In a few days, my son will be spending a week in a French school. His French is improving and although he can hardly explain the theory of relativity in French, he can get by and he is increasingly seeing that language is the window to culture. Most importantly, he will be living with a family.
Although it is a short time, it is a great opportunity for him to begin to understand another culture. He has lived in a number of other countries, largely through our mobile careers, but he has never been embedded in a family and a school. His brother’s first six birthdays were spent in the United States, The Netherlands, Turkey, Bosnia, France and Germany. This exposure, although hard to qualify, has hopefully led both of them to begin to not only understand, but also to respect other cultures. It’s a practice that is needed en masse around the world. These young students indirectly become cultural ambassadors, going back to explain to their home countries that those in other countries are not “strange”, they just have different ways of thinking and of doing things.
Over 20 years ago, I was an exchange student for four months in France living with a family, which changed my life. It led to my return several years later, a job, a wife and a family. Best decision of my life.