One of the things my family is passionate about is travel. Travel opens up your world to new possibilities, new ways of thinking, new cuisine and new friendships. While children born after 2000 are more likely to have travelled to numerous overseas destinations than any other generation one of the BEST ways for your child to experience another culture is through a student exchange.
I know what I am talking about as I was a Rotary Exchange student to Canada in 1988 and had the most amazing year of my life. Not to mention meeting the person who would years later become my partner in work and life – Craig Stewart.
I was thrilled when our daughter also decided to go on exchange through her school to South Africa for 7 weeks. A brave thing to do when you are only 15. She also had an amazing time and learnt a lot about herself as well as a different part of the world. The next step was then to do an exchange to Reunion Island to me immersed in the French language. Not only did she again learn a lot about another culture but it benefitted her ATAR French marks.
We live in a world that seems so small with our instant communications to anywhere in the world and live feeds from major events as they unfold. But there is nothing quite like being immersed in the daily life of a family in another country. Where you get to find out what it is really like to go shopping in a small village in Norway, or take part as a ‘local’ in a festival in Japan. You get to see the world not from a tourist’s shiny perspective but as part of the community.
The flip side to all of this is hosting an exchange student – getting the opportunity to showcase our local state to someone. See their delight in our white beaches, the joy at patting a kangaroo and the wonder at the wide open spaces of our country side.
There are so many options for Exchange – some for short periods, others for up to a year. If you are interested most schools, TAFE and Universities have an exchange program of some kind and outside that many organisations have long running programmes such as:
Lions (http://lionsclubs.org.au/activities/youth/ye/ )
French Teachers Associations (http://walrse.org)
Italian Teachers Association (https://www.waati.com.au/scambio-studenti/)
Student Exchange Australia & New Zealand (https://studentexchange.org.au)
If you know of other programs please include in comments below. The more our students travel the greater understanding and cooperation we will have in the future.