How young people benefit from cultural exchanges

More and more people are beginning to understand why learning a language is important. As a result we’re all wondering what the best way to learn a language is. The immersion technique through cultural exchanges is quickly becoming a favorite.

So what’s so great about cultural exchanges?

There are so many advantages of learning a language through a cultural exchange that we can’t list them all. So here are our top ten reasons why young people benefit from cultural exchanges…

Cultural exchanges friendship confidence
Young people build confidence through overcoming obstacles and broadening their horizons.
Get motivated!

Learning grammar and vocabulary in the classroom is all well and good, but is it all that inspiring? Visiting another country on a cultural exchange gives a context to language learning because young people can apply their language skills. As a result they’ll be amazed by how much they’ve already learned and will discover the purpose of all that spelling and conjugation practice.

Develop communication and problem-solving skills

A cultural exchange is a great way for young people to prove what they know, but on some occasions they may find themselves lost for words! Such situations are often hilarious as your son or daughter will have to get creative to communicate with their host family. This will improve their communication skills and problem-solving skills, and help them to remember new vocabulary too!

Stop worrying about mistakes

As soon as speaking a language is necessary to communicate with those around you. In consequence it becomes easier to shed that self-consciousness about making mistakes or looking silly. Such sheepishness is found in abundance in secondary schools, and as such adolescences often benefit both linguistically and emotionally from cultural exchanges.

Learn the living language

Languages are living: they change and evolve with society. This makes learning a language all the more difficult yet all the more interesting. Through immersion in a family on a cultural or language exchange, young people can learn the language of young people. They’ll also learn to speak more idiomatically, just like the natives!

Experience a different culture

Some things just can’t be taught in a classroom, to some extent culture is one of them. The best way to learn about a country’s culture is to experience it in the native language. Cultural exchanges also give young people an important insight into other perspectives, broadening their horizons and encouraging them to develop their opinions and ideas.

Overcome obstacles

Cultural exchanges can be challenging, but therein lies their value. Facing hurdles during an exchange gives young people a sense of accomplishment, boosting their self-esteem and self-awareness. As a result they return home with the ambition and confidence necessary to take on new challenges and pursue new goals.

Become socially adaptable

Immersion in another culture often involves engaging in new and unfamiliar social situations. Through navigating the social customs of another country, young people become more flexible and adaptable to unknown situations in general. They also learn to appreciate other cultures and ideas, and become more open to compromise.

Cultural Exchange Friendship
Young people often build lifelong friendships during cultural exchanges
Build lifelong friendships

During a cultural exchange young people participate in the day-to-day life of a host family, effectively becoming another member of the family. They will return home to their actual family at the end of the exchange having formed long-lasting bonds with their hosts and with many new friendships. Many young people stay in contact with their hosts long after their exchange has ended and even continue to visit one-another in the future.

Get accustomed to foreign environments

Young people who participate in exchanges are often more comfortable in multicultural and multilingual environments in the future. Not will they go on to feel more at ease when abroad and traveling, but will adapt better to new environments.

Become a host

A cultural exchange is as much about hosting as it is about traveling abroad. For many young people this may be their first experience of hosting someone that they have not met before. As a result they will develop vital social skills, learning to be sensitive to the needs of others and to analyze group dynamics.

So what are the disadvantages?

Cultural exchanges sound perfect, right? However, there are a few challenges…

Finding a host family

So you’ve decided that a cultural exchange is the best way for your child to learn a language? Now it’s time for the mammoth task of finding a trustworthy host family. For those fortunate enough to have friends in far-flung places this poses no problem, however we aren’t all so lucky.
That’s where online platforms such as Kinder Exchange come in. Although there are many exchange services out there, Kinder Exchange is one of the few platforms that takes on the matchmaking process themselves. Platforms such as Kinder Exchange allow you to rest easy knowing that your child is in safe hands.

Going away from home is daunting

Being separated from your friends and family can be daunting for a young person as well as for their family. However such challenges make participating in an exchange all the more enriching. At Kinder Exchange, we help you to get to know the partner family before the exchange so that you know when your child will be staying. By speaking via email, Skype, and social networks, young people can get to know their partners too so that they know what to expect before arriving.

