The program was our team’s third year working with high school leaders from countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Through our partnership with American Councils, the Tomorrows Teaching team facilitates the Leadership Training programs for these students as they complete their one-year exchange program with a host family in the United States. As a U.S. State Department sponsored scholarship program administered by American Councils, these youth exchange programs create opportunities for these student leaders from around the world to see that the United States is more than their view from movies, music videos, and television.
As an educator in the United States, I have also seen the invaluable benefits for U.S. students participating in exchange and study abroad programs. I have led programs for U.S. high school students in Zambia, Greece, and China that have profoundly expanded students’ cultural awareness and sense of identity. These experiences help students better understand future opportunities and transition passive learning into social action.
One goal of Tomorrows Teaching programs is to help students transition their learned skills sets from their exchange programs back to their home countries so they returns as 21st Century leaders. As with their teen counterparts in the U.S., these students’ pace of life is fast with little room for reflection and recognition of their experiences. Our programs create a safe and engaging environment for these skills to be identified, strengthened, and returned.
Although I did not participate in a high school exchange program, many educators I work with have. From leading them as an educator, I know how they can be life transforming. Have you participated in a student exchange program or hosted an exchange student from another country? Where did you go or where was the exchange student you worked with from? How did it shape you into the person you are today? Policy maker’s ability to better understand the impact of these opportunities on the lives of people like you will directly shape how future exchange programs for students around the world are funded and supported.