Program FAQs

General

It is an experience that can change your future! Not only will you create exciting memories, but you will make friends who will last a lifetime. It is an investment in your future as you learn to be independent and grow in ways you cannot predict. While living in another country you will not only learn about their culture, you will also realize new things about yourself and your own culture as you reflect upon the similarities and differences of people from different backgrounds.

Learning a foreign language by being completely immersed in it will accelerate the learning process, and you will become fluent more quickly. As an American who can speak a second language, you will be a more desirable candidate in the job market. By embracing the exchange opportunity, you will gain a new perspective of the ever-changing global world in which we live.

All of the ICES staff has lived and worked abroad. Our team’s experience encompasses over 18 years of consecutive experience in the student exchange industry. We offer a large variety of choices for you to customize your exchange program. As a small non-profit, we are proud to provide a level of personalized service and support that is simply not possible with other agencies. Our staff gets to know all of our students and families by name, so there’s no fear of feeling like a “case number” with ICES. We are driven by our mission of providing quality programs that support cultural awareness and international understanding – not profit margins.

Applying

The first step is to fill out an online Request Form so that we can learn a little bit about you and your goals. Once you and your parents have decided on a specific program, we will send you a Contract and Payment Agreement outlining the specifics of the intended program. After your parents sign these, we will send you a full application packet and set up a time for a Skype interview.

There is a non-refundable application deposit of $50. This deposit is included in the total price; it is not additional.

Application documents include:
• Basic Information: family, interests, preferences, hobbies
• Teacher’s Recommendation
• School Transcripts (last 3 years)
• Medical History, Immunizations and Physician Release
• Personal Essay
• Photo Album
• Copy of Passport

Additional documents will be required depending on your country of choice.

Some of the requirements differ by country; check out the page of your country of interest for specific requirements. Generally students must be between the ages of 15-18 and cannot have graduated from a U.S. high school. Admission to our program requires a demonstrated academic interest, and students must carry at least a 2.5 GPA. Most importantly, students must demonstrate maturity and readiness to participate in international exchange.
A major misconception about studying abroad is that you are expected to be “fluent” before entering the program – and that is not true! In fact, it is often through the experience of living abroad in a full-immersion environment that one’s foreign language skills really develop. While language experience is not a requirement in most of our destination countries, you must be willing to study the native language of your placement-country while enrolled in the program.

Students attend classes in the local language, so previous experience with the language is certainly beneficial even if not technically “required”. As long as a student is putting in a genuine effort then they are likely to succeed in the program even if they did not possess extensive language skills prior to arriving. Teachers and pupils are typically very patient when working with American students, and they welcome the opportunity to help international students to broaden their horizons. We are also happy to connect students with tutors and other language support resources upon arrival if deemed necessary. Some countries offer students the opportunity to participate in an intensive language course or an immersion week before starting the program. These optional add-on programs are not included in the listed price.

Yes. Students attend classes in the local language, so previous experience with the language is certainly beneficial even when not technically “required.” As long as a student is putting in a genuine effort, they are likely to succeed in the program even if they did not possess extensive language skills prior to arriving.
Visa requirements differ for each country. ICES will obtain the most current information from the appropriate embassy to ensure that you have what is needed to start the process.
Please consult the most recent Pricing Guide for a list of available program start/end dates and application deadlines, as these differ by country and can change from year to year.

Academics

Maybe, but we cannot guarantee it. The amount and type of credit you receive is determined by your high school in the U.S., and every school’s policy is different. It is very important to talk with your guidance counselor before you apply to this program. We recommend that you discuss classes you must take while abroad and what documentation would be required in order to earn credit. We also recommend that you keep a copy of any formal grades or transcripts you receive from your host school overseas. It is your responsibility to obtain any written information about your attendance and grades in your host school before you return home.
Participating in an exchange program during high school can give you an advantage when applying to college. Colleges value self-motivated students who have taken the opportunity to grow, expand their knowledge, and succeed in challenging circumstances. Elevated language skills acquired while abroad often result in testing out of college language requirements. In addition, an international living experience before college can better prepare a student for living independently – not to mention making for a standout college application essay!
It depends on the destination country. In most of our country programs students are placed in the local public high school of their host family community. In some countries, though, students may be required to attend a private school based on national regulations around international student enrollment. If a private school education is preferred instead of a public school, this can usually be arranged, although there may be additional private school tuition fees.

Life Abroad

Yes. ICES values cultural emersion, and the best way to experience that is through living with a host family. In conjunction with our foreign partner, we match students with quality, caring host families who provide lodging and meals including food for you to pack a lunch. Our host families are carefully screened and interviewed in-person by a local representative, this includes a background check and a visit to the home. In most countries the host families are volunteer, though in others the custom is to pay a small stipend to contribute toward the cost of food and transportation (this stipend is already included in the price). Host families come from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and may consist of families with or without children, retired persons and even single parents. Host families may live in the suburbs of a city or in rural areas, but all of them share the desire to engage in a cultural exchange with our students.
Generally speaking, students cannot choose where within the destination country they will be placed. Placements are typically in suburban areas, but may also be in rural or urban communities. There are many factors involved in making a placement so students must remain open and flexible to different possibilities.
During your time abroad, your support system will consist of your host family, local coordinator, school personnel, in-country office staff, and of course the ICES office in America. The local coordinator will be in contact with you, your host family, and your school regularly to ensure that you are making the most of your experience abroad. They will be your first point-of-contact for any issues with the host family or school. In addition, the in-country office will have English-speaking staff who can assist you with any questions or issues that go beyond the local coordinator’s abilities. The ICES office (including our 24-hour emergency line) is available to you and your parents throughout your experience.

Cost

Fees for each country will vary, as will the optional add-on choices we have available. Please refer to the most recent Pricing Guide for the prices of programs organized by destination country and program length. A non-refundable application deposit of $50 (included in the total price) is due at the time of submitting the completed application, 50% of the balance is due after you have been officially accepted into the program, and the remaining 50% is due when your placement search begins. We accept U.S. bank check, wire, credit and debit cards.
We offer a $150 prize to students who complete a Quest student project during their program. Ask the Quest staff about this offer. We offer a discount to families that make timely payments via check or wire transfer rather than credit or debit card; more information can be found in our Payment Agreement.

 

We are also partnered with both FundMyTravel and Project Travel, which enable students to raise money for their abroad experience through crowd-funding. We highly recommend utilizing either of these platforms as a way to help pay for the program if you cannot do so independently.

Program Fees Include:

  • Round-trip airfare
  • Medical and travel insurance
  • Student I.D. card
  • Application fee
  • Host family placement
  • Room and board
  • Local coordinator supervision
  • Monthly report for parents
  • Local country office support
  • Quest office support
  • Arrival orientation

Program Fees Do Not Include:

  • Personal expenses (~ $300/month): clothes, toiletries, leisure activities, meals eaten outside of the host family home, even if with the host family, etc.
  • School expenses: fees, uniforms, textbooks, school supplies, activities
  • Tuition (for private school requests)
  • Visa and immigration fees
  • Transportation and travel within the host country
  • Add-ons: trips offered by Partner, placement area guarantees
  • Language tutoring
  • Medical expenses and immunizations