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Old 28.10.2010, 04:59
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to basel

Great questions. It's really good to see someone using this forum in such a meaningful way -- and appreciating it too.

I have a toddler, not a teen, but I have a few observations that may help.
  • I'm guessing you already know whether school fees would be supported by your husband's employer, but I do know that large multinationals in Basel usually offer paid or heavily subsidised education at ISB, for children of middle to senior management hires. This is a standard inclusion in contracts at Novartis, and I believe at Roche as well.
  • Realistically, you need to send your son to one of the two international schools in Basel, if he comes here at all. The Swiss (free school) system is excellent, but classes are in German and in truth, the final qualification isn't ideal for admission to foreign tertiary education.
  • Anecdotally, I've heard that ISB is considered much better, for a number of reasons (including academic results), than SIS. Additionally, I've heard that the IB qualification is held in very regard by US universities/colleges, to the extent that a self-described "average" IB graduate from ISB was offered places in Ivy League colleges, including Harvard ... dangle that in front of your son!
  • Please don't be concerned by the groups of teens "loitering". Firstly, I've never seen any trouble on the streets of Basel ... literally, never. Swiss kids are ridiculously, archaically polite and well-behaved! Yes, at 16 your son may legally drink beer and smoke. There's much more emphasis here on self-determination, which I believe helps to promote a culture of self-sufficiency and independence. And that's not a bad thing.
  • Yes, prices for most things are very high in Switzerland! Not 3-4 times higher, though. But ... has your husband had a salary offer yet? It's likely to be high. Consider the net salary, too -- tax rates are low here (by the way, opt for accommodation in the canton of Basel Land if you want to reduce your tay bill even further). You can effect further savings by shopping in Germany, which sounds odd, but it is literally a 5-10 minute drive from where I live, while central Basel is also 5 or 6 minutes away, and France is ... guess what ... 5-7 minutes drive away. I'm not kidding. Your supermarket bill in Germany will be around 25-30% cheaper than in Switzerland, and you'll get far greater choice there, as well as all your VAT (value-added tax) refunded (a further saving of about 15%). An all-round win!
  • The children I know who attend ISB do tend to mix mostly with expats' children -- as you'd expect. However, in two years at ISB, your son is likely to learn quite a lot of German, and some French and possibly another language, too. All hugely useful skills to have in life. If you're looking at a short-term contract in Switzerland, integration in Switzerland needn't be a high priority. If you expect your son to stay on here, you have a whole set of additional challenges ... like learning German (specifically, Baslerdütsch) quick-smart. I've heard a lot of very positive feedback from kids at international schools, who feel that their exposure at school to a wide variety of cultures has been very beneficial to their development. Rather different to the experience of school children in the Mid-West!
With regard to your question on thanking those who have helped you, after you've made ten posts a "Thanks" button will magically appear for you. All is explained here.

My penny's worth: I would work hard to convince my son that a move to Switzerland (and two more years at high school) will be a fantastic life experience that will open more doors for him than if he were to remain in Ohio.

Good luck!
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Old 28.10.2010, 09:55
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to basel

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Many students take a year in 'study abroad' . Senior year in the US is a bit of a joke, most of the students have been accepted into the university of their choice by the end of 11th year, so they party in the last year, that's why they call 'Senioritis'.

He probably won't miss much!
I would also second this opinion. Since your son will have already finished 11th grade in US, the 12th year is more or less a joke. I have in fact successfully skipped my senior year in HS and went directly to university from 11th grade. My grades were good, I had taken all the Regents classes/tests, and I only needed one additional credit in English, which I did very quickly, in order to graduate. Not sure how it is in Ohio, but in NY, the HS credits needed in the senior year were only English if you had successfully received the credits in earlier years. Taking a year abroad or a gap year in Switzerland might be a good option, assuming he has all the HS credits by 11th grade. If some credits are missing, perhaps take some on-line or correspondence courses to meet the requirements. Enrolling your son in language courses, or other short term classes of his interest while in Switzerland/Europe may also fill the gap year. I would check with his HS in Ohio regarding what credits he may still need, and see if they would accept any missing credits from another school, programme, etc. My HS in NY did this. He may also be albe to finish up by doing summer school after 11th grade in the US and come to Swtizerland in September.
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Old 28.10.2010, 15:04
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to Basel [Personal experiences / Good Advice]

Regarding your concern about drinking on the street, I see the same thing in Germany. I think that drinking tends to be more relaxed culturally in Europe. A part of this is that kids learn to drink much earlier - 16 or so. On the other hand, this means that parents are more or less around when kids are learning to drink. Compare to the US system in which kids learn to drink in college fraternity basements surrounded by people only slightly older, and under pressure to not involve the authorities when a problem occurs. Overall I think that the relaxed European approach works well.

