Exchange students all over the world experience the same emotions, excitement, and challenges of study abroad no matter where their destination is. If you or a family member are considering studying abroad in the future or even as soon as next semester, what better (free) way to learn about the adaptation process and about other cultures than by hosting a student in the U.S. first?
Most students’ goals are to:
1. Learn another language
2. Learn about other cultures
3. Do something unique and different
What some students and families don’t realize is that by hosting, you are accomplishing these goals as well! Your exchange student will teach you slang, colloquial phrases, and even grammar from their country (do you know how to say ‘Moose’ in Thai for example?). They will explain why they have different customs than yours and show you different ways to think about the world (Did you know Frozen Yogurt shops aren’t very common in Germany?). You will also see how they handle homesickness and culture shock, two things that will happen during your exchange at some point or another that you will learn to overcome.
By becoming a host family and host sibling, you are joining a ‘club’ of sorts of international volunteers that said yes to a unique experience. You never officially stop being a host sibling, ask anyone! The relationships you build, whether as a host or an exchange student, last for a lifetime. Any host family you ask has probably seen their exchange student after they return home. They’ve had chances to visit them and see the country they came from or have invited the student back to their home away from home.
These are the types of things you can also experience, by welcoming a student into your home this year, even for a short period of time.
At iE-USA, you still have time to become a host family and join the “Host Family Club”. You can apply to host a specific student that your family chooses, that will mesh well with your lifestyle, personalities, and interests. And you won’t be alone, you will have a coordinator in your local area (whichever state you are from) to give your family an orientation, check in with you and the student monthly to see how things are going, and solve any problems that may arise. Parents should make a non-binding application at www.ie-usa.org before the end of August, to find the right student.
So what are you waiting for? It’s time to make a iE student’s dream come true!
Feel like you are not learning language fast enough at school, or they don’t offer the language you want? The best way to improve your language skills for real life application is interactive media. Videos, music, poems, and movies are all great ways to learn how language is used outside of a textbook. For example, did you know 99 Red Balloons was actually written by a German singer, in the German language? It was called 99 Luftballons, and the link to the lyrics is here. Here are some other ideas:
- Practice singing along with songs, it will help with quick pronunciation and translating the lyrics to English will help you learn new meanings of words.
- Read the news in a different language. Bonus, you will be able to discuss current events from other countries with foreigners or your host family. For example, Argentine news can be found here. You could also watch a Youtube news clip, such as the one here in French. Some news is even slowed down, such as this one.
- Watch your favorite American movie, but add either subtitles or dubbing. Many movies now have multiple language options to select from.
- Find an exchange student at your high school to speak with! They will appreciate your interest in their native language, and maybe you can teach them some fun american expressions in return.
- Buy a book (or eBook) on Amazon that has been translated to the language you want to learn. Did you know The DaVinci code has been translated into 44 different languages? Even the series Twilight has been translated to other languages, and copies are often available on Amazon. The dystopic hit this year, Divergent, is available in Spanish here! Make sure you pick a book that you will enjoy, so that you stick with it.
Some other fun videos from other countries that will get you moving:
Italy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TpaQYSd75Ak (Nun sings a famous American song on the Voice Italy!)
France: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFVDv_Jhf2w (Elle me dit, Mika with subtitles)
Argentina/Latin America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbKLa9wk4Fc (Whiteboard singalong with Bacilos)
Latin America: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wJutxPOIeS4 (Shakira sings Fifa World Cup song)
Germany: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A06x-02MhlM (Cool German Words)
Know any other fun (and appropriate) videos or resources for free language learning? Let us know!
As 15 year old Maria boarded her flight for South Africa, she had no idea she was headed to the ground floor of a significant historical event!
Maria from California chose to study abroad for 1 semester in South Africa with iE-USA.
Toward the end of her exchange semester, news of Nelson Mandela’s death rocked the world. Maria, now immersed in the South African culture, was able to see these events through the eyes of a South African.
Maria shares more in her own words:
What impacted you during your semester in South Africa with iE-USA?
It’s hard to list just one thing, because I’m so thankful for the experience in general. The townships were like nothing I had seen before. There are squatter camps, where people build houses out of tin and other materials, and there are formal settlements. These are housing units made out of brick, which was an effort that Mandela began post-apartheid. In the townships, everyone was smiling and friendly, yet they have almost nothing. It made me realize how much we take for granted.
How did people respond to Nelson Mandela’s passing?
The energy that week leading up to the funeral was all revolved around him and remembering the life that he led. There were thousands of flowers laid out on the streets and hand-written cards to the Mandela family. It’s not until you are in that environment that you realize he did not only have a physical impact on the laws and government, but an emotional impact on the people and their minds. People really feel like he impacted their lives on a personal level, and he did.
Why did you choose South Africa?
I wanted to go to a country where their first language is English. That narrowed it down pretty quickly. Most of the other English-speaking countries all have a similar culture to that of America, and so I felt South Africa would be the most different. I wanted the “most different.” I wanted something out of my comfort zone.
What differences did you notice?
The languages. You can sit on a bus and hear English, Zulu, Tswana, Afrikaans, and Xhosa. You don’t get that in America. Also, school was the polar opposite of my school in California. We had uniforms, which I ended up liking because I didn’t have to decide what I wanted to wear in the morning. And I got to take classes I had never been able to take back home, like African History and Consumer Studies.
Do you have any favorite memories from your time?
I got to go shark cage diving – that was one of the coolest things. You wear a wet suit and get in the water with them!
What does it feel like to come home?
So far, it’s as if nothing has changed, which is good and kind of weird at the same time. I am glad I can pick up where I left off, but the experience was so personal, that I feel like I have changed drastically, while nothing around me is different.
