Before you get me wrong, I have not become a shadchan overnight. The matchmaking I am referring to is the art of associating French and Swedish students for our exchange.
We have had an exchange with a Swedish high school for over ten years now and it usually works fine. I tend to think that pairing the students wisely is a major key to a successful exchange but this is not an easy task.
Last week I received the last Swedish files sent by our collegues in Boras and started matching the students according to the criteria I have set up with years.
– Same sort of backgrounds. I reckon a ten day-trip is not the perfect time for teenagers to discover completely different lifestyles. The kids are apprehensive enough: they are going to a country they don’t know and will have to speak a foreign language; this in itself is stressful enough.
– Similar tastes. When the students fill in the forms we give them, they are requested to write about their extra-curricular activities and I try to find at least one common hobby. There again I hope that a football player or a pianist will relax more easily if they attend a match or a concert during the exchange, or even just a training session. It is something they can relate to and they will find it interesting to share and compare.
– Same size families. This is more difficult and does not always work but I gather that an only child may find it more difficult to adapt in a large household where he/she will not get the attention they are used to. I have found that only children tend to get homesick more than other kids.
– Juggling with imperatives. Sometimes the obvious matching is impossible because one student is allergic to cats while the seemingly perfect counterpart has two cats. There are also the vegetarians, the parents who insist their child be in a smoke-free environment and this year the daughter of Jehovah Witnesses.
– Flair, unless you prefer to call it luck. The less rational criterion I admit but a necessary ingredient.
Feel free to comment, add your own criteria or criticize. It is always interesting to get different perspectives.