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Summer in Europe? Travel and host with Adolesco Youth Exchange

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Fifteen-year old Kinri Watson just returned from living in France for three months.

“It’s really weird, like you’re two different people,” she says of her stay more than a year after hosting her French exchange “sister” Maelys in May 2015. “I also got to know a completely different Maelys!”

exchange2Kinri and Maelys met through Adolesco Youth Exchange, a non-profit that matches US children between 9 and 17 for three-week to three-month exchanges to France, Germany, or Spain. 

Each child takes a turn to travel and live with their exchange partner’s family, and takes a turn to host. The two families decide when and for how long, but the result is often life-long relationships as the kids are together in each country with time and opportunity to form very strong bonds.

Kinri is a 10th grader at the Denver Center for International Studies (DCIS), where Geri Badler is the director of the Travel Center. Geri promotes Adolesco because she loves “the idea of the family-to-family exchange. It is personal and meaningful. I feel the Adolesco students that come here are well vetted, smart and open to learning and sharing.”

It is typically adults like Geri with personal exchange experience who are the biggest advocates of foreign exchange programs.  “I know the importance of cross cultural exchanges and how rich an experience this can be, as well as the fact it is simply life changing” she says.

With the Adolesco program children gain international experience without losing school time. Many families host one summer, and then send their child to travel the next, although not all Adolesco exchanges have to happen over the summer.

“My exchange sister really wanted to come to school in the US,” says Kinri. “When I asked her why it turned out she wanted to see if the cafeteria is like in the movies, and she wanted to ride a yellow school bus!”

exchange1Colorado homeschoolers don’t have to take school schedules into account, and the Larson family have done Adolesco exchanges both with their homeschooled daughter, and son Finn who is at Lakewood High School. 

BJ Larson says, “We loved seeing the transformation of Georg (from Germany) from quite reserved to a very integrated member of our family.  Our trip really seemed to help Georg come out of his shell. There is something about being ‘stuck’ together in a car, spending 24/7 together for a week that does so much to help in the process of bonding.”

Kinri’s advice? “Be very nice to your exchange partner,” she says. “When hosting, they’re depending on you to help them in a new culture, environment and language. When they’re hosting, also take into account that you’re coming into their life and spaces, so be respectful. Leave some room for the dynamic to change, because you both are going to do a lot of growing!”

Indeed, Adolesco means “I’m growing.”

See www.Adolesco.org for details of the flexible and affordable not-for-profit program for children and teens to learn French in France, German in Germany and Spanish in Spain. Applications for 2017 and 2018 Exchanges due Oct. 23, 2016. Information Meeting: 2-4pm, Sunday, October 9, 2016, Sam Gary Library, Stapleton (2961 Roslyn St. Denver, CO 80238). Everyone welcome, RSVP colorado@adolesco.org. -By Marie Meyer

 

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