We first heard of ALLEF when we read an article in The Observer. Our eldest daughter was then ten years old and we thought that she would be interested in such an adventure. We had no idea of how that article would change our lives but no doubts that we have been enriched by the experience.
Our children are confident in travelling and engaging with people from different cultures. They will quickly have a go at learning another language and their absences from UK schools, does not seem to have affected their academic studies. Some of their school language teachers have embraced their fluency, others have found it challenging.
Having another child in your family can be challenging. We found it easier as we did more exchanges and were more relaxed about treating our new family members in the same way as the others. Trusting another family with your child is also difficult at times, especially when they do things differently to you. However, that is part of the experience and you do find that a lot of things that cause angst at the time are really quite trivial in the scheme of things! Head lice in schools are apt to cause feelings to run high at the best of times. Our family was suffering from recurrent problems and I became rather paranoid about ensuring that we did not pass them back to France when our French child left!
Jennie is now 21 and studying International Business at Warwick University , part of which involves a year in France . She is in no doubt that she would not be where she is without the ALLEF experience.
She loves France , and whilst no longer in contact with her original exchange family, she is still in contact with another French family we met through ALLEF.
As part of her gap year, she taught in Vietnam and also felt that having a second language gave her the confidence to learn Vietnamese.
Matthew is one of our twins and he was adamant that he never wanted to do an exchange. However, he changed his mind just in time and had a great time as the youngest of 5 boys in La Rochelle . He has never had an interest in pursuing French academically but is confident speaking it when abroad and for online gaming!
He is about to go to Newcastle University to read Maths.
Beth is our other 19 year old twin. She loved her time in rural France and although she and her exchange partner had some initial difficulties in their relationship, they are still in touch. Beth has been working in Holland this year and used her French at times as well as trying to master Dutch.
She is about to go to Edinburgh University to read English and History
At 16 years old, Emma has grown up with a succession of French brothers and sisters. She always wanted to be a part of this experience and has done both French and German exchanges. Last year her French exchange partner came on holiday with us and Emma has just returned from visiting her German family. We have had some great holidays with our exchange children
Emma is continuing her French and German at A level and is also going to take up Spanish.