The impact of putting yourself in a completely new cultural environment is almost indescribable. Eating foods you’ve never tasted, navigating streets you’ve never seen before, and communicating in a language that is not your own is an experience that is at once overwhelming and extremely empowering. This week, students across the U.S. are celebrating studying abroad and learning about different cultures during International Education Week. IEW is an event co-sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education that acknowledges the benefits of cultural exchange and promotes programs that prepare Americans to be leaders in a global environment. Secretary of State John Kerry states: “students with experience overseas gain the skills, self-reliance, and world-view that they need in order to compete in a global economy.”
Two NSHSS students recently took on the challenge of immersing themselves in a new culture by studying abroad with AFS during high school. Spending a month in Costa Rica and Argentina, respectively, these two young leaders developed 21st Century skills that have them well on their way to becoming true global citizens.
Jacquelyn, a 17 year old from Minnesota, describes a few aspects of her transformative experience in Argentina:
“I hadn't realized how close you can become with people that you only met a month and a half before. My host family feels like an extension of my real family. From the very beginning, they treated me as if I was their own child. Then there are the many friends I met, and who I continue to talk to now. Considering how hard it can be for me to make friends without a language barrier, the fact that they were so welcoming made my experience truly amazing. As I improved at Spanish, we got closer and closer. I learned to go outside of my comfort zone, and that is something that I have carried back with me.
I fell in love with the Argentine culture, and it has inspired me to continue learning about different cultures. I want to understand people and cultures as they actually are, not how others perceive them to be. While I could go on and on about all of the ways that my study abroad impacted me, I am not sure I can fully explain them all. I am a different person than I was only a few months ago. The impact of my experience is not something that will fade over time. It is forever going to be a part of me. “
International Education Week provides the opportunity to take yourself out of your cultural comfort zone and explore the diverse world around you. By learning about other cultures, you can gain valuable global competence skills that are becoming increasingly critical to success in college and beyond.
Here are five easy ways to join the nation in celebrating International Education Week:
Happy International Education Week!