Provins: the Jewel of Medieval France

Provins Tour Cesar Autumn
Tour César gives us an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

Nestled in the heart of the Champagne region lies one of the most significant, beautiful, and well-preserved Medieval towns in France. Stepping through the gates of Provins feels a little like stepping back in time as it’s not only the buildings that have been preserved, but the medieval traditions too.

Believed to have been medieval France’s third largest city, in its heyday Provins was a commercial hub, envied for its wealth and famed for its biannual Champagne fairs which attracted merchants from the length and breadth of Europe. These fairs doubled up as celebrations, complete with singing and dancing, and served as a cultural melting pot where ideas could be shared and connections made. Flourishing in the spotlight of European global trade, Provins even minted its own coinage, which was recognised and accepted throughout Medieval Europe.

Discover ancient architecture…

It is said that the Champagne fairs of Provins owed their success in part to protection that the Counts of Champagne offered to journeying merchants as they travelled through the region. Whilst highwaymen are certainly less of a concern on today’s roads, it’s not difficult to imagine the impression that the Provins skyline would have made upon a visiting merchant. Possibly the most striking feature of this skyline is the Tour César. Built between 1152 and 1181 as a symbol of the Count’s power, the Tour César was originally used as watch tower and prison and is an excellent example of medieval defensive architecture.

The Tour César also offers panoramic views of the defensive walls that surround Provins. The innovative design of these ramparts served as much to showcase the skill of Provins’ craftsmen as to protect the town. Built between the 11th and 13th centuries, the 1200m town walls are made up of rectangular, octagonal, and trapezoid (among other shaped) towers which were a true feat of medieval engineering.

Provins Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church Autumn
The enormous blank walls of Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church are eerily beautiful.

Whereas the Tour César evokes the wealth of the town, the church just metres aways tells a different story. Begun in the 12th century, the Saint Quiriace Collegiate Church remains unfinished to this day as its constructionwas halted due to financial problems throughout the French kingdom. Now the starkness of this colossal building adds to its beauty, and it is an unmissable monument to the fascinating history of this extraordinary town.

Experience medieval customs…

The traditions of Provins are as well-preserved as its monuments and, in tribute to its medieval history, activities such as Equestrian Falconry are still practiced, and it’s not uncommon to see knights galloping within the city walls in the daily shows put on by the town throughout the spring and summer. The Champagne Fairs may have seen a decline in the 14th century, but the tradition has been upheld all the same and Provins plays host to Champagne Fairs, nocturnal celebrations and musical events which celebrate the customs of the region.

On top of the excitement and drama of the medieval shows, peace and tranquility can also be found in Provins by visiting its rose garden. Here you’ll find a quiet place to relax whilst learning about the history of the rose, its contribution to Provins’ success and, of course, its place in French cuisine!

Just 50km from our hometown of Fontainebleau, Provins is one of our favourite places to explore. We especially recommend tasting Confit de Pétales de Roses: a delicacy of the region!

The truth behind the classroom myths.

At school, no one seems to take language classes very seriously. I didn’t particularly enjoy them either; I could never imagine being able speak French fluently and it all just seemed like a waste of time.

Somehow 10 years later I’m living and working in France. Recently I’ve been trying to work out why speaking another language never seemed like an achievable goal. It seems like it all comes down to the myths about learning foreign languages which are born in the classroom and which convince us that learning a language just isn’t worth the effort. It turns out that it is worth it after all, so here are the facts behind those classroom myths…

Myth #1 « Learning a language at school is no use in real life »
When you’re practicing French in the classroom with your mates it can seem a bit pointless, but there are countless reasons to learn a new language. When you speak a second language you can meet and talk to a whole world of people, travelling becomes easier and more enriching, and you can become immersed new culture. What’s not to love? Bilinguals also gain access to the global job market, earn a higher salary and have better job prospects in general; put simply : employers like language learners. Most importantly there’s nothing better than the buzz you get from having a conversation in another language, or using some new vocabulary for the first time.

