Foreign exchange programs allow students to study in a different environment, experience a foreign country’s history, culture and make new friends of various cultural backgrounds. International exchange programs can also help students develop a global perspective.
I had the chance to interview three other exchange students. Two of the students wanted to remain anonymous so they are referred to as student A and student B in the article. The third student was Gurami Kalandia, who became a close friend during the exchange program which I had participated in.
|[A picture taken from Michigan. Photo Credits: Gurami Kalandia]|
For the exchange program, student A was in 11th grade and studied at a school located in Delaware. Student B was in 10th grade, attending a school in Oklahoma. Gurami was a senior at Charlton Heston Academy (CHA) in Michigan.
What was your motive to join the exchange program, and why?
Student A was introduced to the exchange program by one of the agencies for studying abroad. The agency strongly encouraged him to join, saying that it was a great chance to learn English at a reasonable cost. Student B believed that gaining experience from various countries around the world was important as he wanted to study business in the future. He wanted to see what it took to adapt to a foreign culture and learn their language. Gurami joined the exchange program to expand his cultural horizon by experiencing an American lifestyle.
|[A picture of the interview with Student A. Photo Credits: Chris Ghim]|
What were the pros and cons of the program?
Student A learned English within a short period of time and met people of various backgrounds. He believes that the experience from the program will help him pursue his goals for the future. Student B improved his English significantly and became more open-minded. Gurami loved ‘CHA’ and he liked the people in Michigan because most of them were friendly. On the contrary, Student A had to participate in every single event that the host family requested, even though he did not want to. Occasionally he could not have what he wanted to eat, and he even felt a sense of discrimination towards him. According to student B and Gurami, they missed their family while staying abroad. It took some time to adapt to American culture. Student B and Gurami also mentioned that some exchange students had unpleasant issues with their host families.
|[A picture of the interview with Student B. Photo Credits: Chris Ghim]|
What are some advices for students who are planning to join the exchange program?
Student A said, “Applying for the program is a big decision so students must thoroughly consider every aspect. I highly encourage them to do some research and think about what they will earn from the program. It is also important to know in advance that there will be difficulties and unexpected conditions. Students might have to confront situation where they are treated unfairly. Students must evaluate themselves objectively and see if they are suitable for the program.” Student B said “Students should apply for the program with a clear purpose. Without this, it is likely that they will not be able to adapt to the new environment. I hope students carefully think about why they want to participate in the program.”
By interviewing other exchange students, I realized that although we were all part of an exchange program, we had different experiences and learned different lessons. Even though several issues from the program were far from what I expected, the exchange program was a valuable experience that I will never forget.
The Learning Community International School
Chris Ghim firstname.lastname@example.org
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