J-1 Public High School Exchange Program USA

The ICES J-1 Public High School Exchange Program USA offers international students the rare opportunity to learn about another culture, experience new customs and traditions, and establish lifelong friendships. The student exchange experience is an unforgettable one. Your year will be filled with new discoveries about yourself and others while you live with an American host family, attend high school and improve your English skills.

Come join the many thousands of ICES exchange students who have had an amazing student exchange experience in America!


J-1 Public High School Exchange Program USA

International students can participate in the Public High School Exchange Program USA and stay up to one year on a J-1 visa.

There are many reasons why teenagers decide to become an exchange student, such as to experience another culture, improve English skills, experience life in an American family and school, become more mature and meet American friends.

The J-1 visa exchange program is an affordable public school program offered to students between the ages of 15 and 18. Most exchange students chose to study for two semesters and will normally arrive in August and depart in June. However students from the southern hemisphere, who follow the calendar school year, often arrive in January and end their program in December. ICES also offers a semester program with students arriving in August or January and departing at the end of the semester (January or June respectively).

Students on the J-1 program may have the option to request to be placed in a specific region or metropolitan area for an additional program fee.

If you have the desire to attend a public high school of your own choice, then the F-1 Public High School Program USA is what you are looking for. Though this program will require a F-1 visa and the high schools in this program will charge tuition for exchange students.

ICES works with exchange program partners in many countries around the world, who provide students with preparation, English testing and visa assistance. Trained ICES coordinators place students with pre-screened and carefully selected host families who have a genuine desire to share their American culture. ICES places students in all 50 states and offers layers of support via our local coordinators and student counselors who are on hand to help throughout the program.



Student Requirements

  • AGE:   15- 18
  • ACADEMICS:   A minimum of a C average in all courses taken over the past three years. Transcripts translated into English and a Teacher’s Recommendation
  • ATTITUDE:   The maturity to deal with the inevitable challenges of adapting to another culture and communicating in a foreign language.
  • ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILLS:   Demonstrate acceptable scores on the Standard Test for English Proficiency. Students should also be comfortable and competent in using English conversationally to follow course work and socialize.
  • INTELLECTUAL CURIOSITY:   An open mind toward learning the ins and outs of another culture, such as its social customs, as well as concrete experiences such as food and fun.

Your ICES Host Family

ICES host families provide room and board to exchange students during their stay in America. More importantly, they provide the love and support that a young person needs during this once-in-a-lifetime experience. ICES students bring their own health insurance and spending money for school lunches, activities and personal items. While living in the United States, students have the same responsibilities as American teenagers – they must participate fully in the family life, including observing family rules and sharing chores.

ICES host families come from all backgrounds, faiths and philosophies. Some families have two host parents, and others are single- parent families. Some have young children who will enjoy the experience of having a “big brother or sister.” Sometimes the host parents have no children, or their children are grown up and live on their own. Often host parents work outside the home. Whatever the circumstances, host families share a common trait – they have enough love to make a young person from another country part of their family.

ICES Host Families are volunteers in the exchange program, meaning they will not get paid for hosting a student. So what do these wonderful families receive in return? The rewards are many. They learn about a foreign country and culture from the perspective of an exchange student who has lived there. They share in the evolving process of bringing the world closer together and promoting peace through international understanding. Most of all, they gain a new son or daughter, with shared love and friendship that will last a lifetime!

Many students and natural families are curious about how host families are found. Screening of American host families includes a host family application, reference checks, criminal background checks for every member of the household aged 18 and older, and an in-home interview by the ICES Local Coordinator. This process is determined by ICES procedures and in full compliance with United States Department of State regulations.


Your High School

Each year exchange students come to the U.S. to share their customs and their culture in exchange for the opportunity to learn about the U.S. and its citizens. This is made possible by high school personnel across America who realize the value of this experience and are open to the enrollment of foreign students in their schools. Exchange students bring a different perspective to the classroom. They serve as an educational resource for teachers and introduce fellow students to cultures other than their own.

American high schools vary from community to community, both in size and variety of subjects taught. Your Local Coordinator serves as ICES’ liaison with your high school and is responsible for helping the student enroll and make other arrangements with the teachers and administration as needed. A student’s grade level and class selection will be determined by school personnel based on age, language ability, past academic record and course availability. These decisions must be respected by ICES and the student.

