In November, the world pauses to reflect upon the value and impact of “global learning.” International Education Week, November 13-17, engages world leaders from more than 100 countries who pledge support of one unifying goal: to promote intercultural growth, engagement, and connection.
One way the local community engages with this goal is through high school student exchange.
By bringing international teens into our homes and communities, “cultural connection” suddenly springs to life! It becomes personal, tangible, and honest.
By bringing international teens into our homes and communities, “cultural connection” suddenly springs to life! It becomes personal, tangible, and honest. In these every-day relationships, barriers subside as we find common ground and new connections. And in those moments, we realize the truth: we’re not so different after all!
German exchange student Michelle learned this lesson quickly, finding that she could feel “at home” even miles away from her home town.
“Everybody tries to be kind and includes me in all activities,” she shares. “It’s a unique feeling to be a part of this community and participate in different sports. It’s not like Germany.” And while students just like Michelle thrive in the supportive environment exchange provides, they’re not the only ones who benefit!
With a high premium placed on quality “global education,” many local high schools welcome internationals to their student body as a grass-roots method of teaching global awareness.
With a high premium placed on quality “global education,” many local high schools welcome internationals to their student body as a grass-roots method of teaching global awareness. As these students join sports teams, attend youth groups, and integrate into the community, they not only gain invaluable life experience for themselves, but they enact a ripple-effect of cultural connection throughout the entire host community.
Principal Dennis Anthony of Harper Creek High School shares that his school has benefited immensely. “Harper Creek students are generally a pretty homogeneous group,” shares Anthony. “We therefore benefit from the exposure to others with cultures different than our own. I believe people are often afraid of things simply because they do not know otherwise – we are afraid of people from places we don’t know – there is the hope that our students learn that regardless of where people are from we often are more similar than we are different.”
Most schools include “global education” as a goal for their student community, and many have discovered the depth of benefit from something as simple as welcoming exchange students into the classroom.
“My own interactions with exchange students and my observations of our students all clearly indicate cross-cultural understandings are strengthened by the interactions of the students,” shares Athony. “Many of the students continue to stay in contact long after their time at HC and continue to visit here in the states and host visits from HC students to their country of origin.
Dorothy Blackwell, superintendent of Vassar Public Schools in Michigan, shares that her students “get a peek through a global window” when they interact with an exchange student. “Our student body benefits from the day to day interactions with [exchange] students,” shares Blackwell. “The experience creates bridges for our American students to cross as they develop friendships and connections to a new experience.”
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about student exchange is its simplicity.
While we can objectively acknowledge the literal “world of good” that takes place, the day-to-day normalcy is where the magic happens. Two strangers, once worlds apart, become friends; they become FAMILY.
“My country Thailand is very different from America,” shares exchange student Nattida. “The food, culture, house, and city is very different.” Nattida shares that it’s the support of her host family that means the most. “I have a good time with my host family,” she shares, “and we like to watch movies together, although I have to admit that sometimes I fall asleep because I don’t understand what is going on!” A new family, and a new home. This slow, simple, organic connection has the power to change the world!
A new family, and a new home. This slow, simple, organic connection has the power to change the world!
Would you join us in our mission to bring the world to our local communities? Join us in celebratingInternational Education Week, and consider hosting an exchange student! As a host family, you’ll spark a small change that has the power to impact your family, your local school, and your entire community!
THANK YOU! Learn more at iE-USA.org, and find out how YOU can join the journey.