ISE ONTARIO exchange programs offer your child opportunities to:
- Develop language skills
- Share their family and school life with another person
- Increase their cultural awareness through a direct experience
- Enhance their understanding of others
- Gain confidence, responsibility and self-reliance
- Come home with a new appreciation of Canada
- Prepare for 21st century life in the global village
- Establish personal relationships that may last a lifetime
Students typically apply for an ISE ONTARIO exchange in one school year with the exchange taking place during the next school year. See timelines under Exchange Programs for more information.
ISE ONTARIO and each of its exchange partners separately determine their particular screening and selection process. However, only students who are recommended by their teachers and principal are accepted for participation in the programs.
Beyond academic standing, personality, interests, enthusiasm and commitment, other considerations include: ability to get along with others, activities planned for the hosting period, home accommodation for the visiting student. Ideally, a separate room for the visiting student should be available (siblings might share to free a room); a separate bed is always required where room sharing is unavoidable.
Host parents and families must be able to provide a warm, friendly and secure home environment, be open minded, show strong interest and commitment, and have preliminary plans for hosting in August and anticipated cultural activities that the visiting student would experience. Host families must be willing and able to speak only English during the entire hosting period.
Recognizing the safety and well-being of students is always a high priority. ISE Ontario takes many measures to protect our program participants. When matching students, we ensure that our children will be sent to a stable and secure home where they will be integrated into the family for the duration of the exchange. We will answer families' questions and concerns and send frequent email updates regarding the program and expectations during their exchange timeline. We have representatives at the airport upon student departures and arrivals and experienced chaperones responsible for assisting all students in moving safely through the airports, getting on their flights, and greeting their families upon arrival in Europe. We also ensure ground support is in place in Europe, and participants are provided with emergency contact details for Canada and Europe. We recognize that most participants travel with a cell phone but have limited data. We always request they enroll on a social media platform that will allow our offices to connect with them as needed without incurring additional expenses. This information is collected before their departure and approved by the families.
Touchpoints occur throughout the exchange, and our partner offices collaborate to follow up and support the exchange experience. Both offices will examine any issues that arise during the exchange period, and we will work to solve these as soon as possible. We coach any concerns and, if, after monitoring and efforts at problem-solving deemed necessary, will move the student to a new host family. If repatriation is necessary, we will secure our students’ safe return home as soon as possible and support parents during this time. We will not send children abroad if we identify any significant risks to them before the time of departure. Should a situation arise once the children have departed and the exchange needs to be terminated early, ISE will work in partnership with our European offices, travel agent, and airlines to manage the safe group return of all our children abroad. As recently witnessed during the return of over 150 participants during the COVID-19 pandemic, as matters escalated, we decided to terminate the program before the first Canadian travel advisory announcement.
We will continue to evolve practices moving forward. Please be assured that ISE will always act in the best interest of our students.
Families are expected to host the visiting exchange student during the exchange period and treat them as a member of the family; to provide all three daily meals, a warm, safe and friendly environment; to arrange for a safe means of travel to school; to help them adjust to new surroundings; to assume parental care for the exchange student; to ensure that they are immersed in the target language and given full opportunity to hear and use English at home as well as at school; and to ensure that they are exposed to as many cultural activities as possible, all of which at no cost to the visiting exchange student.
Students must review with Guidance/Student Services in June their schedule of courses for the upcoming school year. Students in semestered schools take four courses in the first semester and generally at least three in the second semester of their exchange year; exchange participants in non-semestered schools also can complete seven or eight courses during the year with proper planning. Most schools have one Guidance contact who is experienced with the exchange program and can provide the best advice regarding course selection.
During the fall term, parents should attend the parents’ night at school to ensure that the appropriate teachers are aware that the Ontario student will be attending school out of the province for three months the following spring. It is the responsibility of students to meet with their teachers to determine how to complete the work in each subject; most often students are able to work ahead, and may complete at least one assignment while away. Ideally these assignments relate to the exchange experience, the culture, language, or history of the host country. All students return by April, and again, work with their teachers to catch up and prepare for the year-end and exams in June.
Students should have a strong desire to live another culture and make an effort to learn the language of the chosen exchange destination, as well as its history, culture and everyday way of life. Students must understand that this program is intended to be a part of their secondary school study experience, and not be undertaken as an opportunity for personal travel or holiday time during the school year.
For exchanges in French-language destinations students must be studying French as a second language in a core, immersion or extended program. Students from French-language homes and/or schools may wish to go to these destinations for the cultural experience. However, they must understand that French language students are seeking to improve their English language skills while in Ontario. Ontario students from French language homes and/or schools should consider an exchange to Spain, Germany or Italy.
For exchanges with Italy, Germany and Spain, students should have some background in the language of the host country. Where a language course is not taught in the school nor offered through the school board, participants in these exchanges should seek other ways of acquiring a basic knowledge, such as courses through various community agencies, interactive computer programs, internet offerings etc.
Summer Programs carry no language requirement.
ISE ONTARIO offers school year exchanges for nine weeks duration as well as a summer program with a duration of three weeks. Each program involves hosting a partner, and traveling to the host country to stay with the exchange partner for the same length of time.
Students must be between 13 and 17 years of age, in the year of the exchange.
Students should plan on covering all expenses outside of the host family’s activities. These personal social activities may include (but are not limited to) movies, meals, or sporting events while out with the partner and/or other friends, public transportation for social activities, optional recreational activities or excursions offered by the host school. Although usually supplied by the host family, students should be prepared to provide their own personal toiletries.
The amount of spending money can be determined according to the student’s own spending habits at home. Younger students generally require less for social activities than older students.
ISE ONTARIO works hard to match each student with a partner who shares common interests or activities, so that each can pursue the things that they enjoy. This is accomplished by matching students who play a musical instrument or participate in an extra-curricular sport, or whose families indicate access to specific facilities.
Students may indicate a particular request in their application form (music lessons, fitness program, horseback riding) and the host family will usually try to accommodate. In such cases, students would be responsible for the fees involved.