News from Berlin

High School Exchange Programs: Promoting Intercultural Understanding Between Uruguay and Germany

April 08th, 2014

News from Berlin - Fostering intercultural exchange from an early age is of growing importance throughout the international community. This can be seen through the increasing popularity of high school exchange programs allowing students to spend a full school year in a foreign country, adapting to the language and the culture through a full immersion experience. Through these student mobility programs, the students have intercultural experiences that become increasingly more important for both personal and professional development.

Uruguay and Germany have adapted several platforms for youth exchange promoted by their respective Ministries of External Relations. Students from Germany can spend a full year living in Uruguay with a host-family, attending the same school as the family’s child or children. The families accept exchange students into their homes on a voluntary basis and include them in all family activities and gatherings. Students are also encouraged to remain in Uruguay for the entire year, without returning home, so as not to disrupt the immersion process and the feeling of belonging one can find in a new culture.

Because there is no language requirement, some students arrive in Uruguay with little to no knowledge of Spanish. The students must adapt to the new language with the help of their host-families and courses offered at school, as Spanish is the main language of communication within families, social, and academic life. To further enforce linguistic and cultural immersion, each student has a separate host-family and usually attends school in a different town and province from their peers. As a result, students come back to Germany not only speaking a new language, but having matured significantly. Thus, they find themselves at an advantage to better understand not just their own culture or their host culture, but to also be more adaptable and empathetic in future intercultural situations.       

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