Cultural Immersion

“No one who has lived through the second half of the 20th century could possibly be blind to the enormous impact of exchange programs on the future of countries…”  Bill Clinton, May, 1993

I have personally benefitted from cultural immersion programs. I can’t speak highly enough of them – particularly the well-organized ones with an emphasis on language learning and at an earlier age in life. Before I list some of my favorite organizations (and yes scholarships are available!) I would like to list some of the benefits of doing a cultural exchange.

There is a lot of research out there that proves that cultural immersion increases self-awareness and cultural sensitivity. How?

Firstly, let’s define cultural immersion. It is defined as individual exposure to persons or groups markedly different in culture (ethnicity, language, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, and/or physical exception) from that of the person initiating the exchange.

The immediate objectives of a cultural immersion program can be to:

a)To have direct contact with people who are culturally different from oneself in a real life setting which represents the target group’s “turf”
b) To gain insights into circumstances and characteristics of the focal community
c) To experience what it is to be very different from most of the people one is around.
d) To gain insight into one’s values, biases, and affective responses

Youth For Understanding (YFU) is one of the world’s oldest and largest international exchange programs. Each year, YFU exchanges approximately 4,500 students worldwide.

Each year YFU arranges the exchanges of more than 3,500 high-school students between some 50 nations. YFU offers a diverse range of educational opportunities for students, families, volunteers, and schools. All YFU programs center on the family living experience.

The YFU USA American Overseas Program provides opportunities for United States high school students to live with a host family and study abroad for a year, semester, or summer. Each year, YFU USA awards over 350 full and partial scholarships. Many of these scholarships are to Japan and Germany, which are among the most popular destinations for American students. However, new sponsorships, from both the government and corporate sectors, have allowed more scholarships to be awarded for study in other countries.

The YFU USA International Student Program offers American families the opportunity to host an exchange student. In 2006 YFU USA welcomed more than 2,000 students from over 50 countries.

The YFU USA Community College Program brings the host family experience to young adults and is present at 15 community colleges across the United States.

The Institute of International Education (IIE)Founded in 1919, the Institute of International Education® (IIE) is a private nonprofit leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. In collaboration with governments, foundations and other sponsors, IIE creates programs of study and training for students, educators and professionals from all sectors. These programs include the flagship Fulbright Program and Gilman Scholarships administered for the U.S. Department of State. IIE also conducts policy research, provides resources on international exchange opportunities and offers support to scholars in danger.

Lions Club International Youth Camp and Exchange Program

Each year, the Lions International Youth Camp and Exchange Program introduces young people to life in other cultures by helping them travel abroad. Each Youth Camp and Exchange includes an extended stay hosted by one of our many international clubs.

As a participant in the Youth Camp and Exchange Program, you will:

  • Live with a family in another country
  • Meet people your age from around the world
  • Learn about the bonds we all share – and the differences we respect in each other no matter where we live

International Youth Exchange and Youth Camp Programs

An Exchange program can be arranged in hundreds of countries and geographic locations where there are Lions clubs. Most exchanges last between four and six weeks during which the participants (ages 15-21) stay with one or more host families in another country.

Camps are one or two weeks long and bring together young people (ages 16-22) from around the world. Camps usually include a family stay that lasts between one and four weeks. More than 100 Lions camps are held each year in about 39 countries. Activities include visits to places of cultural or natural interest, sporting events and country presentations by the camp participants.

Roatary International


Are you interested in learning a new language or meeting new people? Rotary Youth Exchange is the opportunity of a lifetime for the more than 8,000 students who participate each year. By sharing your own culture and embracing a new one, you help foster global understanding—and learn a great deal about yourself and your home country in the process.


One thought on “Cultural Immersion

  1. I’d like to recommend a fantastic social networking website for language learning – “Lang 8”, where people can write text in one language and ask native speakers to correct it. By the way, this is a very nice blog, good job Ann.

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