Cultural exchanges among youth is one of the best education opportunities the world can offer today’s youth. With so much strife, prejudice and misunderstanding, it is the face to face interaction among young people that can move us towards a more peaceful world. The Rotary International has been at the forefront of this peace education movement for many years. By this, they foster an international connection for youth. There are hundreds of Rotary clubs in scores of nations throughout the globe, so as an international network, they are easily poised to offer these kinds of connections for overseas study.
International connections are not readily thought of as collaborative learning, but in a very special way, they are. Kids share experiences, languages, cultures, tastes, history and education. Through it they learn one of the most important lessons of all. Acceptance. This is something that really can’t successfully taught in the traditional classroom. As a peripheral teaching method, the international exchange makes what students know is the right way to interact and allows them to practice the right way to interact. Rotary probably wasn’t thinking so much about the teaching method and collaborative learning experience in the traditional sense, so the schools who enroll and international exchange student must be willing to partner with the local club to make the educational component of the collaboration successful.
When the international exchange initially happens, the language barrier can be very difficult for the visiting student and the hosting students. Teachers can assemble a group of hosting kids to collaborate and help the exchange student speed up his or her language skills. The interaction will also help the home students begin to really understand communication among different cultures. They’ll learn that it doesn’t have to be adversarial, and although there are differences, there are many ways that we are all alike. These kinds of collaborations last a lifetime for the kids, and that lifetime has the potential to be more peaceful and productive for our future.