Foreign Exchange


What happens when a Russian violinist, Brazilian wildlife photographer and a math expert from Ludhiana collide at a student exchange destination? They have a ball of a time, says Gauri Rane

Source: DNA

By: Gauri Rane

A stint in a foreign country, away from home, can’t be measured in days alone. You will be gone for say six months to a year, but the experience will leave indelible imprints. “A Student Exchange Programme (SEP) gives you the opportunity many may crave for,” says Priyanka Rathod, who went on a Rotary exchange programme to US. “You return rich in knowledge, mature and with a better understanding of a different culture.” 
SEP is not a means to get away from the stressful world of academics. It is a life enriching experience; an adventure that alters your life. Such programmes bring out your innate talent, hone leadership skills and prepare you to contribute to the world community. 
As awareness about the benefits of SEP dawns, more students seek to embark on this exciting journey. “Youngsters want to enhance their resumes, whether it is for a job application or overseas education. SEP broadens their thought process and gives them the required international exposure,” says Krupa Kapadia, vice president, marketing AIESEC, India. AIESEC, a student run organisation facilitates exchange programmes in 113 countries. 
Every organisation that promotes or facilitates SEP has a mission to fulfil. For AFS, which was created in 1914 post World War II, the essence lies in the belief that the youth must build bridges of understanding and mutual respect between countries and cultures globally. “We believe that today’s youth will be tomorrow’s leaders and they are among the best “bridge builders” between nations,” says Divya Arora, national director, AFS India.
Like AIESEC and AFS, there are many professional set ups that aid students in such activities. Pratik Gandhi, co-founder, Edutrotters, started his venture to provide professional and business internships. “Such activities help one jumpstart his/ her career. You are able to make friends and build networks in the industry of your choice,” he says.
Leaving the comfort of your home to live elsewhere is not easy. You got to manage finances, cook, travel in local transport, and face weather conditions that may dampen the most cheerful of the lot. 
Experts say that challenges lie for both, Indian as well as international students. “Experiencing a new culture requires certain adjustment,” Kapadia points out. “Foreign students often try to explore the deeper aspects of culture. For e.g. they want to understand why Indian women wear bindi or why Indians touch elder’s feet,” explains Arora. 
Challenges are different for those who visit countries on internship programmes. “An Indian intern would face regular challenges like language/ accent, food habits and mannerisms, homesickness. An international intern visiting India faces all this and much more. Everyone wants to help them and that is a huge hurdle,” says Gandhi. 

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