The Student Exchange Conundrum

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Madhura Sansare gets into the details of student exchange programs and solves the confusing puzzle for you

Student exchange programs are a very interesting concept. Ordinarily, a student’s education is restricted to his geographical location and the education system in it. But student exchange programs give you a taste of something entirely different than what you are used to. They take you out of your comfort zone, and challenge while also exposing you to an entirely different situation, a different culture, and a different education system. They give you a chance to explore yourself in a way that your own educational system could not provide. But what exactly is a student exchange program?
A student exchange program is a program in which students from a secondary school or university study abroad at one of their institution’s partner institutions. This may involve international travel, but it is not necessary. Students can choose to study in their own country, just in a different state. Educational institutions and governments across the globe promote student exchange programs. This is so because these foreign exchange programs are created to provide practical training and employment and the sharing of history, culture, and traditions of the participants’ home country.
Now you have to keep in mind that the term ‘exchange’ is used loosely here. If you want to study abroad for a short while, it does not mean you need to find a counterpart who will exchange places with you. Exchange purely means that a partner institution has accepted a student, but does not necessarily mean that the students have to find a counterpart from the other institution with whom to exchange.
Exchange students live with a host family or in a designated place such as a hostel, an apartment, or a student lodging. Costs for the program vary by the country and institution. Participants fund their participation via scholarships, loans, or self-funding.

Types of exchange programs:
1. Short-term exchange:
A short-term exchange program is also known as summer/intensive or cultural exchange program. These focus on homestays, language skills, community service, or cultural activities. High school and university students can apply for the programs through various government or non-governmental organizations that organize the programs. A short-term exchange lasts from one week to three months and doesn’t require the student to study in any particular school or institution. The students are exposed to an intensive program that increases their understanding of other cultures, communities, and languages.

2. Long-term exchange:
A long-term exchange is one that lasts six to ten months or up to one full year. Participants attend high school in their host countries, through a student visa. Students are expected to integrate themselves into the host family, immersing themselves in the local community and surroundings. Upon their return to their home country they are expected to incorporate this knowledge into their daily lives, as well as give a presentation on their experience to their sponsors. Many exchange programs expect students to be able converse in the language of the host country, at least on a basic level.

3. Internship exchange:
Another option that students who want to go for an exchange program have is to go for an internship exchange. Though this type of an exchange program doesn’t benefit a student from an educational perspective, it is extremely beneficial to the student’s personal growth and his CV. An abroad internship shines on a fresher’s CV, as it shows a versatility to working in different environments. AIESEC India is known for its wide range of destinations and internships provisions, and is one of the best ways for a student in India to pursue an exchange program of this sort.

THE FOREIGN PERSPECTIVE
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Ewa Mikulska, a Polish native, tells us all about living in India since 2015, and working for an exchange internship via AIESEC

Could you tell us a little more about your student exchange internship? How was your experience in India?
Actually my experience is still in progress; I have been in Mumbai since June 2015, working for an events management agency as a business development and customer servicing executive. It offers a lot of learnings and I’m taking this opportunity the best way I can. India itself is for me a source of colorful energy and crazy diversity, I have been lucky to travel a bit and discover more dimensions to the country.
What were some of the major challenges you faced while working in the country?
At the beginning everything was a challenge! Compared to Europe, India is to my mind still not that focused on embracing diversity coming from the outside of the country. My perspective on its reason is that, it may be due to the size of population. The dominant attitude is competitive, not collaborative. It takes a lot to transform the long term patterns with the common consciousness and understanding.
What advice would you like to give to somebody who is planning on an overseas internship via AIESEC?
By my experience so far, the key to living a developing experience of an internship in such an environment is, so called, growth mindset. Living and working in a country which is so extremely different from Polish reality can be a source of myriad misunderstandings and confusions; either to be perceived as problems or challenges to overcome with personalized learning. I’d advise anyone who is planning on jumping into an internship abroad to keep practicing your growth thinking to make the most of the adventure of your lifetime.

FROM INDIA TO CAIRO
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Ronisha Sanjana, a 20-year-old BA student studying at KC College talks about pursuing an internship in Cairo, Egypt via AIESEC

Could you tell us a little more about your student exchange internship? Where did you go and how was your experience?
I have always wanted to visit Egypt (Cairo) since I was a kid. And I got the right opportunity at the right time. Hearing about a crazy opportunity like this, I couldn’t wait to experience it. I knew it was sudden and it sounded crazy to leave everything and vanish from all the studying but trust me, I did not regret it one bit.
Having never been overseas, I went to a completely strange land, met new faces, saw a new language and a different culture and once I was back, that strange land turned into my second home and the new faces became family. After I was back from my exchange I was the same person with a completely different perspective on life. I was back to the same routine with tons of new friends from all around the globe and memories to cherish forever.
What were some of the major challenges you faced while working abroad?
The language was a bit of a problem. Our internship was based on photography and graphic designing so we had to travel all around Egypt. The truth being that 85% of the locals only speak Arabic it was a bit difficult to communicate. But we had our fellow AIESECers who taught us basic Arabic and we were good to go.
What advice would you like to give to somebody who is planning on pursuing an internship abroad via AISEC?
Go for it. Don’t even think twice. An experience like this should not be missed. You will learn, explore and discover in just a span of 2 months. You will come back a responsible person. There are 126 countries. Choose your own destination, pack your bags and leave.

 

Volume 5 Issue 10

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