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DD wants to study abroad - advice?
Old 09-27-2009, 11:50 PM   #1
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DD wants to study abroad - advice?

DD#1 is a junior at State U. She wants to go to France next semester on an academic exchange, meaning tuition will be paid to the home school and credits for pre-approved classes at Paris U #10 will post directly to her State U transcript.

She took French beginning in 7th grade and continued through high school. Once at the U, she took two basic classes (easy A's) and liked the experience of learning from native French speakers. She's taken another class this semester - a more challenging grammar and speaking lab - and will have enough credits for a minor in French with either two or three more classes.

Studying abroad has been mentioned more and more frequently as time has gone on. It's now approaching the status of a done deal for the upcoming spring semester - the applications are due next week and I'm fairly certain she will be a shoe-in for approval.

So there's no worries on language fluency, and I am certain that the exchange offices at both U's will work out a class schedule that will count toward both her major and the French minor. Thus far she has resisted any attraction to LGFNB's or weekly frat parties, so it's a good bet that she will show up for class and learn something.

Academically, there is little doubt this will be a good experience. And, on a rational level, DW and I are thrilled about her one taking one more step toward independence.

On another hand, the still-strong parental instincts do cause some apprehension. In particular, researching the logistics have us all working nights and weekends. In some ways, it's like senior year of high school all over again. (We feel your pain, Nords.)

The top issues, in no particular order:
  1. Financial transactions. Not where we will get the money to pay for this (incl. DD's share), but how to set up for accounts, payments and spending money in Euros. Being a member of this forum, I am of course highly allergic to unnecessary fees and hassles.
  2. Communications. DW and DD speak to each other free (and frequently) on our family cell phone plan. We have recently bought webcams and figured out how to make free Skype internet video calls. Cell phone research is in progress - a pay-as-you-go plan in France looks to be the way to go for a six-month stay.
  3. Where to stay is a big unknown right now, but it may be critical to how this works out. It's certainly the biggest financial variable. Unlike freshman year, however, there seems to be very little a non-French-speaking parent can do to help sort through the options.
  4. Security. Not personal security exactly (although that's a part of it, especially for DW), but the uncertainty of whether some of the safety net services we take for granted at an American U will be available if needed.
  5. Health care is also on the list, but I suspect provisions for basic insurance and access to a doctor or clinic will be covered as a matter of course in the exchange process. I wonder whether I should take this for granted. (DD is fit and has no health issues.)
  6. How to explain to my boss that I will need at least two weeks of vacation time to "pick up my daughter from college" next June.
Comments and advice will be welcomed, either specific or general.
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Old 09-27-2009, 11:56 PM   #2
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I think that it would be a great experience for her.

One of my biggest regrets is not accepting a post-doc opportunity in Europe.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:53 AM   #3
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DD#1 is a junior at State U. She wants to go to France next semester on an academic exchange, meaning tuition will be paid to the home school and credits for pre-approved classes at Paris U #10 will post directly to her State U transcript.

She took French beginning in 7th grade and continued through high school. Once at the U, she took two basic classes (easy A's) and liked the experience of learning from native French speakers. She's taken another class this semester - a more challenging grammar and speaking lab - and will have enough credits for a minor in French with either two or three more classes.

Studying abroad has been mentioned more and more frequently as time has gone on. It's now approaching the status of a done deal for the upcoming spring semester - the applications are due next week and I'm fairly certain she will be a shoe-in for approval.

So there's no worries on language fluency, and I am certain that the exchange offices at both U's will work out a class schedule that will count toward both her major and the French minor. Thus far she has resisted any attraction to LGFNB's or weekly frat parties, so it's a good bet that she will show up for class and learn something.

Academically, there is little doubt this will be a good experience. And, on a rational level, DW and I are thrilled about her one taking one more step toward independence.

On another hand, the still-strong parental instincts do cause some apprehension. In particular, researching the logistics have us all working nights and weekends. In some ways, it's like senior year of high school all over again. (We feel your pain, Nords.)