Myth #2 « Learning a language is too hard. »
Learning a language can be hard but it doesn’t have to be… it all depends on how you learn. Did you know that there are different styles of learning? These are known as visual, auditory (listening), reading/writing, and kinesthetic (practical learning), and by finding the right balance between these styles we can make learning easier, more effective and more enjoyable. Sometimes Myth #1 makes language learning even harder, because if you don’t see the purpose of learning a language, it’s hard to find the motivation! I found that immersion in a French family gave me the motivation that I needed to apply myself to learning a language, and also served as an interactive way of learning as I had no choice but to listen to and speak French all the time, making the whole process more enjoyable.

Myth #3 « It’s embarrassing to make mistakes when speaking another language »
I have a degree in French and work in France, but only a week ago I accidentally offered a stranger a punch in the face (un coup de poing) instead of a helping hand (un coup de main). Making mistakes comes with the territory of speaking another language but it shouldn’t prevent you from trying – in fact it’s often the best way to learn. Instead of worrying about getting things wrong when you’re speaking another language, try to remember how amazing it is to be able to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak your native tongue. Most people are very understanding when you make mistakes too, which in my case was very reassuring!

Myth #4 « Most people speak English anyway »
I’m afraid not! Although English is becoming an international language, you’d be surprised by how many people don’t speak a word of it. In fact according to the British Council, only 25% of the world’s population has some understanding of English.There are many countries in the world where speaking the native tongue is an absolute necessity for travelers. It’s a little unrealistic to want to learn all of the world’s languages (although don’t be deterred from trying) but I’ve always found that when travelling, meeting people, and looking for jobs, the more languages you speak, the better!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.

What to expect from your Kinder Exchange

If you’ve never done it before, the process of organising your exchange might seem like a mammoth task; and the idea of finding the perfect family and location – nigh on impossible! This is why we try to make your planning your exchange as simple as possible by taking on some of the legwork ourselves and supporting you every step of the way! Here’s what you can expect when you join the #Kinderexchange community…

organising your exchangeQuestions, questions, and even more questions!
Don’t worry, it’s not a test! Our aim is to find you an exchange partner who will become a friend for life! To do this, we’ll be asking you lots of questions in an informal interview before matching you up. Give some thought to what you want to get out of the experience, where you want to go, what you enjoy and what type of people you get on with. This will help us to find you the most compatible partner possible! We’ll also be asking for you to send us some photos of you, your family, and where you live to give your exchange partner an idea of what you’re like, so we love to receive photos where your personality is really shining through!

References
We understand that going to stay with a family that you’ve never met before can be daunting. For extra assurance that you are in safe hands, we ask for two references for each family involved in the exchange. This reference must be from someone who isn’t related to you and has known your family well for a long time.

Sit back and relax!
We really do mean it! As we do all of the searching for you, your next step is to breathe easy whilst we search our database for your perfect exchange partner. Once we’ve found them, we’ll send out the your profiles to the other family, and their profile to you and if everyone’s happy you can start getting to know one-another!

Over to you!
Once you’ve been matched up, it’s time to get to know your exchange partner and their family and start preparing for your cultural adventure! Make sure to talk to your partner and their family about the logistics of your trip, such as the length of the visit; arrival times and meeting points; dietary requirements; and house rules. It’s also worth doing some research about the local area (you could ask your partner about this) so that you know what to expect and how to respect the local culture. Finally, we advise all exchange students to take a gift for their host family, this might be a game, something that represents your culture, or even food! More detail on our  Guideline

Remember: if you have any questions or worries, you can always contact your country’s Kinder Exchange partner who will be happy to answer any of your queries!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.

Fontainebleau : the True Home of Kings

Just a stone’s throw from the capital, Fontainebleau is a favourite weekend destination for Parisians looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city and to breathe in that fresh countryside air. If you have already visited #Fontainebleau this will come as no surprise, nestled in the centre of a tranquil forest it’s hard to believe that you’re only an hour from Paris. It is also home to #Kinderexchange HQ and when we’re not busy organising exchanges we enjoy discovering the hidden treasures and exploring the rich history and culture of our town.

castle of fontainebleau

Fontainebleau’s history boasts as many exciting tales as a BBC period drama, many of which revolve around the beautiful palace in the town centre. A former hunting lodge transformed into a one of the largest French royal châteaux, the Château de Fontainebleau served as the home to the kings and queens of France and witnessed many momentous historical events over the ages, even hosting Pope Pius VII (be it for an involuntary visit) during the French Revolution. These days the Palace of Fontainebleau is open to the public, including its throne room, allowing you to immerse yourself in the extravagant and meticulous decoration and furnishings of the French monarchs. In every direction stretches innumerable gardens, courtyards and parkland, providing the perfect setting for enjoying a picnic or for basking in the splendour of French renaissance architecture.

