What are 8 benefits of academic exchanges?
This is the second of three lessons about Exchange Programmes. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Review the concept of academic exchange programmes
– Introduce eight benefits of enrolling onto a foreign exchange
– Provide activities to help check understanding and progress
In Lesson 1 we learned that there are generally two types of academic exchange programme, ranging from a couple of weeks to a whole year in length. We explored how both of these programme types provide similar benefits for students in that they increase cultural awareness and promote foreign-language acquisition. First popularised after WW2, it was hoped that the two major benefits of foreign exchanges would help to minimise cross-culture discrimination, but these are not the only advantages of this kind of programme. Lesson 2 of this short course highlights eight benefits for how exchanges have the potential to develop lifelong skills that enhance a student’s CV beyond that of their stay-at-home peers.
Benefit 1: Improve Language Proficiency
For some students, improving their ability in a second language is the primary reason to participate in a foreign exchange. Perhaps that student is minoring in a language at college and this exposure could greatly expedite proficiency, or perhaps their desire to improve in another language is driven by personal interest, or the belief that this skill could provide long-term benefits for future employment or travel opportunities. Regardless of why, exchange programmes are reportedly an excellent way to develop speaking skills and listening skills, particularly if living in a homestay for a number of months.
Benefit 2: Enhance Intercultural Skills
With the development of technology and the increasingly globalised economy, the world is far more connected now than it has ever been. Whether it’s being able to rationalise a country’s laws, travel with confidence or pitch a business proposition that will resonate with multiple markets, understanding and appreciating the differences in human cultures and behaviours can help a student to succeed. Students who participate in exchange programmes tend to report being better able to reflect on their own country’s practices and as a result feel better equipped to think outside the box when an issue or difference of opinion arises.
Benefit 3: Develop Problem-Solving Skills
The experience of overcoming the challenges faced when placed in a foreign country have been shown to have a long-term positive impact on a student’s analytical and problem-solving skills. When removed of one’s own culture and language, students have to be more resourceful in order to solve a problem. Whether it’s understanding a lecture, attending a cultural event or explaining to your host family that you need to get A to achieve B, exchange students are required to think of alternative forms of communication, adapt their study skills and develop a support network of peers to achieve even basic goals.
Benefit 4: Develop Independence
A student who participates in an exchange programme will be putting themselves in an unfamiliar environment, having few people (if anyone) they know well within helpful distance. To succeed, it is important that exchange students are willing to do what’s necessary to communicate, study and survive. Therefore, exchange programmes help to foster and demonstrate independence, which in turn builds self-esteem and confidence. Together, these personality traits provide a solid foundation for a happy and successful citizen, employee and human being.
Benefit 5: Form Lifelong Connections
Another reported benefit of exchange programmes is the relationships which are commonly formed during this intensive experience. These relationships can come in two forms. Firstly, there are those of the intimate nature in which people that live together form almost family-like bonds. Often remining in contact for many years with a reciprocal ‘open door’ policy to each other’s homes, such relationships may provide a lifelong second home to participants. Alternatively, the second type of relationship is a little more practical and comes in the form of peers or professors. These relationships provide a connection to the field or industry that may offer future employment or education opportunities and connections from which to seek specialised advice.
Benefit 6: Broaden Learning Styles
One aspect that exchange students may not have considered when entering another country is how different that country’s educational culture may be. There are many pedagogical approaches (styles of teaching) around the world and it may be surprising how different one country can be to another. For example, the student-led Oxford seminar approach is the standard for UK universities, but often the expectation in other countries is for lecture-based learning and much less student-led interaction. Exposure to these different approaches again contributes to an individual’s skill set, ultimately equipping them with more resources to deal with a variety of environments and improve their autonomous learning abilities.
Benefit 7: Broaden Discipline Knowledge
In addition to different styles of learning, other institutes will also select the content of their courses differently. What this means is that by studying a major in another country, a student may have the opportunity to extend their subject knowledge beyond that of their stay-at-home peers.
Benefit 8: Stand Out from the Crowd
Overall, what many of the above benefits achieve is that students who participate in exchange programmes develop a range of character traits, skills and knowledge that increases the likelihood of academic and career success. Whether it’s providing a more unique perspective in a class discussion or assignment, or reflecting on an interesting cultural observation in a scholarship application, or coming up with an alternative solution to a problem in an interview, if you’ve had a broader range of life experiences, it’s likely you will have developed a diverse range of responses.
With so many possible benefits, it may be hard to imagine the drawbacks to exchange programmes, but these experiences can end in disaster for some students. Complete lesson three to ensure you have a balanced understanding of exchange programmes by considering the bad as well as the good.
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