Foreign exchange students are nothing unheard of in schools, especially in prominent, well-connected universities. These programs aim to integrate students from various countries into the learning culture of an institution. The hope is to enable students to learn about, understand and help other nations throughout the stay of their representative learners. It broadens the horizons of every student involved, acquainting the students with the idea of living in a large, complex and interconnected world. This is the goal in theory. In practice, it turns out that there is not much to worry about as well.
A study conducted by professors from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom revealed the extent of advantages students exposed to an international academic program possess, and are able to bring home and share with their countries. Dr. Qing Gu and her colleagues analyzed the complexities of the transitional experience for international students.
The team gathered data regarding their subjects’ human development/maturation, as well as the speed and proficiency of the students when it comes to intercultural adaptation within a different educational and cultural environment.
Instructors from the Swiss International Scientific School in Dubai weigh in by saying that students, whether from foreign countries or otherwise, still have that human element to them that no study can hope to extrapolate. Experience as foreign exchange students vary greatly, meaning positive results are not an assurance, but rather a likelihood.
Dr. Gu mentions that since there exists cultural incongruences and language barriers, foreign exchange students may not be able to take full advantage of their programs’ most notable gift: communication. She mentions how the performance of a student overseas hinges on the speed by which they adapt to the new learning environment as well as embed themselves into a supportive social circle.
International schools are offering students the opportunity to expand each other’s horizons. Foreign exchange student programs may be limited to major institutions, but this should not discourage students and teachers from pursuing a standard of learning worthy of global exposure and recognition.