The top issues, in no particular order:
  1. Financial transactions. Not where we will get the money to pay for this (incl. DD's share), but how to set up for accounts, payments and spending money in Euros. Being a member of this forum, I am of course highly allergic to unnecessary fees and hassles.
  2. Communications. DW and DD speak to each other free (and frequently) on our family cell phone plan. We have recently bought webcams and figured out how to make free Skype internet video calls. Cell phone research is in progress - a pay-as-you-go plan in France looks to be the way to go for a six-month stay.
  3. Where to stay is a big unknown right now, but it may be critical to how this works out. It's certainly the biggest financial variable. Unlike freshman year, however, there seems to be very little a non-French-speaking parent can do to help sort through the options.
  4. Security. Not personal security exactly (although that's a part of it, especially for DW), but the uncertainty of whether some of the safety net services we take for granted at an American U will be available if needed.
  5. Health care is also on the list, but I suspect provisions for basic insurance and access to a doctor or clinic will be covered as a matter of course in the exchange process. I wonder whether I should take this for granted. (DD is fit and has no health issues.)
  6. How to explain to my boss that I will need at least two weeks of vacation time to "pick up my daughter from college" next June.
Comments and advice will be welcomed, either specific or general.
1. I think your DD should setup a US checking account with an international VISA/MasterCard debit card. When you need to give her money, simply transfer it to her US checking account and she can access it from any ATM. If she can avoid it, try not to open a bank account in France, French banks are expensive. So try to find a bank in the US that offers good exchange rates and low international withdrawal fees. I think that's your best bet.

2. Skype is a must for cheap international calls. For cell phones, lots of people use Orange. They offer "mobicartes", prepaid cards that you can buy almost anywhere. You can buy a cheap phone and recharge it with minutes by buying those "mobicartes", for sale almost anywhere. I have to warn you though that this is not the cheapest option. If she uses her cell phone a lot or call international numbers, she will burn through these minutes pretty quickly. But if it's only for emergencies and quick/rare phone calls, then it is probably the cheapest option.

3. Several options. Living with a French family, living on campus (if available) or in off-campus student residences, living in an apartment off campus. For complete immersion, living with a French family is probably best. The cheapest option is probably living on campus or in off-campus student housing. You should contact the university and ask if they offer student housing. Even of they don't, they might have suggestions on where to look. Renting an apartment off campus is probably the costliest and more complex option. It is probably not easy to lease an apartment for only 6 months, and even then, you will have to co-sign for her and provide solid proof of resources. And very importantly, when leasing an apartment, you absolutely have to go visit in person, you'll be amazed at the kind of dungeons people try to lease students.

4. I am not sure I understand the question, although the US embassy in Paris should be the ultimate safety net in case of major problem. What kinda safety net are you talking about?

5. I believe that exchange students are covered by the national health care system as are French students, although I only have experience with long term exchange students. If she can be covered by "la securite sociale", you may have to pay a premium upfront though. If she cannot be covered by the national health care system, you will have to prove coverage by a private insurance company.

6. I will let you handle that problem...

Don't hesitate to PM me of you have any more questions.
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Old 09-28-2009, 01:02 AM   #4
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We're at that stage in our house where every third conversation involves the question "Have you talked to someone who did this last year?"

Does State U have a professor or a student who's been to France on that program or a similar one? That might solve a lot of lodging and security problems. Wherever her exchange program wants to send her, there will be a liaison office with similar lodging resources & advice.

I haven't been to France in over 30 years, but at the time if you could speak the language then people would try to help. No personal-security issues with public transportation.

And if she's as fluent as her years of experience make her think she is, then she can do a lot of Googling en francais...

If our pain doesn't end in 321 days, does that mean we'll need to start a new count-down timer?
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Old 09-28-2009, 01:07 AM   #5
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Here is one lodging option for Paris X University (off-campus student residence):

Résidence Pablo Picasso Nanterre FAC HABITAT

The apartments are furnished, close to public transportation and supermarket, not too expensive.
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Old 09-28-2009, 05:56 AM   #6
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I agree with FIREdreamer on #s 1,2,3, don't have enough experience with 4 or 5 to say, and for #6 I just talk to myself mostly (easy to get agreement, and my boss is 7000 miles away). Seriously though, I just delivered my daughter to university in Hawaii (counts as abroad for us since we are in Japan right now) and stayed there almost a week to get her settled. I did tell my boss I was doing it...he didn't even flinch. I would expect that for most folks it would be the chance of a lifetime, and if you talked to him about it early and kept him aprised of the situation (from the time she is accepted until you board the plane) (s)he will probably be understanding and supportive. I have two employees with kids studying abroad, and I have supported them each time they have wanted to go for a visit or attend a graduation or whatever.

Also agree with Nords' advice. I think that state U and exchange U will probably have some support in place.

