What does it mean to be an Exchange Student?

In the last eNews, I wrote about Adventure and the opportunities that our students here at Westminster have with regards to this IDEAL of Round Square, but have you ever considered that going on an Exchange is also in fact an ‘Adventure’?

Adventure, Resilience and Responsibility

Having been an Exchange student myself many years ago, as well as having spent most of my teaching career working with Exchange students, I have a good grasp of what it means to take on this responsibility. And yes, it is a big responsibility, as being an Exchange student means you are representing not only yourself and your family, but your school and in many cases your country.

There are so many personal benefits to participating in an exchange, some of which I have outlined below, and Westminster has a long tradition of both hosting and sending its students to a number of Round Square schools, both in Australia and overseas. I have many enthusiastic requests on a weekly basis from Westminster students wishing to participate in exchange programs. Some of these students want the additional challenge of being in a non-English speaking environment, and others are more comfortable to be in a country where they can communicate confidently. No matter what the preference, one thing is the same for all Exchange students, they all need to have resilience and be fully aware that they are an ambassador for their school the entire time they are away.

This aspect of exchanges is something that Westminster takes very seriously, and it is why we insist on such a variety of forms and interviews before a student represents our school regionally or overseas. Whilst it can seem to be a somewhat laborious process, most people understand that our thorough checking ultimately helps prevent issues for everyone later on.

Academic Expectations

It is an expectation of all our students at Westminster to endeavour to keep up best they can with their academic studies whilst away. Although it is highly important to us for our students to get a full exchange experience which may include trying different subjects or participating in other activities, for Year 8 to 10 we do ask that they communicate regularly via email with their teachers and check D2L when possible.

For Year 11 students, they need to ensure they are completing any summative assessment tasks planned while they are away and keeping up to date with any other work missed. For this reason, we often encourage students to make sure some of their exchange falls within holiday time to minimise the amount of lessons they will miss. This will often depend on where their exchange school is located and what rules they may have for when exchange students are able to visit.

Preparation, Support, and Follow up

When a Westminster student goes on Exchange, we try to provide as much support as possible before, during and after the exchange experience. Before the exchange begins, students are expected to read and discuss the expectations in our handbook, preferably in conjunction with their own parents. During the exchange we are in regular contact with the Round Square Co-ordinator in the exchange school and endeavour to work together to solve any issues that may arise. After the exchange there is an expectation from all of our Westminster students that they will contribute information about their exchange at assemblies and other publications when required. At times, we also ask our students who have been on exchange to speak to other groups such as Year 8s to give them some added insight on what it is like to be an exchange student.

An extract from our ‘Exchange Students Handbook’

The primary purpose of student exchange is to broaden the educational experience of the participating students.  In so doing, not only the exchange student but also members of the host families and the broader school communities will experience enhanced international and intercultural understanding.  Becoming part of an overseas community gives students opportunities to make friends, discover customs and truly feel part of the community.

One important consideration for an exchange student is that you become an ambassador for Australia. People are curious to know more, not only about the student, but also about the way of life in Australia.  For those with a sense of adventure, there is no better way to understand a culture - its language and customs - than to accept the challenge of living with a host family.  And the best way to understand oneself - one's opinions, beliefs, ideals and needs - is to make a commitment to learn more about the world through personal experience. Exchange students come home confidently ready to become part of a changing global community.

Overseas exchange opportunities give students the chance to become involved in daily life in that country, experience a different culture and hopefully gain a broader understanding of international relations.

Students in these situations should take advantage of the many new and different courses, daily routines, timetables, social and sporting activities and different levels of achievement available at the host school.

A well-prepared exchange student will have:

  • realistic expectations for the exchange experience;
  • a reasonable knowledge and understanding of their own country’s geography, politics and culture;
  • researched cultural characteristics and values of the host country;
  • acquired skills for coping with culture shock;
  • to understand the need for communication and negotiation.

A person who wants to go on exchange should ask themselves:

  • Am I adventurous, curious and willing to try new experiences?
  • Do I accept responsibility for my actions?
  • Am I tolerant and adaptable to changes?
  • Are my expectations and motivations realistic?

Selection to participate in an exchange program depends on a number of criteria, including:

  • Maturity
  • Flexibility
  • Desire to experience another culture
  • Willingness to participate in all aspects of the exchange, to give and to receive
  • Friendliness and ability to make friends
  • Interest in people
  • Academic achievement appropriate to ability
  • Ability to be a good ambassador for their school, family and country

It is recommended that exchange students applying for international programs be at least 15 years of age at the time of departure and have at least a "B" average in academic subjects.

What exactly is the Round Square IDEAL of ‘Internationalism’ all about?

Internationalism at Westminster takes many forms. Not only do we have a significant number of international students choosing to study here at Westminster, but we also have Exchange programs and other projects which promote the Round Square IDEAL of Internationalism. Having a clear understanding of the world around us is an absolute necessity these days and Westminster keenly provides its students with a variety of opportunities to become truly global citizens. 

Internationalism in its true form, features in many aspects of what we do at Westminster. It is in our service projects, our exchange opportunities, language learning and in reality, given the multicultural nature of Australia, in our every-day interactions with each other.