ICES requires students to enroll in an English course and either a U.S. History or U.S. Government course. ICES encourages students to take a science and a math course, as well as some elective courses that perhaps they do not have the opportunity to take in their home country. ICES also encourages students to take a well-rounded schedule that will allow for success as well as for a challenging experience. ICES requires students to maintain at least a ‘C’ grade in each class.

ICES students are encouraged to participate in the full range of sports, clubs and other social activities available to them, as this will allow students to integrate and adjust to their new environment more quickly and smoothly. To some students, extracurricular involvement at the school will prove to be a vital part of their ICES experience. American high schools differ with regard to extracurricular opportunities, so be prepared to be flexible and try new things. Also be aware that athletic eligibility or participation is not guaranteed.



Your Student Exchange Community

Students often dream about an exchange year in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago or New Your, or a place they have seen on TV or in the movies. However, many opinions about America and Americans may be based on stereotypes or preconceived ideas. Soon you will be experiencing the reality behind those ideas, and it may be vastly different from what you were expecting. Most international students will actually spend their exchange in smaller cities, towns, or even in very rural areas. But with this said, there are advantages with both scenarios:

  • Living in a large city and attending a high school with thousands of students will most likely offer more options and activities, but will on the other hand require each exchange student to be very active and socially outgoing to fully take part in this often stressful and demanding environment.
  • Living in a smaller community will offer a more relaxed exchange experience for the student, as personal relationships with the host family, friends and school mates will have the time to deepen in this more inviting and less stressful setting.

Being away from home for five to ten months can be difficult, especially if you do not have realistic expectations of your new culture and environment, but with an open mind and a willingness to try something new, we assure you will have a great student experience wherever you will live during your exchange.



Your ICES Local Coordinator

The Local Coordinator is the student’s most important ICES contact and a vital part in the exchange experience. Students can depend on their Local Coordinator to offer advice, answer questions, assist with class enrollment and help them to develop a satisfying relationship with their host family.

At least once a month, the Local Coordinator will contact the student, host family and school to discuss recent experiences and prepare a monthly progress report.

The Local Coordinator often plans activities and trips for students in the area, and sometimes together with other ICES field staff in the region.

The Local Coordinator reports to the ICES Regional Manager, and if additional support or help becomes necessary the ICES Student Support Center will be contacted. An ICES on-duty officer may always be reached 24/7 at ICES toll-free number 1-800-344-356.


ICES Student Arrival Orientations & Tours


The ICES Student Arrival Orientation is a 4 days/3 nights stop-over that offers a ‘soft-landing’ on U.S. ground before continuing to your final destination to meet your host family. The orientations will give you an introduction to your host community and what to expect of American culture, including differences you haven’t seen in the movies or on TV. In the afternoons we relax and tour your arrival city to get a glimpse of some popular hot spots.

Here are some of the benefits of attending the Student Arrival Orientation

  • You will have time to get over the worst jet lag.
  • You will meet other exchange students from around the world.
  • 2 fun city tours to get a ‘taste’ of the local highlights.
  • A short orientation to go over the most important topics and expectations.
  • Individual time with an ICES staff member for personal questions.
  • You will be better prepared for a good start on your exchange experience.
  • You will feel fresh and rested when you fly out to meet your host family for the first time.

For many students the arrival orientation is mandatory and already included in your exchange package, but for others this is an add-on that you should not miss to attend.

Come join the thousands of ICES exchange students who have started their experience in America by attending one of these great student arrival orientations!


Why You Should Choose ICES

The ICES staff truly understands the challenges that exchange students may face, many of our team members have lived abroad and learned another language while overcoming cultural differences. This understanding and compassion is transmitted through ICES’s exceptional customer service.

ICES is a designated J-1 sponsor through the U.S. Department of State. We meet meticulous government regulations that assure our students, partners and host families have safe and positive experiences. ICES has been a member of the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange (ALLIANCE) since 1997. We have maintained a full listing with the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) for over 30 years.

With over 50 office staff members and a team of 500 field coordinators, we are dedicated to providing participants with experiences that will have a positive impact on their lives for years to come. Our team manages over 1,500 students yearly, with a network of school partners in all 50 states. Our students come from over 40 countries and are supervised by trained ICES Local Coordinators and compassionate student counselors.

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