Surrounded by forest, it’s easy to understand why Fontainebleau became « The True Home of Kings ». (Napoleon in Saint Helena)

Whilst the building has medieval origins, French Monarchs were later compelled to develop the site in order to benefit from the abundance of game in the surrounding forests. Although the eight centuries of sovereign residence in Fontainebleau have long since come to an end, the forest still plays host to a thriving population of game and other wildlife and the tradition of hunting is still practiced. In addition, the forest plays an important role in the history of mountaineering and is now known the world over for walking, horse riding, climbing, and mountain biking.

forest of fontainebleau

In order to make the most of the diversity of foliage and the extraordinary rock formations which comprise the unique landscapes of the forest, many walkers take to the « sentiers denecourts ». These walking paths, traced in the 19th century, were initially created to allow visitors to explore the massif. Now maintained by volunteers, these routes are signposted by blue marks on the rocks and trees along the route and guide visitors through areas of remarkable beauty throughout the forest. Although these footpaths are reserved for walkers, a myriad of trails and paths throughout the forest provide a source of adventure for mountain bikers and horse riders alike.

Choosing to view the forest from an entirely new perspective, climbers flock to #Fontainebleau from the world over to test their strength on the boulders of the forest and to make their mark in climbing history. Whilst Fontainebleau is celebrated among the climbing community for its powerful and technical style of climbing, it is also renowned for its accessibility and you certainly don’t need to be Tarzan to enjoy climbing here! Climbing circuits and painted onto the rocks and range from absolute beginner (marked in yellow) to world-class athlete, and offer an alternative way of exploring the forest.

To find out more about our charming town, you can visit Fontainebleau’s Tourist Information Website.

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

Recipe for a great exchange: the host family

For a young person, embarking on an exchange abroad can be like launching yourself into unknown territory and they may not quite know what to expect. During their time abroad, the host family is responsible for ensuring their wellbeing and good behaviour; and may act as a support network for the young person. As a host family this may seem daunting, so we’ve created a brief overview of the qualities of a great host family. We’re sure you fit the bill!

Include the student in family activities

Whether it be a birthday, a film night, or just a family meal; the key to making a student feel at home is by including them in family activities, however insignificant these activities may seem. Something as simple as a family dinner can help the student to develop a routine and adjust to their new environment as dinner table discussions and debates are a great way to break the ice and get them involved in conversations.

Knowing when not to include your student in family activities is also important: for example, a family meeting where you discuss personal and familial issues probably isn’t appropriate.

Treat the student as your own child

As a child staying under your roof, you should expect the same of your exchange student as you would of your own children; this means that they should be abiding by your house rules and curfews. However, it is essential that you are upfront about your expectations and it may be worth talking to your student about this before their arrival. Accordingly, encourage your student to make themselves at home during their stay and let them know that they can come to you with any worries or problems.

Encourage your student to share their culture

Whilst your student’s main goal is to experience and learn about your culture; help them to open up and feel like part of the family by asking questions and showing an interest in their own customs and home life. If your student is feeling homesick, why not ask them to tell you about their family or to teach you a traditional recipe to help them to feel more at home?

Be patient

Trying to communicate in another language can be frustrating and adapting to a new culture, perplexing. Give your student time to adjust and be patient and encouraging when they are communicating in their target language; trying not to interject unless absolutely necessary.

Be yourselves

For an exchange student, part of the cultural enrichment comes from experiencing daily life in another family. A great host family doesn’t need to be the model family where everyone agrees all of the time. Although we’d advise avoiding raging family arguments whilst you’re hosting a student, your family’s individual quirks and amicable debates will help your student to feel at home so let your personalities shine through!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

How to explore Paris

We’ve talked about where to explore in Paris, but what about how? Part of the magic of exploring this city comes from traveling from one beautiful landmark to another, and how you travel makes a big difference to your experience! There are many ways to get from A to B in the city of lights, but here are a few of our favourites.
Batobus for Kinder Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

Set sail!

