Year abroad: steps after application
Once you have chosen a provider, filled out the long questionnaire and made a first down payment, the long wait begins. The agencies reserve the right to find ideal host parents until shortly before the start of school and usually speak of "no later than four weeks before the start of school" to provide information about the family, location and school in the destination country. But there are also exceptions.
We know a case where it was clear very quickly that the child should come to Maryland (although climbing and mountains were a clear wish). Nevertheless, the exact information took until shortly before the start of school.
There is also the case that you receive a proposal from a family very early on. The agencies are after all out to place children as optimally as possible, that is not only a noble human goal. It also involves a lot of extra work for the agency if a change of host parents has to take place during the school year. However, these suggestions should be taken with a grain of salt, you may end up with "hard to place" hosts. In our case it was a single soccer coach. For a child who is only peripherally interested in soccer, this is not the best thing in the world. Of course, you can refuse such preliminary proposals, but not the final one, if the agreed conditions are suitable.
do not yet book flight and organize travel
The local agency, in our case at the same time a travel agency, does not like these short deadlines, of course, because they like to arrange flights on the side. Here, too, one has to pay attention to one's own location and the destination. The last is of course unknown. Our agency promptly offers a flight three months before school starts, from Vienna to Paris. Even without a known destination it is wrong, because from us Munich is much closer and from there also more flights leave.
Paris is indeed a hub and at the agency in the destination country, the free transfer from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport was always highlighted. Mind you only from there and only to another airport around Paris and only during office hours. Not because it is offered free of charge, it makes necessarily also sense!
In France there are also many international inland airports, which are increasingly used in the summer (beginning of school or. school closing time falls in the summer of flight). It is possible to find direct flights without any pointless detours via state capitals.
These flight offers should be checked even if the destination is known. It is possible to find more direct or better connections. Or one travels together a piece (directly passing is not desired, see the Regelement). In France there are also good train connections.
Even after the agreement, when organizing the trip, it means to wait, because there can be surprises. Also, the agencies do not necessarily offer the cheapest connections!
The information about destination, family and school comes concentrated and without warning. This is already exciting! The family introduces itself with house, child and cone, likewise the school is announced and in the Internet one finds fast resuming information.
Nevertheless, it is important to keep a cool head and check all the information carefully. First, as described above, there may be a flight offer that is not quite optimal.
But also the information about the family and school should fit. Of course, one cannot and should not choose the hair color, but the agreed conditions should be observed. That can be:
- Family composition: The agencies keep all possibilities open, nevertheless one can demand that his child does not come to a single person.
- School constraints: In most destination countries, school conditions are basically the same as in the home country, at least up to grade 10. School level, where these years abroad are made. Nevertheless, it is useful to make sure that foreign languages can be continued. Our condition was just Italian as a second foreign language.
The agencies try to take into account some of the children's wishes, but the environment and sports are hardly ever taken into consideration. We know many cases of enthusiastic skiers and climbers who have been sent to the lowlands. Also memberships in clubs or competitive sports are not taken into account.
It seems that special attention is paid to the human fit of the child with the host family, this is also emphasized again and again. Whereby all this is considerably inaccurate. I have the impression that the most important thing is to have children of the same age in the household. Whereby one can wonder if 16 year olds will really have a good time with 12 year olds or if children from divorced families, who are only in the household every other weekend, will really be of use.
Sometimes, however, inconspicuous criteria are taken into account. Our son does not tolerate chlorine (so he cannot go into a swimming pool or an outdoor pool). The assigned host family has a swimming pool in the garden, which is filled with salt water!
Besides the family and the school, we were given the contact details of a regional contact person of the agency. It seems that we are dealing with a teacher who takes care of the whole department part-time. When I discover errors in the assignment (see below), I contact this regional supervisor immediately. However, the answer comes rather gruffly from the central agency, "the regional authority is not responsible for the debt details". What else they are responsible for is not yet clear to me. Maybe this will come.
Requirements not taken into account on the part of the agencies
Italian as a second foreign language is a problem for us, however. The school close to the host family only offers German and Spanish. Because of the location in the countryside, there is no alternative to this school. And that although the agency in the destination country has repeatedly confirmed to me that this choice of language is respected.
I had chosen the local agency because of this criterion, other agencies did not want to deal with this or offered extra courses for a fee. But "Italien en LV2" is available almost everywhere in France.
Neither the local agency, nor the agency in the destination country have pointed out this fact during the communication. It is hard to say if it was forgotten or knowingly omitted. Only after repeated inquiries with the head office in the destination country as well as with the agency at home did something like an apology come.
In an email correspondence lasting several days, I was previously told all kinds of fairy tales, especially by the agency in the destination country:
- That Italian would no longer exist as a foreign language. A simple web search quickly contradicts this.
- That there is no public school in the area. Here also web search and clear contradiction.
- That under "current conditions" schools do not accept visiting children. This is nonsense, there is simply compulsory schooling.
This is highly dubious. Mistakes can happen, but then one should admit that. I was also offered to take a private Catholic school 4 times farther away. But this is troublesome for the host family. Besides, I do not think much of this elitism.
I have last agreed that our son in the planned school simply take German as a second foreign language. When returning, this is not a logistical problem (the positively completed school year counts), but of course the material is missing. In other destination countries there are usually even more subjects missing. It will just fade on the spot.
