On the Importance of Cultural Exchange: A Look Inside an Exchange Student’s Experience

By Jillian Sims, High School Programs Marketing and Operations Manager

On International Education Week:  

Maliha is a YES scholarship winner and a high school exchange student with CCI Greenheart living with the Murphy family in Maine. Recently, Maliha participated in International Education Week (IEW), which this year took place November 14-18th. She was especially excited for the opportunity, saying “From the very start, before even coming to the US,  I was excited about International Education Week. It is the week where the exchange students from different countries give presentations about where they are from, share their experience in the United States, promote their culture and create awareness of the opportunity to host a student from a different country.” Doing an impressive twelve presentations in total, Maliha said “I was able to show my country’s culture by teaching a traditional Pakistani dance and doing henna on my friend’s hands. I wrote their names with henna in my language (Urdu) and I was dressed in traditional Pakistani clothes …. I also taught them few words in my language and brought in a Pakistani cuisine for the students to try. Every one enjoyed learning about the unique culture of Pakistan, asking questions and being engaged in conversation. I was really excited and pleased to answer all of their questions and I loved informing others about my country.”

On Cultural Adjustment:

While IEW is a great time for sharing her culture with her new American friends and family, Maliha has also been busy adjusting to US culture.  Now more comfortable with her everyday life and surroundings, she says, “It took me a little while to adjust to American culture… There are a lot of differences between life in America with a host family and life in Pakistan. Differences stand between the food, dressing, school systems and, in short, the culture.” There are definitely some fun upsides to this exchange though. Maliha adds “I got to celebrate Halloween here. It was my first time experiencing the holiday. It was really fun! I dressed as a huntress and handed candies to the cute little kids. I am very excited to celebrate all these American holidays, especially Christmas.”

On Volunteering:

The concept of volunteering is less common outside of the United States, however, Maliha was an active Girl Scout in her home country and continues volunteering during her exchange. Among her good deeds, Maliha shares that “I have joined service learning class here where I go to an elementary school and help the teacher during class. So far I have done 35 hours of volunteering and I am looking forward to do more and more. I will continue this volunteering when I am back in my home country and will also encourage my all friends to do this. I love volunteering!”

On Hosting:

If it isn’t already clear what benefits hosting may offer a student and family, Maliha says “I think by hosting a foreign exchange student the family gets to know more about his or her country, they get to know about their culture, customs and about the student. You will really have fun with them.”

Perhaps most powerful of all is her host mother’s words on the hosting experience: “If I could say anything about hosting it would be that these young people are so courageous to come to a different country and live with people they don’t even know, to get a chance of an experience of a life time that some may never have. I chose to host because I want to be those open arms and hugs when they get here, like their moms and dads…I want them to feel comfortable in the United States and in our town, I want them to be protected but also parented….This is our second year hosting and both young woman are amazing. They are designing their own future and it’s a pleasure to ride along with them. Maliha has embraced her school, made new friends, tried new foods and is eager to learn as much as she can. I look forward to the next seven months with her and the bond we will create that will last forever.”

To learn more about hosting one of these amazing students and having a lasting experience of your own, visit our website to learn more!