Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Exchange Students

(from the Erasmus Project)
As one of Herning Gymnasium's International Coordinators, I have many different areas of responsibilities; one of those is the Exchange Student Program. I am so excited to have this responsibility because I truly believe that hosting exchange students on our campus is a meaningful way of increasing our globalization without ever leaving the borders of Herning because these students add SO much to our lives and to our community!

In years past our campus has received students because host families in our area volunteer to have a student for a year. However, my goal is to create a program that actually ATTRACTS exchange students to Herning Gymnasium. 

I am working on several initiatives to not only ATTRACT the exchange students to Herning, but I am working diligently on a program that really SUPPORTS them while they are with us.  This week I interviewed a current exchange student to get some firsthand feedback about the GOOD and the BAD, but then I realized that lots of you with whom I am blogger-friends have been exchange students yourselves.... so I need your help! 

What should a school do FOR/WITH/ON BEHALF OF its exchange students?

And WHAT can/should a school do to ensure that its exchange students have the experience (culturally, socially, AND academically) that they desire... one that, ideally, contributes to their personal development?

I think that being an expat gives me a lot of insight into how to create a framework that creates a mutually beneficial experience for Herning Gymnasium AND our exchange students, but I am CERTAIN there are things I have not thought of..... So I NEED YOU! 


Ann Fenech said...

I have never been an exchange student via school, but have worked and gone to events abroad quite a bit.

What I always liked is getting to know what living as a Dane would mean. I am not sure if they would live with a family? but if yes, it would also be interesting to visit places that make Danes what they are e.g. visit Jelling stones etc.

I always enjoyed the 'food nights' as it allowed me to show off my own culture ;) (I will always be Maltese first and foremost!).

I guess if living in Denmark would also be helpful if they got some Danish language...you can work with only English in Denmark, but it is MUCH easier if you can sy some things in Danish!

Anyways - I'll stop rambling. good luck with setting up the programme! Such experiences are really the highlight of most of my years

Anonymous said...

I used to teach exchange students in England... I think that language is important - so host families should maybe speak English. My students always talked about FOOD! Then they wanted us to organize lots of activities for them.

We also had to deal with stuff like knives, homesickness and shoplifting, so giving students a quick outline of what is and is not acceptable would also be good.

Corinne said...

My department at school has the international students, so while I've never been exchange I'm in contact with exchange students a lot. Our school has an international student union for international students which Norwegians and exchange students are welcome to participate in. They do all sorts of activities outdoors, and basically provide a social outlet for people that doesn't involve drinking themselves silly. The ISU is part of the student democracy and puts together an international potluck dinner and is very involved in campus life. It seems a lot of our exchange students utilize the ISU to get to know people and activities and clubs on campus.


Anonymous said...

i never had the opportunity to be an exchange student but i love that herning is making such efforts to bring int'l students to the area!!! how wonderful!!!! :) and its cool to see that you're a part of it!

MoMo 2.0 said...

Thanks for these comments!!!

I really do appreciate your taking the time to give me your input! The students will be the ones benefitting from it!

anya said...

Hi Kelli, I came across your blog the other day and really like it

I spent last year in DK as an exchange student, so I can tell your firsthand the things I liked and disliked about how my gymnasium (Haderslev Katedralskole)handled my and the other 'udvekslingsstudenter'...

When we arrived in Jan. 2010, a mix of Aussie's and South American's, we were welcomed by some teachers who had a meeting with us to discuss our class timetables and give us some info. about the gymnasium. We had a 'coordinator', but I only met her once and she didn't really seem to care for her role, which really affected us later on. Our classes didn't even know we were coming until our first day! Which made an already nerve wracking situation a hundred times more awkward for myself and the others, as we didn't get a warm welcome (or any really at all- my teacher didn't even know I was coming!) and felt very 'on the outside'... people weren't prepared for me/us and therefore didn't what to make of us! Some lonely first days/weeks at school... snoeft snoeft :)

The most irritating thing for me was that we didn't get good/consistent danish lessons, which is the most important part if you want to really get the most from your experience (luckily I was somewhat able to pick it up myself).

I wasn't really able to participate in class activities (apart from English) because of this, which made attending really draining as it's not much fun to sit around all day while everybody is busy doing classwork. The teachers didn't try to give me any tasks to accomodate me, and it was the same with the other students. I can tell you though this can be a very isolating experience, especially if exchange students are put in the 'wrong' classes... I had a hard time getting close to my classmates, but didn't feel too bad about it as I met many other great danes out of class. A lot of the South Americans, however, had a REALLY difficult time, which resulted in them isolating themselves in class which led to classmates being nasty to them.


anya said...


What topped everything for me though, was that halfway through our year when the new students arrived, our 'coordinator' magically reappeared and had set up a whole process for the new students; they were put into 'friendly' classes (i.e. music based class), were given not one but two buddies in each class, and were to give a speach about themselves and their home country to the entire gym, accompanied by an 'international day' where they'd set up a stall about their home country. Oh, and they were going to get Danish lessons!

Us Jan. students also had to participate, and do our 'introductory speech' and stall and so forth... however, it was over 7 months into our stay and we felt a bit chuffed about everything. The gymnasium has been hosting exchange students for many years, so they didn't really have an excuse for not having developed a better program for all of us.

Basically, what I would have really appreciated from day one:
- Danish language lessons
- A guided tour around the campus (i was lost the first few weeks)
- A buddy system with a dane from our new class
- An opportunity to introduce ourselves to the gym/year level/class at least :)
- Support from our teachers and coordinator (ongoing)
- To be part of our class - given classwork to our level of ability (if in Danish) and group work with our classmates (felt very left out when I wasn't assigned any groups!)
- The 'international day' stalls were actually a really good initiative, we even brought in our local foods (i brought vegemite sandwiches!), which exposed us to a lot of people and let them come to US with their many questions and queries (which you otherwise couldn't pry out of them if you tried!)

I think I'll leave it at that... hopefully I've given you some sort of insight! I had a FANTASTISK year last year, I met so many wonderful people (both danes and other exchange students) and learned so much. I love Denmark!

Knus, Anya