Contacting the host family
As described above, when you communicate, you get all the data: Name, address, contact details and motivation letter of the host family as well as the exact school location (will be chosen by the agency in the destination country). The agencies advise then to contact immediately. That is somewhat strange, because on the one hand for a long time no information was present, on the other hand one had to sign with the own application a lengthy set of rules which one as parents everything may not (among other things attendance prohibition).
The first exchange develops on the phone or by email. It is mainly about practical things (health insurance, school) but also in the family rules, which are naturally different, even if the destination country is not exotic.
One should also clarify with the family all the important points that one has supposedly clarified with the agencies. This is how our local agency registers students in the school. With the errors that arose before in communication (see above), caution is also required here, there are various foreign languages, optional subjects, etc., which can help if material is really missing. And the agency does not take care of important details like the registration for the school bus, that has to be done by the family on site and in any case before the arrival of the child at the beginning of school.
Also, you should clarify the arrival with the host family, usually they will pick up the child at the airport or train station and there do not count the strict data of the agencies (it seems to me that they have fixed the 1st day of school). September in the templates), but the constraints of the family in the destination country, they may prefer the child to arrive on Saturday and not on Friday afternoon.
Time before departure
After understanding, open issues need to be clarified with agencies, if there are changes, they also need to be mutually confirmed via email. Especially the confirmation of the arrival time goes through five corners: both agencies must have confirmed this and communicate the information to the host family. However, one had already made contact with them anyway and of course talks about the journey. I often have the feeling that a large part of the EUR6000 for the agencies is wasted in the bureaucracy.
In purely practical terms, there are of course also things to do at home.
The school should be informed of course (ideally still at school times), even if the class teacher was already belastitigt with the questionnaire.
This absence for a year is common, but there is no real mode for it in the schools yet. So in the 6. Gymnasium, or in the 10 school year in general, already made some decisions for the Matura (electives, etc).). Theoretically, you could do all this already at the end of the 5th grade. The class has to make it up, but neither the school nor the class teacher has an ear for that. The student's classmates will have to take care of contacting the student abroad when there are important decisions to be made. With Whatsapp& co this is not a problem today, but to simply outsource these important things to classmates is already an organizational indictment of the schools.
Easier but also not to forget:
- Textbooks of the year abroad. These can help, if really material is missing or was treated differently. By consulting with the class chambermates, parents can pick up these books, although of course they must be requested separately.
- Applications for free tickets on public transportation (for the following summer). You usually have to apply for these at the end of the previous year.
Sometimes you have to take medication regularly. Even though the world is closing in, these do not always exist abroad or are composed differently. This is true, for example, in the case of desensitization to allergies, one may have to swallow tablets for several years.
The problem here is not the foreign country, but the local health insurance: you will not get a prescription for one year, prescriptions for more than three months are "Chefarztpflichtig". You can't send the medicine later, because you don't have the child's insurance card with you. For a whole year you need good relations with the family doctor and pharmacist, who have to close some eyes.
Recurring appointments should be made while still in the country: Ophthalmologist for new glasses, orthopedist for new orthotics, etc.
Basically, you should discuss potential medical problems with your host family. However, it is not possible to prevent everything in any case.
Passport and identity card
Children who travel have a passport, but they will not carry it with them all the time, the format alone speaks against it. So we made an identity card in credit card format, because at 15/16 you don't have a driver's license yet. Issuing takes time, so you should not do it just before departure.
The passport should be valid for the whole duration of the stay. Children traveling alone are often checked more closely, so it is better if the papers are up to date.
Travel power of attorney
In some destination countries, a young person traveling alone also needs a birth certificate showing the parents and a power of attorney to leave his or her home country. For France it is not necessary, but we will give our son a copy of these documents. In Austria there are forular templates at the oAMTC, they are called:
Declaration of consent for a without parents / with only one
Parent traveling child
Parental Consent for a child traveling without the parents / with
only one parent
The French, especially after young people leave for the Middle East, have a form in circulation that children and young people traveling alone must carry with them when crossing the border. Note that the regulations state that the child is not allowed to leave the destination country during the year abroad, but this can happen in places close to the border. The form is called:
Autorisation de sortie du territoire (AST) d'un mineur non accompagne par un titulaire de l'autorite parentale
(article 371-6 du code civil ; decret n° 2016-1483 du 2 novembre 2016 relatif A l'autorisation de sortie du territoire d'un mineur non accompagne par un titulaire de l'autorite parentale ; arrete du 13 decembre 2016)
Money on the spot
The host family pays for board and lodging (free of charge!), but school books and, for example, the canteen usually have to be paid for by the biological parents or the child on site. A lot of money can be transferred directly via IBAN, but the child also needs pocket money on site, must be able to access his own money and must also have money available in case of emergency.
We experienced that some payments can only be made with a French ATM card, a credit card or by check. Here our son had to either ask us parents or ask his host family to pay in advance and then transfer the money to the family (if it had to go fast).
The easiest way to do this is with an ATM card. Banks issue such willingly also for young people (young caught customers may stay for life). Accounts are free up to 19 and beyond that up to 27 with proof of study. We have left the daily limit at EUR400 and the overdraft block.
Problematic at the age of 15: before 14 a parent can open an account for his child, after 16 the child can open one himself, in between a parent and the child have to go to the bank branch personally.
The need for money is large, especially at the beginning: notebooks, pens, folders, and in France, school books must also be purchased. This is all to be settled by the child.