Saturday, August 27, 2011

Student Exchange: The Opportunity of a Lifetime

Are you a secondary or college-level student interested in participating in a student exchange program of some type? Do you need more information on how these programs operate and the various options available? Student exchange programs have been in existence for decades as a means of providing students an opportunity to study abroad and soak in the traditions and customs of another culture. To help you become a bit more familiar with these programs, here we will discuss them in a bit more detail, including some of the specifics associated with the application process and a list of some of the benefits students will receive as program participants.

What Is a Student Exchange Program?

Student exchange is a program in which two or more secondary schools or universities partner together to offer educational opportunities and cultural enhancement for students who wish to study and travel abroad. For example, in a student exchange program between two partner schools in China and the United States, a student in China can elect to study at a school in the United States, while meanwhile an American student will travel abroad and study in the partner Chinese school. These programs are an absolute once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for students, not only from an academic standpoint, but as an affordable way to learn the customs, culture and even the language of the host country.

Student exchange programs have been in existence for many years now. They became popular after the Second World War in an effort to promote the understanding and tolerance of other cultures, and since that time, they have evolved and expanded considerably. Currently there are hundreds of potential host nations and schools throughout the world that take part in student exchange, thus bolstering the number of opportunities for students who wish to take advantage of this very unique experience.

Student Exchange Program: The Details

The checklist below highlights some of the details and specifics normally involved with the student exchange program, although certain particulars will vary from program to program:

Application. The application process, which includes a written application and a series of interviews with a designated panel, usually begins one year prior to the scheduled student exchange.

Qualifications. To participate in a student exchange, qualified individuals will have demonstrated success in and out of the classroom and be of high moral character. Also, at the secondary level, students must be between 16-18 years of age.

Costs. Costs will vary depending on the type of student exchange program. At the university level the tuition for these programs is usually provided as part of a scholarship opportunity or federal grant, but at the secondary level these costs are usually absorbed by the participant’s family. Most additional costs revolve around travel and health insurance, as well as other risk management components.

Duration. The duration of student exchange programs can range from 6-24 months, but generally the exchange will span approximately 10 months.

Student Housing. At the secondary school level, housing and meals are usually provided exclusively by host families at no extra cost. This “host family” option is also available for university students, but since these students are of legal age they have many more housing options to choose from, including sharing an off-campus flat or apartment with other students or living on-campus in the residence halls or school dormitories.

Student Exchange: The Benefits

The benefits of student exchange are many, too numerous, in fact, to mention them all here. They include:

Cultural awareness, understanding and acceptance

Language acquisition

Gaining perspective of new teaching and learning methods and modalities

An enhanced interest and appreciation of global issues

Learning independence and attaining maturity

A sense of accomplishment

And many more…

Students who participate in, and successfully complete a student exchange program will return not only as better students, but as better people, with a deeper understanding of cultural issues, tolerance and flexibility

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