My daughter is in the 6th grade (11yo) and will be studying in South America for 1 school year. We've made arrangements with the school in the country, housing, and she's a citizen of the country so we don't have to worry about visas. She's pretty fluent in the language, but still struggles with reading so we have a tutor lined up to help her. Are we missing anything else? Can you point us to resources for self-study abroad as well as what issue's we may have to deal with when she comes back to the US.
Our daughter did a semester exchange from Roanoke, VA to Santa Cruz Bolivia when when she was 12. She had studied Spanish each year from Kindergarten up. She lived in a home with a girl's family of the same age. It was a good experience for her in many ways but she (and we) did have major adjustments on her return. Though we have not been there ourselves, as her parents we found that Bolivian middle-schoolers were more precocious socially than our Sarah. She was introduced to clubs and party activities that would have been for upper class high-schoolers here. Bolivian youngsters had easy access to cigarettes, booze, and recreational drugs (that may be true of some middle-schooler here but was not true in our community). Sarah was taken with the new-found freedom and lack of adult supervision and came to expect a new norm on her return, and rebelled for a while when it didn't happen. She and her mother had a long period of disaffection, but eventually reconciled as Sarah moved into high school. As a result, we did not let Sarah's brothers participate in the exchange when they reached middle school. Her younger brother who is now in HS was the most disappointed as his best friends did go. We hosted Bolivian students 6 times ourselves so all 3 of our kids got to know another culture in one way or the other. At the tender age of 11 (or 12) you can expect a long trip abroad to be life changing for your youngster. I hope it will be positive, and I hope that there will be appropriate adult supervision and recognition of your own family values.