We’re always urging our exchange students to “do” some kind of extracurricular activity — something outside their regular school classes. It almost doesn’t matter what the activity is; it can be sports, band, choir, a dance class, martial arts, or some sort of volunteer activity in the community. It can be something that already interests the student or something new he or she has never done before.
As coordinators, we push these activities as a way to help our students become more involved in their host school and host community. Informal activities outside the classroom may be easier environments in which to talk to new people make acquaintances and hopefully some long-term friendships. They also keep students from thinking about things they are missing in their life back home; extracurricular activities are a tried-and-true way to decrease homesickness and help keep students grounded in their life in their host country.
Extracurricular activities are a tried-and-true way to decrease homesickness and help keep students grounded in their life in their host country.
The infographic below reminds me that there are even more reasons to encourage our exchange students to participate in extracurricular activities. Actually, it applies to all students! If the data behind this chart are reliable, then we have evidence that high school students who engage in extracurricular activities have higher indicators of school success and higher test scores. (A study cited by the infographic organizers found that participation in extracurricular activities increased SAT math scores by 45 points and SAT verbal scores by 53 points — not insignificant). College students also seem to benefit from engaging in activities outside the classroom.
As we enter a new semester for students just arriving from around the world, and as our current students prepare for the second half of their exchange year, let’s give them added incentives to engage. It will help them engage and be successful in their exchange experience, and will add to the benefits that will follow them long after they return home.