Student exchange program is a program in which students from a secondary school or university study abroad at one of their institution’s partner institutions. A student exchange program may involve international travel, but does not necessarily require the student to study outside their home country. Foreign exchange programs provide students with an opportunity to study in a different country and environment experiencing the history and culture of another country, as well as meeting new friends to enrich their personal development. International exchange programs are also effective to challenge students to develop a global perspective. The term “exchange” means that a partner institution accepts a student, but does not necessarily mean that the students have to find a counterpart from the other institution with whom to exchange. Exchange students live with a host family or in a designated place such as a hostel, an apartment, or a student lodging. Costs for the program vary by the country and institution. Participants fund their participation via scholarships, loans, or self-funding. Student exchanges became popular after World War II, and are intended to increase the participants’ understanding and tolerance of other cultures, as well as improving their language skills and broadening their social horizons. Student exchanges also increased further after the end of the Cold War. An exchange student typically stays in the host country for a period of 6 to 12 months however, exchange students may opt to stay for one semester at a time. International students or those on study abroad programs may stay in the host country for several years. Some exchange programs also offer academic credit.
PROS AND CONS OF STUDENT EXCHANGE
Even though exchange students learn to improve themselves through the experience of studying and staying in another country, there are also many difficulties to be encountered. One of them is
- when exchange students are unable to adapt to pedagogy followed by the host country.
- Another is conflicts between the host family (who have provided accommodation) and the students, when it cannot be solved by communicating with each other and the student usually will be asked to stay with another host until they find a new match. This process, however, could take time while the students’ duration of stay is limited.
- Even with preparation and knowledge about the new environment, they could still experience culture shock, which can affect them in different ways.
- Students from a completely different culture can also encounter homesickness for a longer period of time.
- Lack of transportation can also become a major problem, because the chances students buying a car during a short period of stay is less likely to happen.
- Moreover, students will find it hard to find a job, even part-time since most exchange visas do not allow students to work and it is difficult to obtain one that does.
- Another potential drawback is health issues that can occur during the stay in a foreign country. Always have health insurance while traveling abroad, and carry emergency contact details of your local hosts and of multiple family members as well.
Reasons why one should try a student exchange programme
- Study abroad at a fraction of the cost: The low cost of student exchange programs is perhaps their most attractive feature. Studying abroad typically costs thousands of dollars and is beyond the economic means of many Indian students. However, students can get the experience of studying and living in a foreign country at the fraction of that cost when they travel overseas on a student exchange program.
- Get exposure to alternative ways of learning: Every country has its own way of instructing students. When a student from a particular country travels abroad, they are exposed to alternative approaches to learning, something that they are likely to carry back to their home country and share with their peers. The exposure, thus, not only enhances their own learning experience, but also of their fellow students back home.
- Gateway to personal development: There is nothing like living on your own, away from home and from the protective gaze of your parents, in a foreign country for personal development. The experience will lead to improved self-confidence and self-esteem. It will also improve the students’ decision making and independent thinking skills not to mention enhance their understanding and acceptance of different cultures and perspectives. Staying abroad, even if it’s just for a semester or two, will give students a world view in the true sense of the term.
- Prepare for the global economy: The increasingly shrinking business world is forever on the lookout for professionals who understand the global economy and are able to function in it. Since most university students who travel abroad on student exchange programs are on the brink of entering the job market, the experience of studying/living overseas prepares them to work in the global economy. They have a better understanding of the international market forces and are much better equipped to solve global challenges at their workplace.
- Form life-long bonds: A lot of student exchange programs require students to stay with a local family in the host country. This helps students understand and appreciate the culture and way of life of the host country, turning them into global citizens. The experience of integrating into a foreign way of life comes in handy should they ever decide to work or settle abroad. Moreover, living in such close proximity with a set of people and being on the receiving end of their warmth and hospitality helps students forge life-long bonds with them.