YFU Switzerland

Do your country a favor – leave!

Here are some reasons I keep hearing when talking to people about going on exchange. In most cases I only say that they are missing a great opportunity. But my thoughts are bit more cynical, and yes, many are based on the assumption that an exchange year will help you in your career later on. This is of course not the only reason to go on exchange. However, living in a competitive environment this seems a pretty good argument, why one should go away. Here a quick collection of the most frequent responses to the question: “What about going on exchange?”

“Well, I can always go abroad during my studies.” Well, of course you can. I assume student parties in Barcelona are fundamentally different from the ones here. But, hey, they are a part of a culture as well. Not exactly the part that might help you in the business world later on.

Abflug ins Austauschjahr“Oh, but my parents think that it would be better for me to finish school first. “ Yes, sure. It will allow you to start your apprenticeship or Universtiy quicker, get your job faster and work longer.

How I love parents who seem to know so well what is in the best interest of their kids. Especially, when they have not been abroad and thus have not the faintest idea how such an experience enlarges your horizon and develops ones personality. Yes, you might loose a year in school. But what does one year matter when you retire at 70?

And anyway, who cares about international experience? Well, perhaps the employer who receives 100+ very similar CVs and has to choose the one that sticks out from the masses. Who would you choose? The one that has devoted his time to school only or the one that has at the beginning of his career already lived abroad for an extended period, knows another language (perhaps Japanese or Chinese) and is overall quite mature? No response necessary. You are not the only smart kid on the planet. There will be others who have good grades. But you might lack this extra experience that make you a bit different from the others.

”I have travelled so much, what is the point to live some where else?” Yes. You are absolutely right. Because understanding another culture is totally overrated in a globalized world. Anybody speaks English nowadays so what’s the big deal? Well, it might be more than speaking a language to understand how the person opposite thinks.

“Well, I rather spend shorter periods in several countries and thus get to know more than just one culture”. Yeap. Sounds like a great plan, because understanding a culture is like learning a math formula or memorizing a poem: sit down, study it for a few hours and then you know it all. Perhaps. Because the culture you are aiming to study is a bit more than just that and actually might require more time to understand…

There are tons of reasons not to go on exchange. Too bad if you believe in them. I can only say: do your country a favor – and leave to go on exchange. It is more than worth it!

Forget about the exchange year – there is so much more…

A few days ago I had the opportunity to give a speech to the newest generation of Swiss exchange students going abroad this summer to start their own and unique experience. 23 years ago, I was in their place. Sitting there and listening to all these nice and lovely words. Boy, I had no clue how my decision to go abroad with YFU would change my life!

Of course at that time it was the curiosity what to expect from that big place across the big pond. However, now, almost a quarter of a century later, it is so much more that I learnt from my involvement in YFU. No question, the biggest learning experience by far was my not so great exchange year. Even years later did I realize what that time did to me, my personality, my character. In a very positive way, I want to add.

Looking back at the various tasks I had in YFU after I returned from the US, whether it is on national or on international level, I was able to expand my knowledge in so many ways. Gaining leadership experience as a regional director in Zürich, understanding what it means to manage an organization as a National Director or working in a truly intercultural environment with partners all around the world as a member of the YFU International Secretariat in Washington D.C. YFU has soooo many opportunities to offer. I was lucky to grab several of them. And all of that began 23 years ago by attending a school presentation of YFU followed eventually by listening to a lovely speech during my orientation weekend. Boy, am I glad did I take that decision to go abroad with YFU.