  

Angela from Your Education arranged for Aana to be flown from Tauranga to Auckland (this made it so much easier on us working parents) and for someone to meet her at the domestic airport to accompany her to the international airport, this was one of the biggest reliefs of all to me. Aana had only ever travelled to Australia with us, so I was stressed. The Your Education representative had travelled to the United States as a student so she was able to give Aana all sorts of wonderful travel advice.

Aana called me just before she boarded the plane, she had a stopover in LAX before landing in Houston, the stopover I was fretting, but the Your Education representative talked her through negotiating her way through LAX.

 I was so impressed with Your Education, they called us to see how we were doing which was such a relief, my only connection to Aana. Your Education also called me a few days after Aana’s arrival and a few times during her 6 months away. We did have Aana’s flight changed and this was not too much trouble, Your Education got hold of the Area Representative in Aana’s area.

Not long after Aana’s return back home she got a welcome home call and email from Your Education. It was nice to know we still had that connection. Aana honestly had a wonderful exchange experience. She grew so much in character and gained a wealth of confidence and knowledge. She was matched with an incredible family who she considers her other ‘American family.’ She is in regular contact with them and has set a goal to go back and see them when she completes high school at the end of 2017.

I would thoroughly recommend anybody considering this experience for their child to Just Do IT! Your child is in good hands with Your Education. They will walk you through each process of applying step by step (like they did us, as I was utterly clueless), they will find the best family for your child and they will continue to remain in contact with you while your child is away. The best outcome for your child is their number one concern.

Thank you Your Education for providing this opportunity to Aana, she is keen to support other students in making a decision to do an exchange as its most definitely a positive experience that will remain with her for a lifetime."

 

BRENT SENT HER DAUGHTER GRACE TO SPAIN

"Just a quick note on my experience with Your Education on my 15 year old daughter’s placement in Spain.  Your Education cover all bases, in terms of anticipating possible causes of anxiety (such as late flights, delays, feedback), and so ensure such anxiety on the parent’s (and student’s) part does not occur.  They are brilliant at selecting the family that best suits your child as well – the simple proof of this is that my daughter ended up being in Spain for 11 months instead of 5! And she loved every minute of it – it’s such a character building undertaking.  Well done Your Education, we now have plans for my son to go to France with your assistance. "

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