What youth gain as a result of international outbound 4-H exchanges

Grab your journal, camera and shoes – it is time to travel! Teens from around Michigan will have the opportunity to explore the Polish culture this summer by participating in the outbound 4-H Poland Exchange.

The 4-H Poland Exchange is one of a 4-H Global and Cultural Education Programs which was established in 1993. An MSU Extension  article explains that the program started with six youth and three adults who came from the Lezno province in Poland to Michigan and stayed with Michigan host families. The first year that Michigan exchange youth were placed with 4-H families throughout Poland was in 1996. Since then, Michigan youth and adults have traveled to Poland every other year and hosted in the opposite years.

2014 marks the year for the outbound part of the 4-H Poland Exchange. Michigan youth will have the opportunity to travel to Poland to stay with a Polish host family for one month this summer.

The experience youth will have will go far beyond the travel experience and seeing new sites. Youth will learn to live with a family of another culture than their own and who speaks a different language. They will learn to communicate with people who speak a different language and to pay for souvenirs or services in a different currency. They will learn skills such as problem solving, decision making and budgeting while gaining self-confidence,  independence and maturity. Evaluations from previous outbound exchanges have shown that youth gain cultural knowledge and comfort, communication skills, confidence and the desire to travel again. Many youth who have traveled to Poland through the exchange program are still in contact with their former host family and have developed cross cultural friendships that will last a life time.

When asked to list most memorable experiences former outbound Poland exchange students named the following:

  • “Everything about being with my host family”
  • “Hide and seek in the corn fields”
  • “Touring different farms”
  • “Traveling with my 4-H group”
  • “Garden and disco parties”
  • “The Baltic Sea”
  • “The architecture”
  • “The museums”
  • “Traveling to the mountains”

For more information on how to participate in the 2014 outbound  4-H exchange in Poland, or how to get involved with any other international 4-H exchange, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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