Honestly speaking, if I were you, my only worry would be that she came home with a French BF...who ended up marrying her and moving her to France, and then not being able to afford to visit very often. My DD's university is very international, and something of this nature is a very big worry of mine...

FWIW,
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Old 09-28-2009, 07:32 AM   #7
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I have not been an exchange student, but I did go work and live in Europe and have travelled extensively in France. I had a great time. I know many folks who have been university students in France. We have US friends whose child is completing a 4-year degree in Europe despite having grown up in the US with American parents.

Years ago, I had to make use of the French health care system and ended up in a hospital. I did not speak a word of French. The staff did not speak a word of English, but the young nurses were fantastic and that helped me get well in a very short time. The whole experience cost me $0.

If it were my child, I would simply butt out and let her figure it out and not worry about it. That's part of growing up and becoming an adult. And why would anyone worry about a European son-in-law? It might give your daughter free health care for life and you would get low-cost European vacations for life as well.
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Old 09-28-2009, 07:53 AM   #8
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Thanks all, especially Firedreamer.

#6 about taking time off from work was a tongue-in-cheek entry. The boss will not be a problem.

However, your responses do touch on an interesting conundrum - whether or not to accompany DD for a drop-off at the front end. It's definitely a rite of passage for the freshman year, but in this case I'm not so sure. Right now, DD is leaning toward "I can do this, Dad".

And she's probably right, especially considering I would be the mute, nodding shadow figure in the background for every check-in step. This decision will remain open for a while, depending on how well the answers for the other questions come into focus.

On the security question, it's two fold. Part One is the the fundamental question of finding a safe place to live in a big city.

Google Translate gave us a scare on this one this weekend. I found an on-line newsletter describing the neighborhoods near the school and hit the translate button. The translation came back with "The Groues is a ventilated area. There is plenty of space yet undeveloped, some say not optimized, it is also territory of lust."

It turns out that a more accurate translation would have been territory of "envy" or "materialism". But the damage was done - DW's hair-trigger worry button had been pushed once again.

The other part of the safety net is more general - things like access to academic counselors or professors, a student center with a range of services, whether there are services aimed at foreign students.

Overall, like in the regular college application process, I know that many of the answers will start coming in once an acceptance package is distributed. State U definitely seems to have the the application process organized - I'm going on faith right now they will help with the next strps, too. Meanwhile, I'm fighting all tendencies to warm up the helicopter.
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:27 AM   #9
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I'm sure State U has done this so many times that it goes like clockwork.

Although my kids didn't want to do study abroad, what I hear from others is that it costs a lot more while they're overseas than expected. The dollar is weak so that euro-based cup of coffee is going to be really expensive. Also, there will be opportunities that you wouldn't want them to miss, including travel to nearby countries--if she's in Paris, you would want your daughter to visit London or Germany if the chance comes up, for example.

Also be sure any debit or credit cards she's using won't expire while your daughter is away.

And it might be cheaper and easier for her to get a cell phone over there--not sure about that.
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Old 09-28-2009, 09:48 AM   #10
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My daughter had an excellent program abroad. Two nieces and a very close family friend likewise, with differing results. The things that seem to have made the greatest differences:

How involved is the University in the program abroad? Is it just course accreditation or do they have program faculty abroad on the State U payroll? How about full time administrative personnel and an office vs a mail drop and a “local coordinator”. This is important not only for academic rigor but also security and safety. If the University commits it’s own resources abroad they will likely include a safety net for the students and faculty. Otherwise the kids are pretty much on their own.

If the program is in Europe health care must be provided through the public health care system, the University program fee must include the health care fee and a card will be given to the student confirming coverage. This must be spelled out clearly in the program literature.

Feedback from my “family and friends network” is quite conclusive - staying with a host family makes all the difference. Kids staying at University provided housing seem to spend much of their free time together, speaking english, drinking, and often hanging out in less desirable places. Most host families are paid and are repeat hosts. Kids with host families are subject to “family home standards” which can be very reassuring for parents like us. This is a potential major source of cultural enrichment as well.

Internet cafes and skype are prereqs. Cash is needed for internet cafes. Student should also buy a second hand GSM phone on arrival – most likely from a departing student. get a new number and prepaid cards. Incoming calls are free...

An excellent example of a well structured study abroad program is Syracuse University. I’m not recommending it, just citing it as an example and useful comparison. Check out their web site.
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Old 09-28-2009, 10:56 AM   #11
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Thanks all, especially Firedreamer.

