by Sharlett Ramos
Bonita Vista High School has a large variety of courses that students can choose from, particularly with foreign languages. Our school provides students the opportunity to take Spanish, French, Italian and Filipino courses, each with their own standards in the classroom. However, all of these courses, except Filipino, share a common characteristic: being involved in international exchange programs. For several years, language teachers motivated their students to participate in these programs. In fact, each program has their own conditions as to who can participate, how long the trips last, and the overall cost of the trip. Basic rules include having at least a 2.0 grade point average and an average understanding of the language in order to easily communicate with natives.
The opportunity to take part in exchange programs provided by the school benefits students greatly because it is able to enhance their speaking skills and social growth for that culture. The most noticeable enhancement is the improvement of their fluency in the language. Exposure to both the language and the culture has greatly influenced students, personally and academically. In a survey conducted by the Institute for the International Education of Students, 86 percent of students that engaged in an exchange program came back with a reinforced commitment to foreign language study.
Students benefit greatly from exchange programs, not only in their high school careers but also for their future college plans. According to the American Field Service, college and university admissions staff view international experience as evidence that students are ready for higher education, since they are able to bring the perspectives they gained towards their own learning. This benefit can also apply to higher level high school courses, like Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses. Exams in AP/IB courses test students on their proficiency with the language and culture, making these exchange programs a helpful study tool in preparation for the tests.
Exchange programs allow students to experience the culture, giving them a clearer understanding in order to know it properly. Students are able to develop valuable life skills, such as being able to live in another culture, speaking a foreign language, demonstrating leadership skills, having the ability to overcome obstacles and developing maturity. Being in a different atmosphere impacts a person to see things in a wider sense and motivate them to become more open-minded about the world around them.
However, there are flaws in participating in a high school exchange program. The biggest one being the impact it has on other courses the student is taking. In fact, attendance is negatively affected while students are gone since school continues during their absence. In the process, students tend to fall behind on new topics and homework, which heavily affects their grades.
Another issue is that there is a lack of opportunities to participate in them, particularly at Bonita Vista. There are only three foreign exchange programs that students can choose from. For French courses, students are only able to partake in the program after taking the class for a minimum of two years, while Italian programs give higher priority to seniors, and students in higher level courses. Spanish allows any student that can fluently speak the language to attend trips. The different requirements limit the amount of students that are able to take part in the exchanges available at the school, thus reducing the opportunities to participate.
The last issue with exchange programs is the limited availability to visit countries outside of Europe. Although the Italian and French languages are predominantly spoken in European nations, Spanish is spoken in both Europe and South America. Although it is difficult to engage with other institutions around the world, the school should have a larger system in order to include a wider range of international exchange students and programs.
Overall, international exchange programs are highly beneficial, as they allow students to be involved in once in a lifetime experiences that really change students lives. Exchange programs open several doors for students all over the world, as they help students make new friendships around the world that last forever.