I mean, it somehow seems odd to me now to be concerned about a 16 year old learning to drink on the street or in a public Biergarten. If he overdoes it, what happens? He is in a public place doing nothing illegal. The odds are good that friends or passersby will take care of him if he gets into trouble. The worst lasting effecting of needing medical help or something is being teased by friends afterwards.

Even in Ohio this is sometimes done. In high school, a gal explained to me "My dad said 'Hey, if you ever want to drink a beer, just let me know and we'll sit and drink beers together'. Since then it hasn't seemed like a big deal." Take the mystery out of it and a lot of the issues disappear.

But that is my opinion based on what I've seen. I've no kids so far, and you will have to decide for yourself how to treat yours on this subject.
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Old 28.10.2010, 15:32
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to basel

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Having said that, I did have a couple concerns after our short visit to Basel last week. I saw young teens loitering in the streets in small groups , in the evenings, with beer cans in hand.
a lot of drinking and smoking among teens in Switzerland. What age do you expect your son to start drinking at?
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Old 29.10.2010, 13:51
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to basel

Hi midwestlady,

I moved to Basel two months ago and part of my husbands job did not offer education so we were on a budget. My sons are 13 and 17 and moved from UK. The best option for us has been academia but this does offer UK A levels system which may not work for you? I can recommend the college as it has only 43 students who attend full time and has new students every week from all over the world. every lesson is taught in English (apart from the languages of course) and they also offer intensive German courses which will help you socialise with other adults, (i go every day for 2 hours). My teenagers have struggled here but are now coming round to the idea. the teenagers do drink a lot but no more than back in the Uk less if anything. Smoking is more accepted and they start young! as the smoking ban has only just arrived here its a reeducation thing. Crime rate is less than 1%! very safe, even 5 year old go to school on the trams on their own every day this just wouldnt happen in UK! a lot more relaxed here and the only time you get rowdy crowds is usually tourists and football fans who travel here! the local team FC Basel is really good and cheap to support and there is a lot of sporting acitivites for him. Me eldest son would certainly link up with him, hes hanging outr with a couple of canadian guys at the moment. Most people who move here it is for a better lifestyle and therefore the majority of the parents are hard working people, so all seem really nice. Centrepoint have a drop in and coffee mornings and drinks nights. But I must say the siwss are a lot more accommodating than the germans and are a lot more friendly, we live in an apartment (which can be challenging in itself coming from a large house in Uk and having lots of quiet time proves difficult for my boisterous lads!) and the neighbours are all middle aged or elderly and they are lovely, always stop to speak although its mostly hand gestures!
Hope this helps, my eldest has found the boxing club and hopes to go along and we are looking for football clubs etc. Its a really hard age to move your sons though and nearly every day my eldest will ask to go home or when can I send him back for weekends to see his friends, your son will not be able to do this very often! Good luck, keep i touch and let me know when you are next visiting and I can meet up with you. also have a look at academia they are very individual based and caring with settling in kids form 15-20 years old. Julie lots of canadians and americans here.
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Old 01.11.2010, 14:33
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to Basel [Personal experiences / Good Advice]

Like others have said, be sure the private school tuition is included in your husband's contract so that he can attend the ISB if he doesn't want to try to go to local gymnasium.

It would be difficult for him to attend local gymnasium without fluent German. There are some bilingual gymnasium programs - in Basel and Liestal. (English-German). If he might eventually want to attend university here he would have to become fluent in German anyway and pass the German language exam. I think they make accomodation for students moving from the US and trying to integrate into the local schools, giving them some time to learn the language.

For yourself, if you think you might want to work at some point, negotiate a work permit for you too. Otherwise it will be hard to get a job here and it may be hard or impossible to get the permit later.
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Old 01.11.2010, 14:37
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Re: Moving 16 yr son from midwest to Basel [Personal experiences / Good Advice]

@midwestlady -- just in case you didn't know or figure it out, "gymnasium" is high school with a track to university/college admission. The alternative is called "real": high school with a track to apprenticeship/trades. Both German words, no relationship to the English homonyms.
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