In the past rivers determined the locations of some of the world’s major cities as they were used to transport commerce, this includes Paris which is built around the river Seine. Traveling through Paris by river is a magical experience, giving breath-taking new perspectives of the most iconic landmarks whilst also revealing some of the city’s hidden treasures.

There are numerous companies that offer boat trips on the Seine, but one of our favourites is Batobus. Batobus drops anchor in nine locations across the city, and thanks to their hop-on hop-off policy, you are free explore to each area of the city at your leisure before setting sail to your next destination. They offer a range of day pass and annual pass offers, making them amazing value for money too!

« A Paris à vélo on dépasse les autos »

You may have heard talk of the journée sans voiture where Parisians left their car keys at home and made of the most of the chance to discover the town on their bicycles. The Car-Free day may only be an annual event, but that’s certainly not to stop you from pedalling through Paris the whole year round! The options are endless, with bike rental available in park areas such Bois de Boulogne and Bois de Vincennes providing adventure on wheels for the whole family; whereas the savvy cyclists might want to make the most of the Velib’bike hire scheme to explore Paris via its cycle paths. 

Take to the pavement

What is wonderful about Paris is that every street in this major European city has its own community feel. This is something that you can really appreciate when exploring on foot. Although it may not be feasible to reach all of your destinations this way (Paris is quite big after-all!), by hitting the pavements and seeing where your feet take you, you can quite easily find yourself off-piste of the tourist trail, immersing yourself the unique personality of each arrondissement and basking in the majesty of the architecture.

 When in Paris…

…do as the Parisians do! Somehow the Paris metro is iconic, maybe it’s the Art Nouveau signage that does it. But if there’s one way to really feel like a Parisian, it’s taking the metro. Paris has a super speedy and easy-to-use metro system: tickets are generally bought in 10 packs from the station machines and each ticket is worth one journey within Paris, no matter what the length of that journey may be. If you find the metro map to be puzzling and beyond comprehension, you can plan your metro trip in advance and then play the part of a Parisian public transport veteran on the day.

 Happy exploring!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

Recipe for a great exchange: the student

If it’s the first time that you’re embarking on an exchange, it can be difficult to know how to approach it. To help you to ensure that your time abroad is nothing short of spectacular, we’ve come up with the perfect recipe for making the most of your exchange.

Throw yourself into the culture, head first
When in Rome, do as the Romans do – this works even better if you’re heading to Rome! An exchange in a host family is culturally enriching experience as you will participate in day-to-day family life in another culture. Allow yourself to be fully immersed in the culture by saying yes to new experiences and stepping a little outside of your comfort zone. Whether it be food, a local tradition, or a family member’s hobby – you’re bound to learn something new and meet some interesting people along the way.

french exchange programShare your culture
‘Exchange’ means giving one thing and receiving another; so whilst it’s important to immerse yourself in your host families culture, remember that they’d love to learn about your culture too! Try cooking a meal, watching a classic film, teaching them a traditional song, or explaining idioms of your culture to help your family get to know more about you.

Communicate in your target language
This may need a little self discipline! When away from home, communicating in a target language can be frustrating and it’s all to easy to slip into your mother tongue at the earliest opportunity. However, the more you speak your target language, the more you learn and the easier communicating will become. Although you may make a few mistakes, use every blunder as a way to learn something new by asking your host family and friends to correct you.

Don’t be an island
Arriving in a host family that you’ve never met before can be overwhelming and your instinct may be to hide away in your room – especially if you’re feeling homesick! By spending time with your host family outside of organised activities, you’ll begin to feel at home in your new environment and will become part of the family. Not only does this help to stave off any feelings of homesickness, but through interacting with the family you’ll learn more about the culture and language, and will form lifelong friendships!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange.

Finding the perfect gift for your host family

You’re fairly confident that you’re on track and organised for your exchange abroad. Plane tickets? Check! French phrase book? Check! Gift for your host family? Eh?

