A better view of the world

Exchange programme

A better view of the world

So how do youngsters with a sense of adventure and love of travel get to experience a new culture away from their comfort zone?

“There are organisations that facilitate international exchange programmes right here in the City,” says Angela Roye, Chairperson of AFS India, an affiliate of an international student exchange organisation based in America.

“I myself was a exchange student taking a year off in 1967. When I left for America, I was an introvert. I returned confident and was able to clearly define my academic, career and personal goals. I even secured a gold medal from Bangalore University.”

Shalini Rajan, a twelfth grader, spent two weeks in Japan under the aegis of the Jenesys Programme, an initiative between the Japan Government and AFS-India. “I was a sheltered 16-year-old when I left home to spend two weeks with my host family in Japan,” she says. “They realised I was vegetarian and cut meat and fish out of their diet in deference to my food habits. I learnt to use public transport without knowing the language and the true meaning of punctuality! I made friends with kids my age from all over the world and still keep in close touch with my Japanese host family. They are planning to visit me in India sometime soon.”

For Naveen Daniel, a 24 year-old-web designer, going abroad to live and work was a distant dream until he heard of ICDE-India, an organisation that ‘promotes international voluntary service’. “I put my career on hold and went to Poland for nine months, where I volunteered to teach children English. We travelled around parts of Europe, visited the Vatican having met an Italian volunteer who hosted us in Rome and made friends with people from Germany, Finland and Turkey — people I would otherwise never have met. Although I was  a little homesick in the beginning, once I got acclimated to the programme, the experience was life transforming!” he exclaims.

“I was an exchange volunteer to Denmark myself,” says Robinson Doss, Chairman of ICDE-India. “Young people improve their cross-cultural communication skills, gain the ability to adapt and be flexible to new circumstances and learn to cope with cultural and linguistic differences. Skills they will never learn in the classroom.”

Bhavana Vijay lived with a family and did her eleventh grade in New Zealand as part of the AFS programme. She also hosted an Italian student in Bangalore. “Erica studied in Bishop Cotton’s for a year. She didn’t speak a word of English when she arrived but left with remarkable fluency and did well in her academics as well while I picked up Italian,” says Bhavana.

“You develop a close relationship with your host or house guest which translates into a learning experience. I enjoyed being part of the school system in New Zealand — an enriching experience I will always treasure,” she adds.

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