Issue 13 Study Abroad

International high school exchange

🕒 3 min

Are you interested in getting part of your high school education abroad? Great, because in this article we’ll provide an introduction to the topic.

In this post, I’ll be writing from the experience of Jovana Dinić, a student from Serbia who spent 4 weeks of her third year of high school in Germany, and Tamara Tica, a student from Bosnia and Herzegovina who spent 10 months in the US during her third year of high school.

International exchange is done less often in high school than in higher education, but it can be very transformative for young people. As participants are very young, they usually stay at a host family’s home, where they immerse themselves in the local culture and language.

Your time spent in another country can either be organized by an agency (or government program), or by you. An approach with the help of an agency can be simpler, as if you’re doing the organizing, you’ll have to find a host family, host school, and get the proper documentation. Agencies find a host family and a host school for you.

If you can’t find a program you like, or it is too expensive, you can try contacting a foreign school of choice directly, even better if you already have where to stay. In my case, a cousin from Germany asked her previous head teacher if I could visit their school and join classes for a month, and they kindly said yes!



The first step is to explore your options and decide which type of exchange you’ll participate in. If you won’t be organizing it yourself, then are you going to search for funded programs or programs your family has to pay?

The YES Exchange and Study Programme is a US Department of State funded exchange programme aimed at countries with a significant Muslim population, but they have programmes for other South Eastern and Eastern European countries as well. The programme is a fully funded trip to the United States for 10 months, where each student lives with an American family, attends an American high school, and even gets monthly allowance for social activities.


Applications for high school exchange programs vary wildly. These are some components you’ll likely have to provide along with personal and family information:

  • a letter for your host family
  • a transcript of your grades
  • a foreign language test
  • a recommendation letter by a school official

In general it’s best to start as early as possible in this process, starting research as soon as one year ahead of the school year you’re planning to spend abroad.

Some programs, like the YES Program, have multiple rounds during admissions, each having new sets of questions and assignments like writing essays or a host family letter. The more your exchange is funded by the association evaluating your application, the more selective the application process will be.

Costs & financing

It’s pretty hard to find scholarships for international high school exchange. There are some programs (such as the YES Program funded by the US Department of State) which fully fund the exchange, but are pretty hard to get into.

If you’re looking for fully-funded programs, I suggest that you look at this list. If you’re looking for grants and scholarships, I suggest that you look at this list and this list.

The cost of a year of high school in a foreign country is usually between 3 and 10 thousand euros. You could probably have relatively low costs if you stay at a family member’s place, but most people don’t have this possibility. It might also be worth a try to ask your school or government institutions for financial aid.


High school exchange probably seems like a step into the unknown for most high school students – and that’s exactly why it is probably a good choice. It’s a great way to get out of your comfort zone and broaden your horizons early on. If you’re uncertain on whether or not you should spend some of your high school education abroad, I’d recommend you try it.

For me it was a formative experience, because it challenged my view of myself, and really gave me the confidence to embark on a range of experiences, and make risky decisions, based on having already done well in something like this at a really young age.


If you’re looking for more resources, here are some things I found while researching for this post:

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