A Student Exchange Program entails the experience and opportunity for you to travel to a new place, study in a different school or university and learn about its own unique culture, meet new people, get to know different perspectives, it teaches you to be friendly, patient, humble and most importantly boosts your confidence and improves your communication skills. You may feel that it’s no good to go out of your comfort zone, your university, your city and living away from your friends and family. But let me remind you something: “A ship in harbour is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” Student Exchange Programs majorly take place for students between the ages of 15 to 21 years. The very years which build your foundation as a professional and as an individual. It’s an opportunity to go out of your comfort zone, learn how to be independent and learn a valuable lesson that will add to your personal growth.
To partake in a Student Exchange Program, you can either apply through your school or college if they have an Exchange Program or you can apply through an agency that offers Student Exchange Programs. On choosing the exchange program you like, the agency or institution will mentor you and help you in applying to the chosen school or university and also procure a host family in the country you will be living in. A short-term exchange program ideally ranges from a week to three months. If you are a medical or engineering student or engrossed in too many internships, a short-term exchange program is meant for you. It is great for students who haven’t travelled abroad before as it gives you an initial experience of what it’s like to live and study in a different country without straining your pockets.
You can choose to take a unique course, something different from your regular area of study. Not only will you receive a certification for a different course in not more than 10 weeks, but you would also have gained quite a bit of knowledge about the host country’s culture, traditions and customs. These programs are also referred to as summer or intensive or cultural exchange programs and one can apply to any government or private agencies for short term student exchanges. Some popular and sought-after Short-term exchange programs include University of Cambridge International Summer Programmes; Study Abroad Internships, University of Sydney; CSR Management, Certificate at Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA), Germany; Nursing, Pre-Med, and STEM Traveling Summer Study in Europe.
As for Long-term exchange programs that may last up to a year, you can live with two or three host families to maximize your exposure. Before applying, acquaint yourself with the admission and qualification requirements as well as the duration of the program. Calculate and consider the total expense of the exchange program and apply for international student scholarships (if any) to help make your experience more pocket-friendly.
You will typically need a student visa and also look out for any special requirements of the country granting the visa. In the case of Long-term exchange programs, the students might also need to learn the language of the host country. Some U.S. based Student exchange programs make it mandatory for a student to take a standardized test for English language proficiency prior to getting accepted into the program. Since you will be staying in the country for at least 6 months, knowing its language, being flexible and open-minded will go a long way. Some Long-term exchange programs are: Performing Arts Abroad Program to study musical theatre in England; Youth for Understanding High School Exchange in Ghana; European Union’s student exchange program, Erasmus.
You can also read a book about the country or city you will be living in, make a list of places you want to visit during your stay and also build friendships that may last a lifetime. Your visit to another country will improve your command of the language of the host country, increase your fluency and present to you an opportunity to exchange ideas and opinions about a number of topics. Living away from your family and friends will exponentially enhance your independent decision-making skills and critical thinking, and by extension, your ability to understand, appreciate and embrace new ideas, cultures and perspectives.
Getting to know the education system of the host country will result in you bringing back home some amazing and innovative ideas to learn efficiently and also exchange such ideas with your classmates leading to a greater good. If studying abroad is not something you can afford but still want to experience living in a different country, learn a new language and gain immense exposure at a reasonable cost, a student exchange program is what you need!
– Aishwarya Ojha