#6 about taking time off from work was a tongue-in-cheek entry. The boss will not be a problem.

However, your responses do touch on an interesting conundrum - whether or not to accompany DD for a drop-off at the front end. It's definitely a rite of passage for the freshman year, but in this case I'm not so sure. Right now, DD is leaning toward "I can do this, Dad".

And she's probably right, especially considering I would be the mute, nodding shadow figure in the background for every check-in step. This decision will remain open for a while, depending on how well the answers for the other questions come into focus.

On the security question, it's two fold. Part One is the the fundamental question of finding a safe place to live in a big city.

Google Translate gave us a scare on this one this weekend. I found an on-line newsletter describing the neighborhoods near the school and hit the translate button. The translation came back with "The Groues is a ventilated area. There is plenty of space yet undeveloped, some say not optimized, it is also territory of lust."

It turns out that a more accurate translation would have been territory of "envy" or "materialism". But the damage was done - DW's hair-trigger worry button had been pushed once again.

The other part of the safety net is more general - things like access to academic counselors or professors, a student center with a range of services, whether there are services aimed at foreign students.

Overall, like in the regular college application process, I know that many of the answers will start coming in once an acceptance package is distributed. State U definitely seems to have the the application process organized - I'm going on faith right now they will help with the next strps, too. Meanwhile, I'm fighting all tendencies to warm up the helicopter.
On finding a safe place to live in Paris: keep in mind that, in France, rough neighborhoods are often in the suburbs and not within the city limits. Paris intra muros is a safe city, as are most suburbs. You just need to know which burbs to avoid (avoid the northern suburbs at all costs). But Nanterre is located near the most exclusive part of town, and safety shouldn't be an issue.

As far as safety net is concerned: Large universities like Nanterre have a "department of international relations" (Université de Paris 10 - Department of International Relations). This is the go to place for exchange students. French universities typically have a student center (bookstore, coffee shop, photocopy center, etc...) and at least a basic campus clinic that offers free consultations. Though the campus clinic tends to specialize in screenings and preventive medicine, you can also see a family doctor there. But campus clinics are rarely as well equipped in France as they are in the US where they look like mini-hospitals. People often rely on off-campus doctors for their primary care. Most doctors (except specialists) can see you the same day without appointment. If it's late at night, you can have a doctor come to your home (SOS medecins, or on-duty emergency doctor). Worst case, go to the emergency room of your nearest hospital or dial 18 for the fire department. French universities also have university restaurants. You buy a book of tickets (for a low price because they are subsidized) and each ticket buys you a meal at a cafeteria style restaurant. It is often the most affordable option to eat a nutritious meal on campus. It is a very busy place around chow time, and the food is not bad at all.

As far as access to professors, it seems as easy as in the US, though French students tend to be independent and not rely on their professors too much outside of class. They rely instead on fellow students to work through academic difficulties. Academic counselors may not have an equivalent in France, at least I have never met one.
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Old 09-28-2009, 11:30 AM   #12
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The only reason why, as a parent, you would want to accompany her is to help her navigate the airport in Paris (the most unintuitive airport ever). Once she is on the train to Paris, it's pretty easy from here on out. Since you do not speak French, I am not sure how much help you would be to her though.

On the other hand...
I was once an exchange student in the US. My parents dropped me off at the airport in Europe and off I went by myself across the Atlantic for the first time. It was exciting and a bit unnerving not to know what to expect. I was shocked to discover, upon landing in Philly, that my English was not nearly as good as I thought it was (I couldn't understand what people were telling me!) and it became a challenge to navigate through immigration, customs and terminal changes. But it all worked out. As I was waiting for my connecting flight, I spotted some luscious goodness in some airport store called a donut. Of course, back in Europe, we spelled it "doughnut", so I asked for one of those "dufnuts" because "rough" is pronounced "ruf" and tough is pronounced "tuf". Seemed logical... The poor woman working the concession couldn't understand what I was saying. But, using universal sign language, I still got my donut! I do not regret doing it all by myself. Making mistakes and making a fool of yourself is part of the experience IMO. I wouldn't want anyone taking those memories away from me. It really was the best part of the trip.

