Why Students Should Go on Foreign Exchanges

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Why Students Should Go on Foreign Exchanges

Dominion students traveled to Germany as apart of global ambassadors.

Dominion students traveled to Germany as apart of global ambassadors.

Dominion students traveled to Germany as apart of global ambassadors.

Dominion students traveled to Germany as apart of global ambassadors.

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In the final couple of weeks during last year’s school year, I was presented with an opportunity that I accepted with open arms. I was able to travel to Germany with my fellow classmates for 10 days earlier this year in November as a part of a cultural exchange between Dominion and Heinrich von Kleist School in Eschborn, Germany.

During the six hour flight, I did not know what to expect since I had never been to Germany before. But as soon as we landed, we were surprised by a large group of German students, teachers, and a warm welcome. Over the ten days that we were there, we had experienced only a taste of a rich and vibrant German culture. I am already trying to convince my parents to plan a family trip over the summer.  All of these experiences and the cultural immersion that I was exposed to wouldn’t have happened without the school offering me the opportunity to travel. 

Students learn and experience how normal people live in other countries, not from the perspective of a tourist, but native to that country. Students don’t stay in hotels or eat at restaurants specifically targeted at tourists as “authentic” food, but they stay with their host families and eat what they normally eat. For example, when I was in Germany, I stayed with my host family and was able to experience how typical Germans live. While I was on the exchange, I had the ability to eat traditional German foods, such as schnitzel, döner, and currywurst.

Living with a foreign family opens up a level of understanding about one’s culture that is not available when traveling as a tourist. You learn the cultural pastimes and nuances from first hand knowledge and experience that are unavailable when traveling to another country in any other way.

Living with the host family, in my case with a student named Robert, can be very rewarding culturally. We had the opportunity to experience a German school day with our host student. In the German school we were able to view the immense freedom that German students have over their education and the vast differences between the American and German school systems. In America, we have a strict bell schedule from 9:15 to 4:03, but in Germany, class schedule vary from student to student and day to day. For example, my host student was at school for only two hours one day, while other days it would be more than seven. 

Traveling to Germany through a foreign exchange program has changed the perspective that I had has a traveller. I was never able to fully immerse myself into local culture as a normal tourist, but as a part of this exchange, I was. Since global ambassadors has numerous opportunities for students to travel and see the world, I believe that every student with the opportunity to participate in a forign exchange program should do so. Every person that attends these programs, from Singapore to Germany, is able to immerse themselves in local culture and learn how a population actually lives, in ways that are not available to regular tourists. Therefore I believe it is necessary for students to experience the world the way I did through foreign exchange. 

Dominion offers students a variety of opportunities to travel abroad through global ambassadors and foreign languages. Students can travel to South Africa, Singapore, Qatar, France and many more. If a student does want to travel with foreign exchange, the Global Ambassadors Club would be the most crucial to join as well as talking to a foreign language teacher if there are any opportunities to travel. I believe that if a student has the opportunity to travel with the school, that they should exploit that opportunity to the fullest.