It's been a year since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 to be a pandemic and schools in the U.S. began to shut down. By the end of March, our program had arranged travel home for almost all of our program’s exchange students in the U.S. That by itself was an immense challenge, and it brought home to many of us the severity of the situation around the world.
The challenges have continued … it’s been a long year. We aren't mentoring any exchange students this year due to the cancellation of our program. That alone feels strange; we almost don't know what to do with ourselves without our teenagers. Most schools in the U.S. started the academic year in virtual mode. Many schools are only now beginning to move cautiously to in-person learning, and even then it's still hybrid. We hear similar reports from friends in other countries.
We believe strongly in the power of international exchange to transform lives, improve communication, and help us learn about each other. As it becomes safe again to travel, international educational exchanges will resume. The 2021-2022 academic year will have fewer exchange students than in the past, both at high school and college levels -- but there will be more students than there were this year. International exchange will continue to increase as we develop our “new normal.”
We are looking ahead to placing students in the U.S. this Fall, and are actively looking for host families in our area in Oregon as well as trying to help our colleagues around the country. (Certainly let us know if you are interested and would like to get more information about what is involved in hosting a student!)
Continue to check out our blog (if you haven't done so already) for posts about hosting students and other issues related to international educational exchange. We may bring in other topics as well that we think are relevant. Recently, we posted something a bit different -- it’s a book review of The Siege, a book about the American Revolution. You may say to yourself “that doesn’t have anything to do with exchange students!” But is that really true? Our students often take U.S. history during their time in the U.S., and some will learn for the first time about how this country became a nation. This book might be a good selection for an incoming student and U.S. host family to read -- it will give you something to talk about and spark some conversations!
Stay well, and ask us any questions you may have about student exchanges! Feel free to make suggestions about topics you would like to hear more about as we move forward into Spring and Summer.