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.

4 thoughts on “Matchmaking

  1. The idea of living with someone else’s family for a lengthy period of time sounds stressful to me. I guess ten days does not sound that long, but I once lived with a family in Israel for a week, and I wasn’t that comfortable. Then I stayed with my cousins for a week, and I LOVED that experience. I think teens really don’t know themselves what are their comfort levels or boundaries. I remember hearing about someone who stayed with a family in Washington DC for a weekend. The family complained she ate nothing the whole weekend. Later they found an empty box of crackers in her room. Talk about being uncomfortable in a different setting!

  2. Leora: Even though the kids choose to take part in the exchange, I try to remember that living with stangers is not always easy. A few years ago, the host family did not want to keep a student; they never told us why. Last year two girls fell out and so we had to find a new family for the Swedish girl.
    Mrs.S.: We take a group of 20-25 students and three teachers go with them.

  3. It is difficult to match them up.
    Hopefully all the students have written a lot on the paper so you have all the information.
    Years ago I was working in USA and I am very happy that I wrote a lot on my paper so I got the perfect summer job!
    Hope it all will work out – when my children are older I will send them to you…

    I also worked in a Jewish family 1990 in London.

    /Maria Berg

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