Foreign Exchange

Program Description

Welcome to Portland Waldorf High School’s Foreign Exchange Program, an opportunity for students and families to learn and share language and culture in an international Waldorf context. The program, an outgrowth of Portland Waldorf School’s language program, encourages the direct exchange of Portland students with foreign students for part of an academic year. During that time, students from both countries exchange living and academic situations. Their primary focus is immersion in intensive language training through academic practice and daily interaction with family, school, and local community.

Since its inception in 2001, we have arranged direct student and family exchanges with Waldorf School in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Argentina, Peru and other countries. Study abroad offers Portland Waldorf students an exciting opportunity to improve language skills in real life settings and experience the richness of other cultures. Simultaneously, the entire class here profits from having international students among them for a period of several months.

For Waldorf students wanting to participate in an exchange with a PWHS student, please send a letter describing yourself, your family, school, and desired dates to Foreign Exchange Coordinator Wibke Fretz at

Academic Program

Students spend from six to twelve weeks abroad, usually during their sophomore year. Each student is expected to participate in classes comparable in academic content to those required in the PWHS 10th Grade curriculum. A letter from the foreign school which describes the courses taken and the level of student participation serves as documentation of student performance. Transcript credit will be determined based on the report from the school.

It Takes a Class to Host a Student

Hosting a student from another country is not just the responsibility of the one family with whom the student stays. For the student to have a rich experience, other families in the class, or indeed in the High School at large, can help by inviting that student along on outings, to special events or simply to dinner. We encourage students and parents to take initiative in helping in these ways: all benefit from the experience!

Family Exchange
Students and families participating in the program exchange comparable living and lifestyle situations. Portland students are hosted by their international counterparts, and in return host them in a Northwest setting. The exchange includes room and board, family oversight of health and safety, and regular correspondence with family and school.

Where to Visit

These are some of the places our students have exchanged:

Germany: Stuttgart, Essinglin, Hof, Bielefeld, Ulm, Heidelberg, Freiburg, Lörach, Lüneburg
Austria: Salzburg, Graz, Innsbruck
Switzerland: Ittingen
Argentina: Buenos Aires
Peru: Lima

Students may also make arrangements to travel to other countries if they speak the language (PWHS students have spent time in Sweden and Italy, for example). The Foreign Exchange Program now also arranges exchanges with English-speaking countries, but the applying student will have to make a compelling case for the value of their exchange experience versus a foreign language experience, and they will receive full grades, rather than transcript credit, for their classes at the Waldorf school they visit.

Making Contact
Every week, PWHS receives letters of inquiry from foreign students seeking an exchange, far more than we can fill. The Foreign Exchange Coordinator periodically announces these opportunities at class meetings and language classes. On the other hand, when a PWHS student wants to initiate an exchange, he or she requests an application and begins working with the Foreign Exchange Coordinator. The Placement process can take from four to twelve months.

Application Process

Students interested in a direct Waldorf School foreign exchange must have completed at least one year at PWHS and be in good academic standing. To be considered, a student must submit:

  1. A completed application describing in detailing the purpose of his/her travel, requested dates and country. The application should convey the student’s interest and demonstrate their ability to handle such an experience.
  2. A letter or support from the student’s adviser or class sponsor
  3. A letter or support from the German/Spanish teacher

Once the application is submitted, the High School faculty review the request to:

  • Determine the student’s ability to participate in academic classes in a foreign language.
  • Identify lesson blocks missed and the student’s ability to make up or earn credit for missed material.
  • Evaluate the student’s interest against academic need

Once the student’s application is approved, faculty and student together identify and document what work will be required, if any, upon his/her return. Students must have passports and required visas, health insurance, and be responsible for round trip airfare and adequate spending and travel money. No additional tuition is required.

If you have any questions about the Foreign Exchange Program, or would like to start the application process, contact program coordinator Wibke Fretz.