The World Wide Web is revolutionizing high school foreign-exchange programs. There's a new matchmaking service on the site run by the Council for Standards on International Travel. Students can look for a program that suits their interests. Families that want to host a foreign student can investigate their options. Schools that want to start an exchange program can seek out partner institutions.
Why go at a time when the crunch is on to take the right courses and earn the best grades for college? "A better perspective on your place in society," says John Hishmeh, the council's executive director. "Kids don't necessarily come back and start a peace foundation, but they have an enlightened sense of how the world fits together." Not to mention a chance to experience another culture up close and gain a little facility in another tongue.
Hishmeh also believes that "exchange breeds more exchange." If parents have gone, their children are more likely to be interested. The same goes for friends and relations. But as a rule, Americans lag way behind. "What's really doing well is international kids coming here," he says.