What advice would you give someone considering studying in South Africa?
I would say to just be open-minded, because, if you go to any country with a closed mind, you are not going to be happy. One thing people should be prepared for when they go to South Africa is that there is more poverty than in America. They should also know that it’s not a reason to be scared. Overall, I found that they (South Africans) are very friendly, loving people – more so than in America. I took the train, taxis, and city buses, but I always felt safe.
How do you think this might affect your future?
I would like to revisit South Africa in the future. I am even considering a year abroad at UCT. I also hope this experience will help me get into college, so that I may continue studying culture and people on a higher academic level. I believe this is just the first step in a long list of cultural-immersion experiences.
Are you a teacher, educator, or homeschooler? Want to use this interview as an educational piece about Mandela or South Africa? Download the Maria_and_Mandela_Educational_Handout.
Want to apply to go to South Africa next year? Go here: http://usa.international-experience.net/study-abroad/apply-now/
“Global competency comprises the knowledge and skills that help people…comprehend global affairs and events… Global competency also includes fostering an attitude that makes it possible to interact peacefully, respectfully, and productively with fellow human beings from diverse geographies” (Fernando Reimers, Global Competency: Eduating the World, p. 2, 2009).
Developing global competence is an important 21st century work skill (See what Obama says here). Issues are no longer national, they are global. While many schools in the U.S. are now trying to implement these skills into their curriculum goals, study abroad is one of the best ways to quickly understand just how interconnected our world is.
Living in a different country and attending a new high school also gives you an idea of what your future workplace might be like, with colleagues that have a German/Italian/Afro-Indian background and slight accents.
Travel will show you that, for example, while most Europeans speak and understand English, understanding the quirks and customs of their languages and culture will help you make connections and create bonds quicker. Knowing their language and culture shows them you care and appreciate their lifestyle.
College is another place that is no longer ‘national’, but ‘global’. Did you know that students come from all over the world to attend American colleges? These international students could be your future workmates. Learning intercultural communication skills while abroad is the best way to work collaboratively with individuals different from you.
“Globally competent individuals are aware, curious, and interested in learning about the world and how it works. They can use the big ideas, tools, methods, and languages that are central to any discipline (mathematics, literature, history, science, and the arts) to engage the pressing issues of our time. They deploy and develop this expertise as they investigate such issues, recognizing multiple perspectives, communicating their views effectively, and taking action to improve conditions.” (Boix Mansilla & Jackson, Educating for Global Competence, p. xiii, 2011)
Read more here
The next time someone tells you study abroad is just a ‘vacation’, you can let them know you are actually investing in a future where these 21st century skills will be quite important to your career, skills that they might not be acquiring by staying at home.
Do you feel more competent to deal with global issues after studying abroad? Leave us a comment!
Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com – See more at: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2014/03/28/march-myglobllife-linkup/#sthash.3uaFB4HP.dpuf
If traveling or living abroad is your dream, don’t let anyone (including yourself) stop you. Change your “Can’t” to “Can”. Nothing is impossible, and whatever your challenges may be, you can overcome them. Do you fear you won’t succeed? Do you fear you won’t make friends? Do you fear you will miss old friends and family? Don’t let fear of the unknown stop you, everyone has fears but the ones that succeed in life are those who acknowledge and address those fears and move past them. Study abroad programs provide support and orientations to address these fears and staff will always be available to help you through the hard times. No dream was ever easy, right? If other cultures and countries interest you, you want to see the world, you want to break out of the bubble you live in, meet new people and try new foods, then live the life you have imagined. Applying for study abroad might be the first step in your journey to making the life you want to have. Ask an exchange student in your community or our youth ambassador how they overcame their fears. It’s worth it.
Why did you study abroad?
“I always knew that I wanted to study abroad. The idea of completely immersing myself in another culture did not scare me; it intrigued me. Whether it was Europe, Africa, or any other continent, I desperately wanted a new adventure. And, I guess one could say I am a little impatient. Once I had this idea in my head, there was no letting it go. I began doing research to find a program that suited my personal and financial needs. Money was the biggest issue. But I asked for donations and saved every penny from work in order to get enough. The whole thing felt like a blur, or a dream. It did not even feel real as I boarded my plane to endure 24 hours of traveling. I was going to Africa! And today, as I sit in my in my new home, in Cape Town, South Africa, it still doesn’t feel real, for I am living my dream.”
How did you pay for your study abroad?
Ask Maria questions in the comment section!
Why did you study abroad?
“I had a lot of reasons for studying abroad! one of the main inspirations came from hosting exchange students in my family. I had a wonderful experience learning about another person’s culture, and sharing with and learning from them while they were also sharing with and learning from my family. I really wanted to have that experience as well. Another reason was that I really wanted to be bilingual, and I knew that going on exchange would give me the opportunity to become fluent in a language other than english. Why I chose Italy was also due to many reasons. I chose Italy because I really had always thought it was a very beautiful country, with a rich culture and history. I really wanted to learn Italian and make Italian friends, while learning more about the country. I also wanted to eat Italian food all the time! (who doesn’t?).
I chose to go for a full year because I think that a full year is when you truly start to take away all that the experience has to offer, and a half year is only 50% of the experience. You cut your experience in half, your time with your friends and time to learn the language, and many other things are halved when you do one semester as opposed to a full year abroad.
In the end I truly fulfilled all my goals! I learned Italian and became fluent in it, and was able to attend school, make lots of friends, learn a lot of other life skills (Outside of school), all while enjoying every minute of my experience!”
Ask Grayden a question in the comment section!