Photo credit: Flickr CC user AFS-USA intercultural Programs
“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” – Confucious
High school is a time of exploration and discovery. A time where eager young students get their first taste of little freedoms–whether it’s getting their driver’s license or being old enough to get a job. It’s also a time many students from around the world decide to spread their wings a little higher. They get on an airplane and fly to another country to participate in a foreign exchange program far away from the world they know.
Many public and private high schools welcome foreign exchange students with open arms every year, with counselors helping them adapt to their new surroundings, host family, and balance their work load. Some stay only a semester and are gone in a blink, while others stay on the entire school year–forging lifelong friendships while seeing the United States.
Students from other countries have so much to teach our students even if they don’t realize they’re doing it. Being exposed to other cultures, ideas, foods, and even music opens students’ minds and helps them realize that there’s a much larger world out there just waiting for them to explore. Learning about the foreign exchange students customs and family life while sharing American customs with them, helps everyone grow and have an amazing experience together.
Why not highlight and embrace these cultural differences in a colorful yearbook spread?
Have a yearbook staffer interview the foreign exchange students on your campus to learn more about their background. Ask them what the biggest culture shock was coming to the states and what they miss most about home.
Some more questions to include:
- What surprised you most about America?
- What do you miss most about home?
- In what ways is your home school different from your school here?
- How is it living with a new family?
- What is the one piece of advice you’d give to any other foreign exchange student coming to this school?
- Do you want to come back to the US in the future?
They can also share a special tradition from their home country–like a recipe or holiday game–that you can publish next to their photo in the layout.
Don’t be afraid to get creative with their photo. Do you want them posing with their country’s flag or their host family? You can even have them go to a local restaurant that serves dishes from their home country and have them pose with dishes and explain whether they’re authentic or not. Or you can have them pose at their favorite spot in your city. The sky is the limit.
The summer before my senior year of high school I had the opportunity to study in New Zealand for three months. The experience is high on the list of most awesome things I’ve done in my life, and it cemented my love for travel. At 17, on an airplane by myself and ready for an adventure, I had no idea what was in store. I became instant friends with my host sister and we still talk to this day. I’ll never forget the card she gave me right before I left telling me I will always be like a sister to her. I cried all the way back to California.
Do you have any foreign exchange students on your campus? How does your student body help them integrate into daily student life? I would love to hear your comments in the box below.