Pros and Cons of Student Exchange

There are many pros and cons to consider when it comes to study abroad and living a new environment. Living abroad can provide people with once in a lifetime experiences as well as broaden their perception of life. However, it can be scary to live in a completely new environment. And at times, it can also be dangerous.

Northern Arizona University student Kyle Allen spent this past summer living as an exchange student in China. He decided to live in China because he had been studying Chinese and had never had the chance to travel outside of the United States before. As an anthropology major, Allen has also been interested in learning about various cultures.

“I thought it would be a cool experience [to live in China],” said Allen.

Allen had to begin his new life in China by adjusting to the large crowds of people as well as the humid weather and the bugs it brought with it. During his stay in China, Allen lived in the rundown foreign dorms at his school. There were bathrooms with loose tiles and sinks that were missing essential components.

During his stay, Allen also learned that traveling abroad can be dangerous. After asking for directions to a market, Allen found himself being led by a woman through dark alleyways to a large abandoned building.

“I’m pretty sure I almost got mugged,” Allen said.

Although he and his friends made it away unharmed, the experience allowed him to learn about the possible dangers of staying in a foreign country.

Although he had some bad experiences, he doesn’t regret his trip. Instead, he would recommend it to others, because it can be a once in a lifetime experience

“[Student exchange] definitely made me more aware of how different cultures behaved,” said Allen. His stay in China helped Allen realize how much he likes to learn about other cultures. He enjoyed how new everything was during his stay.

According to NAU’s Director of Education Abroad, Eric Deschamps, a survey was taken at NAU last year were 111 students were surveyed. 105 of these students said they would recommend study abroad to others.

560 NAU students decided to study abroad last year, and the number of available programs on campus continue to increase. While foreign exchange programs have been increasing in recent years, students who study abroad only make up 1% of the total number of students enrolled at institutions of higher learning.

While most of the NAU students surveyed recommend study abroad to others and while Allen greatly enjoyed his exchange experience, there is no guaranteed experience for student exchange. According to a study performed by Victor Savicki, who tried to locate a correlation between personality type and the outcome of the student’s experience yielded that “there appears to be no homogeneous study abroad experience.”

Students must deal with differences in assumptions, values, and expectations of daily living in their host culture and millions of random moments and things will determine the student’s experience.

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