Foreign Exchange Student Programs

April 5th, 2010 by admin

One of the most widely regarded methods to help young men and women with a world-class education, foreign exchange student programs offer both high school and university students the opportunity to experience life and culture in a foreign country. The leading concept behind these exchange programs is to foster greater understanding between different nations by getting visiting foreign students to understand the daily rhythms and meanings of their society in ways that are not wholly plausible from textbook-based learning. From these experiences, the youth of the visiting culture will return to their home country with the ability to provide a sort of empathetic expertise on the country they spent their time in.

The practice of foreign student exchange most often involves the process by which a student spends either a semester or a full academic year abroad at a host institution. While there, the student is given room and board in either a school dormitory or with a host family. They study and go to class as if they were a regular student and participate in the academic and public culture of their host institution. Some of the most popular programs are centered on education in foreign languages such as Spanish, French, Japanese, or German, and administered so students are able to engage in not only how that language is spoken, but also in how that language operates as a culture and in specific fields of interest (such as science or literature).

The idea of the foreign exchange student is as old as the European concept of a classical education. In medieval and early modern times, the aristocracy often sent their youth to various cultural centers in Europe to learn the language and customs of foreign nations, and also to foster a sense of understanding between the two countries. The concept was widely adapted in ideas like the Grand European tour that was quite popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Most famously, the program of cultural exchange was widely used between the U.S. and Germany after World War II, and between the Soviet Union and the U.S. to build empathy between the nations.

Many have said that these student exchange programs do much to promote international diplomacy by way of creating a means of understanding between host nations. And while that might be true, it must be said that there is something much more personal at work in these exchange programs. The individuals involved decide on where they go on exchange, when they go on exchange, and reflect either positively or negatively upon their time abroad. Even here there is much to be said about the strengths of student involvement in these programs. They allow for the participants to gain a more global perspective of the world, seeing it as smaller and more interconnected. Participants gain confidence in that they establish their own place in the world and do so on their own, but also under the eye of the careful and unobtrusive sponsoring institution. With that confidence and sense of self, these students can become international leaders of the future.


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