Finding a gift for your host family is an important part of your exchange preparation. This gift doesn’t need to be particularly snazzy or expensive (in fact, it’s better if it isn’t) but should help you to break the ice and share elements of your culture, whilst also serving as a token of your gratitude.

That’s a lot to ask from one gift, without mentioning that it needs to be fairly portable too! Luckily after a few years of practice we’ve learned a thing or two about buying presents for host families, so here are a few idea to keep in mind:

perfect gift for your host family

Conversation starters
Anything that gets the conversation flowing is generally the sign of a good gift. Bringing traditional food from your country is a great way to break the ice: there’s nothing better than a block of English cheddar cheese; a jar of marmite; a box of tea; or a tin of Heinz baked beans to get the a good debate going around the dinner table. Just don’t forget to think about how well your food will travel before packing it into your suitcase!

Something that represents your culture
What is your town or country known for? This could be something that’s produced in the area; a town tradition; or a photo book of your city – the more original the better! Whatever it is, it will give you the opportunity to describe elements of your culture to your host family and they’ll get the chance to learn more about you! Hint: A good way to find a gift that represents your hometown is to think about what you’d buy as a souvenir for a friend if you were visiting the area.

Something for the whole family
Instead of worrying about finding an individual gift for each family member, why not get something that the whole family can share? Games are a great family activity and create a lively, competitive atmosphere that will help you to relax into your new home. There are tonnes of games available that can be played in multilingual environments, such as Bananagrams and Dobble (after a trilingual game of Bananagrams, we can confirm that it withstood the multilingual test, and it definitely added to the fun!). Not much space in your suitcase? Why not take a souvenir deck of cards from your hometown?

Get crafty
Nothing says gratitude like a DIY gift: homemade presents are not only unique but show that you’ve put in some thought and effort. Websites such as Pinterest are full of ideas for you to bake, knit, sew and craft your way to gift success! If you enjoy crafts, this is also a great way to share one of your hobbies with your host family!

Don’t over think it
Remember the gift isn’t everything and doesn’t need to be extravagant. The best gifts we’ve received have been simple, such as a paper cutting bookmark from China; spices from India; or photos of the area from France. Whatever the gift, your host family will appreciate the gesture and will be delighted to have a momento of your visit!

Written by Hati Whiteley for Kinder Exchange

The Benefits of Becoming a Host Family

Opening the door of your home to an exchange student can be one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences of your life. Your family would have an extraordinary opportunity to experience different cultures first hand and to create lifelong relationships with people and families around the world. Here are just a few reasons to become a host family.

host familySharing your own culture – As a guide for an international student eager to learn about your culture, your family will showcase all the things that make it unique. In return, you will find you appreciate your culture that much more and will be reminded of all the great things it has to offer to the world. Introducing your new family member to the cuisine, music and people of your country will undoubtedly make their stay an unforgettable experience that will follow them for the rest of their life.

Learning about a new culture – This process is a two way street and while you’re promoting your own culture you would have a wonderful chance to learn about new, exciting countries, people and traditions. Expand your family’s horizons and connect them to the world without even having to leave your home.

Making lifelong friendships – After the student’s visit has come to an end, many host families and students stay in touch. Host families often travel to visit their student in his/her country where they continue to bond and strengthen their relationship. Students also come back and revisit which further deepens your connection. Friendships established through these exchange programs help promote mutual cultural understanding by bringing different nationalities together.

Practicing a new language – This experience can be beneficial for both a host family and a student in terms of learning or perfecting a foreign language. Your family will be exposed to a new language in a relaxed setting of your own home which would in return make learning it much more fun and exciting.

Having fun – All of our host families emphasize how fun their experiences were! They share stories filled with laughter and good times spent with their guests. They all agree that the experience was well worth it and very exciting.

These are just some of the many benefits of being a host family. Every exchange will be different and special in its own way and will bring something new to your family. One thing is certain, it will enrich you while broadening your horizons and will leave you with life-long memories and true friendships.

To learn more about our exchange program and to sign up please visit kinderexchange.org or give us a call at +33 6 60 65 50 89

Written by Marko Manojlovic for Kinder Exchange