Cultural exchange is the opportunity to learn about another culture. It is a powerful experience that can transform perspectives and develop empathy.
It is not uncommon for participants of cultural exchange programs to maintain close friendships with their host communities years and even decades after the program ends. This is an invaluable aspect of the program that is often overlooked.
What is culture?
Culture is a system of beliefs, behaviors and objects shared by groups of people. It can include art, music, language, food and other physical objects as well as social and ethical values. Culture can also be defined as a way of thinking or doing things, which is learned from one’s environment and passed down from generation to generation.
Learning about another culture is a wonderful experience for anyone and can be especially beneficial for students, professionals or anyone else who wishes to grow and expand their own perspectives. In addition to being able to understand and respect different viewpoints, cultural exchange develops critical skills such as adaptability and problem-solving.
International Student Life’s CulEx is a program that matches international students with local Lubbock families for an academic year of cultural exchange and mutual benefit. Watch the video below to learn more about this amazing opportunity! It’s the perfect way to build connections beyond campus and get to know a new face of America!
How can I do a cultural exchange?
Cultural exchange is a great way to travel and learn about new cultures, especially for budget travellers who can stay with locals in their homes. These types of programs are not just for students, but also for working professionals and those interested in volunteer work abroad.
Immersing yourself in a different culture gives you the opportunity to gain empathy and understanding towards others from different backgrounds, fostering cross-cultural competence that you can bring back to your home life. It is a valuable skill to have in our increasingly globalized world, and is a key element of promoting peace and understanding.
Traditionally, school cultural exchange programs saw students from different schools meet each other in person and maintain relationships between visits via letters or phone calls. However, as technology improves, virtual exchange has become increasingly commonplace, and is a wonderful tool for educators to use with their classrooms or communities.
How can I bring a cultural exchange into my life?
Taking part in any sort of cultural exchange can be beneficial for participants on a personal and professional level. Working in a new culture develops a range of soft skills that employers value such as adaptability, cross-cultural awareness and tolerance.
Unlike studying abroad, international volunteering or overseas work placements, which focus on providing development opportunities to their participants, the main aim of cultural exchange programs is to make a positive impact on their host communities. This means that you will likely get to know local people on a much deeper level and form strong bonds with them which are often maintained well after the completion of your program.
If you’re not able to travel and meet people from different cultures in person, there are plenty of virtual ways to bring cultural exchange into your life. One of the most popular ways to do this is through work and travel exchange websites such as Worldpackers or Workaway.
Where can I do a cultural exchange?
Whether you want to learn a language, take a gap year before uni or travel around the world, cultural exchange is the key to unlocking new experiences and connecting with those from different backgrounds.
As the world becomes more globalised, it is vital that we understand our differences and celebrate our similarities. By engaging in cultural exchange activities, you can promote greater understanding of people from different cultures and build a more collaborative global society.
Bringing aspects of different cultures into your life is not only a great way to be more tolerant of those who think differently from you, but it can also inspire your work. For example, being exposed to a variety of styles can help you find new ways to express your ideas in art, music or writing. In a more professional context, it can help you create a unique design style or business model.