Five Easy Steps: Build a Travel and Exchange Program

Student studying abroad, posing with children. (Miss Hibiscus / istockphoto)

There are a lot of good travel grants and opportunities for teachers and students right now. We asked the experts at the Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) for advice on how to take advantage of such opportunities while building stronger school infrastructure for global competence.

As the nations of the world become more interdependent, it becomes increasingly important that secondary school students develop a sense of global citizenship. Educational exchange programs provide a unique opportunity to do so by allowing students to personally experience unfamiliar countries and cultures. Youth who choose to participate in an exchange are, in a sense, ambassadors. Their behavior and attitudes will affect how others perceive their home countries.

Through international exchange, students learn about the lifestyle and culture of people living in other countries. They develop lasting bonds with their host families and friends. The experience may also allow students to improve their ability to speak another language. Many students find the exchange experience so meaningful that they pursue international careers.

The Council on Standards for International Educational Travel (CSIET) evaluates high school exchange programs to provide meaningful and safe international exchange experiences. CSIET conducts an annual evaluation of high school exchange programs based on CSIET’s Standards. The final status is published in the Advisory List of Approved Programs, and used as a resource for schools, parents, and educational organizations. 

CSIET also promotes the educational value of international youth exchanges in U.S. high schools. CSIET’s main goal is for 1% of a given high school’s enrollment to be exchange students. CSIET has collaborated with exchange program representatives and school officials to develop helpful resources and tools on how to run and maintain successful exchange programs. The five easy steps laid out below explain how to use CSIET’s resources to build an exchange program.

Step 1: Join the CSIET Online School Community. CSIET launched the Online School Community to help educate U.S. high schools on the value of youth exchange. Schools that join receive up-to-date information on visa regulations, government grants and scholarships, and international education efforts. There is no cost to join. Any school that registers will receive all CSIET membership benefits for free! CSIET no longer mails the CSIET Advisory List of Approved Programs to all U.S. high schools. Only schools that register for the Online School Community receive a free copy. Register today.

Step 2: Write a Foreign Youth Exchange Policy. In order to ensure a successful program, there must be agreed upon procedures in place. These procedures will prove helpful when questions arise. For instance, how many exchange students is your school willing to host annually? What exchange programs will you accept students from? Will the exchange students receive school credit for their studies abroad? CSIET along with school representatives developed the Inbound Model School Policy to be used as a template for high schools creating their own youth exchange policy. The Inbound Model School Policy covers procedures that schools might use when dealing with an exchange student, and outlines best practices to ensure a successful exchange program. A similar policy was created for outbound exchanges as well.

CSIET also has an ongoing Database of State and Local Policies Grid, which is updated every month. This resource is organized by state and includes links to state, district, and school level policies pertaining to youth exchange. Program representatives and school officials use the Policies Grid to learn how exchanges are conducted in their area. If your school already has an exchange policy and it is not included in the Policies Grid please contact Lindsay Poehlman at Lindsay [at]

Step 3: Utilize CSIET’s School Resources. CSIET has developed many school resources much like the Model School Policy in the hopes of making the process of hosting easier and more rewarding. Many of these can also be found in CSIET’s Administering Youth Exchange Guide. This publication is intended to help school administrators better understand how exchange programs operate and how to make the most out of their hosting experience. Additionally, part of the CSIET website is dedicated to School Resources. Under this section of the website, users are able to access Model School Policies, visa regulations, and other helpful tools.

Step 4: Let’s Get Started. CSIET’s Get Started website is a great resource for schools interested in hosting exchange students and is also a helpful tool for educating students considering studying abroad about reputable exchange programs. The search engine narrows the full list of CSIET Approved Programs and identifies programs that work with a school or student’s specifications. After outlining what you are seeking in a program, the search engine matches your credentials with an appropriate list of programs and corresponding websites that meet your needs.

Step 5: Receive Recognition. After you have established a thriving exchange program at your school, enter CSIET’s Global Classroom Awards program for a chance to win $500 for your school! CSIET’s Global Classroom Awards recognizes schools actively involved in international youth exchange and global education. The two winners of the Global Classroom Awards will receive a $500 scholarship for one of its students to study abroad or for your school to increase international awareness.

CSIET is recognized as the standard-setting organization for secondary school exchange and serves as the connection between exchange programs and schools. We have already established many school resources and plan on increasing our school outreach effort in the years to come. Please join CSIET and the exchange community by registering for the Online School Community. Give your students, your school and your community a transformative experience by engaging in the rewarding experience of youth exchange.

If you would like to learn more about CSIET’s School Resources please contact Anna Damewood at or 703-739-9050.

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