International Student Exchange Programs. Enhancing Global Understanding

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2015

20 Pages


Table of contents

I) Introduction:

II) Why Students?

III) Cultural Stereotypes:

IV) Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock:
A) Culture Shock:
B) Reverse Culture Shock:
V) Understanding Cultural Differences: How?
a- Engaging in Multicultural Groups:
b- Staying with Host Families:
c- Sharing Rooms/Apartments with international students:
d- Looking at one’s own culture with a different perspective:

VI) Benefits of Going Abroad:

VII) Testimonies:

VIII) Conclusion:


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it solely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

-Mark Twain

I) Introduction:

Today’s students’ understanding of foreign cultures is usually shaped by social media. Although some of them are aware of the importance of overcoming stereotypes and studying other nations’ traditions and lifestyles, only few dare to go on exchanges.

Travelling could be quite challenging especially for youths in developing countries, yet, this does not mean it is impossible to leave one’s home country for the sake of discovering the world and learning what cannot be taught in a classroom.

International exchange programs are programs where students go overseas either for a long term or a short term, in order to explore the host country’s educational system, culture and values. In exchange, they get to share their own cultures and traditions, enhance their knowledge and start seeing things from a different perspective.

It is undisputed that the majority of students who go abroad gain a rich understanding of other cultures and experience the stimulation of completing a part of their education in a different approach to learning. They get to develop their self confidence and their sense of self reliance, and make new friendships that allow them to see the world through new eyes.

Students should be aware of the benefits of going taking part of such exchanges. In fact, many alumni realize the importance of international experience only when it is too late, and they wish they had taken the opportunity to study abroad.

II) Why Students?

Our world is growing in its demand for globally-minded people, and the best way to achieve this is encouraging students to travel and explore the world.

Youth is a time of total empowerment. So many students graduate without taking the leap and traveling, and regret this later on.

While travelling young, students will be put in places that will push them to care for issues that are bigger than them. They will understand that the world is large but small at the same time, and that there is more to life than just finishing studies and finding a job.

Another reason why young people should travel while they are still in school is the travel opportunities that are offered for students only.

Many youths complain that travelling is nearly impossible due to its huge expenses. It is true; travelling comes with a high price tag. However, being a student is a key to a magical solution: Scholarships! They are offered by donors and governments who care about students and want them to see the world, thus theyfund study abroad programs, international research, internships, personal projects, language learning and more!

Once one is no longer in school, travelling becomes more difficult since students’ discounts no longer apply. This is why applying for a scholarship is something not to be missed considering that not all students are capable of affording travelling.

When it comes to education, undergraduate students will probably apply for masters once they finish their undergraduate studies, and universities love seeing that the applicant is fluent in multiple languages and has been abroad , which gives him the abilities to adapt in any institution since he already got the experience of learning in different settings.

Travelling at an early age is quite desirable in order to promote global understanding, because with age comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes the inability to travel often.

Young people will be exposed to diverse cultures and religions, and because of their desire to explore and willingness to take risks considering their age, they will allow themselves to take a glimpse of the differences which will enable them to grow culturally. Their tolerance will grow as they will interact with people of their age and see how they are living, and they will understand that despite all the differences, all human beings have a lot in common.

III) Cultural Stereotypes:

“Stereotypes lose their power when the world is found to be more complex than the stereotype would suggest. When we learn that individuals do not fit the group stereotype, then it begins to fall apart”. Ed Koch

In order to achieve global understanding, youths of today need to start looking beyond the cultural stereotypes. These are hurtful, because they are the base by which most people treat others. Generalizing is wrong, especially when there is no strong evidence that proves that the information is correct. People need to stop assuming that a certain group or class are going to act in a certain way based only on where they come from or on what their religion is. This is a big obstacle towards attaining world peace, because as long as people keep believing stereotypes, there will always be conflicts and misunderstandings.

During international exchanges, participants learn to ask questions and verify the information they already have from different sources. For an example, Russians are known for consuming a lot of Vodka. The funny thing is that a Russian friend of mine is Muslim and never had a drink. From where she comes from, half of the population are Muslims, and others are Buddhists. Learning about the true facts and correcting false information about others is one of the benefits of travelling, but also correcting false information that others have about us could be so much fun! As an Arab and a Muslim, you could imagine the amount of stereotypes that people from the western world hold in their minds. And it is only by interacting with them and communicating with them that they start to discover that the Media are giving them extremely wrong images about other nations.

IV) Culture Shock and Reverse Culture Shock:

A) Culture Shock:

Once the student leaves his home country and enters the host country where he will be staying during his exchange program, he might face an adjustment period known as “Culture shock”.

Adapting to the new atmosphere including the new language, food, landscapes, weather and traditions can be quite challenging. The degree of shock varies from student to another, depending on their personalities and also the length of their stay.

According to the Psychologist and former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer Dennis White, culture shock has at least four stages:

1-. Excitement and Enthusiasm:During this stage, students are excited to embark their new journey and are open to trying new things and exploring the host country.
2- IrritabilityThe most associated stage with culture shock and it occurs right after the initial excitement is gone and real differences become evident. No matter how comprehensive and tolerant the host country is, the student may simply not like how this new culture is different and why it is the way it is. This stage also involves homesickness, and sometimes even anger, frustration or even depression.
3- AdaptationThe most challenging yet most rewarding stage for a student. This is when students realize that in order to complete their program successfully, adaptation is mandatory. They learn to adjust to the customs and habits that they may not quite understand or like; they gain more self-confidence and start enjoying their new life.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


International Student Exchange Programs. Enhancing Global Understanding
Mohamed I University  (Faculty of letters and human sciences)
English literature
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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international, student, exchange, programs, enhancing, global, understanding
Quote paper
Asmae Ourkiya (Author), 2015, International Student Exchange Programs. Enhancing Global Understanding, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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