Students at Westminster are taught to appreciate, value and respect all cultures, religions and languages. International conferences, student exchanges in Years 8 to 11, and GAP year opportunities are arranged by Westminster School to facilitate this. Students can also take part in Round Square International Service Projects (RSIS) which will take place in Sri Lanka at the end of 2018. The School has been very active in both the Preparatory and Senior Schools with cultural and musical exchanges with Daly College in India, Tamagawa Academy in Japan, as well as a recent visit from Miyagi High School, Japan.  Westminster School also regularly sponsors students who are less fortunate, both in Australia and overseas.

Taken from the Round Square website (www.roundsquare.org)

‘The most powerful force in advocating and promoting international understanding is exposure to different cultures. Students from all nationalities are welcomed into each Round Square school. Students are taught to appreciate, value and respect all cultures, religions and languages. They learn to see themselves as global citizens and are asked to look beyond gender, class, race, nationality and culture to understand human nature. Round Square Schools organize term-length exchanges among students, GAP students (who are pre-university, post-secondary) and faculty. Annually, delegations of students and staff gather at a member school to attend an international conference and learn about, and tackle, some of the most challenging world issues through presentation, discussion and debate.  A spirit of internationalism is found in those who seek to discover and embrace the similarities and differences between cultures and nationalities in ways that promote meaningful and lasting understanding, tolerance and respect. It encompasses an appreciation for the increasing interconnectedness of the world, our greater dependence on the global economy and interdependence as nations as a result of massively increased commerce and cultural exchange. The growth of digital communication across geographical borders and the sharing of each other's cultures through travel and trade is understood. There is an appreciation that national differences are lessening and a blending of cultures, traditions and cultural exchange is on the increase. A person living out a spirit of internationalism respects the need to preserve and celebrate national identity, cultures, traditions and heritage. Opportunities are sought to connect with those from different countries and cultures, exchanging points of view and ideas across borders and developing international and intercultural understanding. These inform an appreciation of how others might view or think about a shared event such as a trade agreement, a partnership or a cultural exchange. A spirit of internationalism also includes an understanding of the tension between increased wealth creation in developing countries and a continuing gap between the world’s poorest countries and the world's richest.’

GAP Student Opportunities

I am often asked by Senior students if there are any GAP year opportunities available to them. Not every student wishes to go directly to further study following Year 12, and Round Square schools often advertise for GAP students from around the world. Sometimes the timing for this can be awkward due to the Northern and Southern Hemisphere school years, however it is worth enquiring if you are keen to take up one of these opportunities. More information can be found by logging into the Round Square website and searching for GAP positions on the Noticeboard. If you have any problems finding this information please contact me directly via Email and I am more than happy to help!

Being a GAP student can not only be a rewarding job, but it can give a student the chance to have time to think about options and directions for their future. For some people it is simply a break from the study and the intensity that can build up over Year 12, before tackling the next phase of their study.

Westminster Fun Fair

Don’t forget to come and say ‘Hi’ and introduce yourself to the Round Square Board members at the Westminster Fun Fair this Saturday. We will be there distributing information about the role that Round Square plays in our school and running some short information sessions to inform our community about the Round Square IDEALS. We would love to have a chat with you!

Exchange Student Update

I would like to take this opportunity to farewell two more of our Exchange students who have been with us for almost the whole of Term 1. 

Maximilian Wahren and Jonas Gilles, both from Germany, will depart at the end of this week and in the holidays respectively. It has been a pleasure to have both of them here with us and I have received many positive reports about their contributions during their time at Westminster. We wish them all the best for their travels home. A special thanks must go to their host families, the Depolds and the Eckerts, for taking such great care of Max and Jonas during their stay. Brodie Eckert (Year 11 Carter) will be looking forward to completing his part of the Exchange with Jonas later this year as part of the SA German Exchange run through Concordia College.

The holidays is also time to farewell two of our own Westminster students who will head off on Exchange. Thomas Reardon (Year 10 Forder) is going to spend the majority of Term 2 at Felsted School in the UK and Kurt Schenk (Year 10 Fereday) will be spending his time at Athenian School, USA. We wish both students all the best in their ‘Adventure’ and look forward to their updates.

Round Square Conference Opportunities 2019

There are a number of opportunities coming up for Round Square conferences for 2019. Whilst that still seems like a long way away, we will need to register for some of these by the middle of this year. As these get closer, I will send out more information to ask for interest. I sent out an email recently to Year 7, 8 and 9 students for the Rockport School, Northern Ireland conference as that one is already filling fast, so if anyone is interested in attending this, please let me know immediately.

  • Regional Conference for 15-18 years, Shenzhen College, China, Sunday 3 to Friday 8 March
  • Global Conference for 13-15 years, Rockport School, Northern Ireland, Tuesday 12 to Sunday 17 March

  • Regional Conference for 13-15 years, Woodleigh School, Victoria, Monday 25 to Saturday 30 March

  • Regional Conference for 10-12 years, British School of Jakarta, Indonesia, Friday 26 April to Thursday 2 May

  • RS International Conference in India, starts Thursday 12 September for approximately 8-10 days

*There may still be other conferences coming out but this is the list so far according to the RS website.

Something to think about for 2020….

  • Brookhouse conference, Tokyo, Japan Saturday 27 July to Thursday 1 August, 14-16 years, during the Tokyo Olympics

Anyone interested in finding out more information about conferences, or any other Round Square initiative should contact me via Email if in the Senior School, or contact Mr Chris Haines via Email if you are in the Preparatory School.

Julia Chukwuani
Round Square and Exchanges Coordinator