A few years ago I heard someone being interviewed on the radio about the joys and pitfalls of an independent language exchange and immediately thought what an amazing opportunity for an adventurous child or teenager. I struggled for years (still am) trying to learn Spanish and French so it seemed not only do they go on a cool adventure, they can try out a European school, make friends and with the total immersion approach they also learn how to understand and actually speak the language. This is not an opportunity they will ever get once they grow up, not even as a student.
I mentioned it at home and my middle child, aged 13 jumped at it and the process began. Four years on she is 17 and her and her exchange Iria still swap each summer to spend some time together, speaking the language of the Country they are in. In fact this year Abby aged 17 and her sister aged 15 have both gone to stay with Iria in Spain as they got on well together too.
Both girls went to school together in the UK an Spain – this is not essential as they exchange can just be arranged in the holidays but worked well for us to have the combination as I have always worked and both found it fascinating at how different the structure and lessons were.
My youngest daughter then wanted to go on an exchange which she then duly did the following year, whilst she was in year 8. I must point out that although they can speak really well neither was motivated because they wanted to excel at languages, they will probably both go on to do sciences at A-level but with most university courses in all subjects offering placements and study aboard for a year it is a skill that I am confident will not be wasted in the future.
When I was asked last year if I would consider the post of the UK rep for Adolesco I jumped. My girls had an amazing experience and I am passionate that young people should have opportunities to explore the world and understand others beyond their immediate circle.