The rewards of becoming an international exchange student

There are many benefits to taking part in international exchange program, short or long.

International exchanges for high school-age students are becoming more popular. Through Michigan State University Extension’s Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program there are a range of exchange program opportunities in several different countries to suit a variety of tastes.

Typically, students have in mind what their goals are for traveling. It is usually a chance to practice a language they have learned in school or they plan on learning another language in a country of their choice. They may want to see the sights of the country and stay with a volunteer family to learn about the local culture.

Personal growth while on an exchange happens because of being put in a situation that is generally unpredictable no matter how prepared they think they are. Students grow in maturity, responsibility, self-esteem and self-confidence. They learn to be flexible and able to take on challenges. They learn to appreciate their family and home as they attempt to integrate themselves into their host family and community. If they have to deal with any challenges they gain a feeling of accomplishment. In the long-term, they will find this problem-solving helpful in and applicable to other situations in their life.

Exchange students can include their experiences in resumes and college applications. Through their experience, they will have been exposed to career paths of which they may not have been aware. Because they were required to communicate in new situations, their ability to speak to groups or take the lead in discussion increased. Exposure to these types of experiences will help them to be more sensitive to group dynamics and to individual needs.

Students who stay with host families gain lifelong friendships and international parents, brothers and sisters – people who care about them and will be a part of their lives forever.

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