Should International Exchange Programs be Implemented into Schools in the United States?

Should International Exchange Programs be Implemented into Schools in the United States?

Sarah Jannings


LAKE MICHIGAN CATHOLIC-  In recent years, more foreign and exchange students have joined the Lake Michigan Catholic Schools family than ever before. Students from China, France, Germany, South Korea, and Vietnam have lived in Berrien County and stayed with fellow LMC families for either a portion of the year or continuous school years. 


Current and Past International Exchange at LMC

Currently, four high school boys and four middle school girls from France are staying with fellow LMC students and their families for a month. Already having been here for two weeks, the French foreign exchange students are settling in very well and enjoying their time in Michigan by attending their chosen classes here at LMC, cheering the basketball teams on from the student section, and going to different places in our state with their host families. 

French foriegn exchange student Maxime stated, “At the beginning it was a school trip and we did a lot of fun things. People here are very kind and funny and we do a lot of things. We went to basketball games, went to Chicago with the school; it’s very nice here and cold. I’m just happy to stay with a good family here in America.”

Beyond the students from France, senior, Cythnia Wang and junior, Wendy You are both international exchange students from China. Both Wang and You are familiar faces around LMC as they have been attending the school for many years now. 

They both live with their respective host families during the school year and go back to China in the summer. Junior, Wendy You stated, 

“My favorite part about LMC is the people who attend this school. They are some cool people that I’ll never forget in my life. They are friendly and nice.”

Along with students from China, junior, Peter Cao from Vietnam has been attending LMC since the middle of his sophomore year. Cao gets along with everyone and is a fun guy to joke around with as senior, Max Allen stated, 

“I think it’s very interesting having Peter in America since I’ve never met anyone from Vietnam and it’s cool to meet all these people from all the way across the country. It’s a good experience to get to know them from the international business- a truly enriching experience. I think Peter is very funny and he’s getting comfortable here making a lot of friends and we’re becoming friends with him”  

Cao shares a host family with senior, Brian Ha from South Korea who has been attending LMC for since his freshman year. Ha plans on graduating from LMC High School and moving on to pursue a career here at a university in the United States. 

Ha has enjoyed his experience in America as he stated, 

“My favorite part of attending school in America is that you’re available to learn American cultures and also get used to those if you stay long enough.” 

LMC has also welcomed junior, Marshall Park from South Korea as his first day as a Laker was just last Friday, February 14th. Marshall is settling in very well and he commented, 

“Everyone is very friendly in trying to help me adjust and as for school. The fact that you can choose your own classes is very important and LMC offers a big range of classes that you can choose for your own schedule and I like that.”

LMC also hosted two high school girls from Germany last school year and another girl from South Korea. The school hopes to welcome more foreign and international students in the years to come.


The Importance and Benefits of International Exchange at LMC

International Exchange is very important at Lake Michigan Catholic Schools. International learning and knowledge propels students towards acceptance and understanding of an array of different cultural and community perspectives. Language acquisition is achieved through practical immersion and awareness and adoption of alternative with multi-faceted approaches to learning. 

Analytical and problem solving skills are enhanced through interest in global issues as well as a broader general knowledge. Furthermore, LMC students enjoy having the presence of the exchange students at the school. 

Many students have developed close friendships with their classmates from other countries. Junior, Maggie Tidey hosts a French exchange student and she loves getting to know all of the exchange students as she stated, 

“They get to be immersed in the American culture and it is probably good for them to learn English and they’re really funny. I’ve learned some French and that they don’t have the same food as us. Max (Maggie’s exchange student) sometimes cooks for you us and I’ve been the one to introduce him to people and we’ve taken him to an MSU basketball game.”

The LMC students are very fortunate as they have gotten to spend numerous school years with students like Wang, You, Ha, and Cao and even just a month with the students from France. Both parties benefit from the exchange system as the LMC students get to meet teenagers their own age from other countries and learn about their cultures and what their lives are like back in their own countries. 

Similarly, the exchange students come here to America to LMC to see what life is like at a private Catholic school and learn our values and traditions. They get to see what life is like here in America and experience many new activities with fellow LMC students. 


Long-Term and Personal Benefits of International Exchange

There are multiple long-term and personal benefits to international exchange. Long-term benefits include students who go on to tertiary studies find themselves more comfortable in ‘foreign’ environments. 

Prospective employers in almost every field look favourably upon experience gained while living overseas and knowledge obtained of another language and culture. Next, increased pressure to communicate and relate to others develops an awareness of group dynamics and personal sensitivity towards others. 

Finally, successful program completion represents an excellent measure of personal flexibility, encompassing an ability to reach compromise, focus and succeed through challenging times.

Personal benefits for the exchange students include, self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem. This is often the most noticeable change in returned exchange students. 

Maturity and social poise are also fuelled by the necessity to confront challenges outside a familiar support network and comfort zone. Integration into another family as well as the development of life-long friendships, fostering an appreciation of home and family.

 Finally, a tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion encourages students to develop independent opinions, make informed decisions and strive to attain fresh goals. 

In conclusion, international exchange is beneficial to both LMC students and exchange students in multiple ways. The school hopes to continue to welcome international and foreign students in the years to come. 


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