As for DD bringing home some French "punk", well, I brought home some American babe and later married her... Sooooo, it's always a risk.
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Old 09-28-2009, 12:03 PM   #13
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1. I think your DD should setup a US checking account with an international VISA/MasterCard debit card. When you need to give her money, simply transfer it to her US checking account and she can access it from any ATM. If she can avoid it, try not to open a bank account in France, French banks are expensive. So try to find a bank in the US that offers good exchange rates and low international withdrawal fees. I think that's your best bet.

I trade with Schwab and just signed up for their CC. One of the best features is they have no int'l transaction fees over the currency adjustment. Many CC's charge 1 to 3% and that is not nice!
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:07 PM   #14
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We have a DD that is going to London in JAN 2010. Many of your questions we have asked also....good talking and good discussions and getting her ready to be at the level of independence needed seems all to be going well. Skype is our plan. A mix of debit and the Charles Schwab no fee CC as discussed is what we are going to do also. Can she talk to other students in the program now? This is a valuable tool we have found. Good luck and keep us posted.
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:42 PM   #15
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My daughter was an exchange student in Germany . She had many years of the language so she was fluent .She stayed with a host family . The father was a professor and the mother was a great cook . My daughter absolutely loved it . They really took my daughter under their wing and showed her all of Germany . Great experience ! It was costly but worth every penney .
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Old 09-28-2009, 02:44 PM   #16
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My daughter was in a 4 month German language program in Berlin almost two years ago. She became VERY independent during that time. It was a wonderful learning experience for her. She used ATMs for cash and her credit card. She did take a little extra in travelers checks but not sure if she ever used any. Since I can't used phones, we used Yahoo instant messaging with a camera.
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:18 PM   #17
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Honestly speaking, if I were you, my only worry would be that she came home with a French BF...who ended up marrying her and moving her to France, and then not being able to afford to visit very often. My DD's university is very international, and something of this nature is a very big worry of mine...
Sorry if it seemed I indicated that a French BF would be a punk...that's not what I meant. I also went abroad (as a volunteer) and ended up with a Japanese wife. Later I ended up in Japan, and eventually as the CEO of the Japanese sub of megacorp. Good things happen. But during the early years that I was here, we saw my folks maybe once every 3 years...they couldn't afford to come see us, and we could not afford to go see them any more often than that. So my intention was only to say that even though DD (my case or OP's) may find some upstanding young foreign man and marry him you may not see her very often. On the other hand, as it seems in FIREdreamer's case, he may bring her home and live close enough to visit from time to time.

Sorry if I offended anyone...

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Old 09-28-2009, 06:32 PM   #18
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Sorry if it seemed I indicated that a French BF would be a punk...that's not what I meant. I also went abroad (as a volunteer) and ended up with a Japanese wife. Later I ended up in Japan, and eventually as the CEO of the Japanese sub of megacorp. Good things happen. But during the early years that I was here, we saw my folks maybe once every 3 years...they couldn't afford to come see us, and we could not afford to go see them any more often than that. So my intention was only to say that even though DD (my case or OP's) may find some upstanding young foreign man and marry him you may not see her very often. On the other hand, as it seems in FIREdreamer's case, he may bring her home and live close enough to visit from time to time.

Sorry if I offended anyone...

R
LOL, I was joking with the "punk" thing! You didn't offend me at all. I understand where you come from as a dad, and I know how protective dads are especially when it comes to their daughters... I think many tend to perceive their DD's first serious boyfriend as "punks" trying to steal their little princess. My FIL, an ex-marine, pulled me aside and half-jokingly threatened to break both my legs and bury me in the backyard if I wronged his daughter... about 30 minutes before I married her. And he liked me!

Unfortunately, it didn't work out for my folks because we ended up living in the US. But we know that the situation is tough on them and we go visit twice a year, 15 days at a time. So we spend about 1 month out of the year together with my family, probably more time than if we lived in Europe (we probably would come visit more often but for shorter periods of time, like week-ends).
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Old 09-28-2009, 06:56 PM   #19
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Good advice. My friend was an academic dean at our university's International Relations school. She said that the big issue was that not all courses would get credit back towards graduation so make sure that what DD is taking will receive credit, especially if she changes her courses.

One of my HS friends ended up living in Paris for umpteen number of years until her kids wanted to back the US for college. Good luck.
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Old 09-28-2009, 07:11 PM   #20
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My niece did a year in London - a great experience for her!

Eidt to add: Her parents were hosts for several exchange students. My sister in law refers to her overseas sons & daughters. They are still close to some 15+ years later.

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