Since 1992, school exchanges have made a major contribution to cooperation between Bavaria and Quebec and give students the opportunity to spend three months in the partner country, living with their host families and attending school. In 2012, Thomas Angermeier, Head of the department for Individual Exchanges at the Bayerischer Jugendring (Bavarian Association for Youth Work), talked about the school exchanges program.
Q: How was this exchange program launched? Why Quebec?
The exchange program between Bavaria and Quebec is one of the tasks the Bavarian Ministry of Education, Culture and the Arts assigned to the Bayerischer Jugenring who is to organize and coordinate international youth and school exchange programs in English and French speaking territories worldwide. Bavarian partner regions are at the core of it, including the province of Quebec, a long-standing partner. Our direct partner in Québec is the Ministry of Education, Leisure and Sports (MELS), which transferred the exchange program a few years ago to the publicly owned international exchange organisation Education Internationale. Due to the participation of the Ministries of Education and the Arts on both sides, the program is outstandingly stable. There are plans to expand it beyond the surrounding areas of Montreal and Quebec City, but until now this only happened on rare occasions.
Q: Which effect do the international encounters have on the future education and careers of the participants?
Scientific research has proven that an international school exchange has both a central and sustainable influence on the life of many young people. The complex experience is in many cases the basis for outstanding intercultural competencies, a key skill in a globalized world, especially in one’s career. Investigation shows that taking part in school exchanges considerably facilitates future job searchesand that many former participants chose a career in an international field.¹
Q: In what way is the exchange between students central to the entire cooperation between Bavaria and Quebec?
The Bavaria-Quebec school exchange program, being based on the reciprocal principle, is one of the most successful and stable programs of the Bayerischer Jugendring. These young people are the foundation of future cooperation in cultural, social and even economical regards. They contribute significantly to a well-functioning intercultural communication.
Already at a young age, individual school exchange fosters contacts and intercultural exchanges between both cultures. It mostly attracts personalities with remarkable talents, gifts and interests and who engage in various ways in school, social and sports associations. They bring the necessary openness and tolerance to feel at home in a new everyday life. They adapt new values, points of view and traditions, and gather unique experiences which definitely leave a mark in their future lives. Many times these first contacts as a pupil transform into long-lasting friendships, often also between the host families. Many will later decide to study in their former host country and some of them even will even work there.
Further information for Bavarian students is available on the Bayerischer Jugendring website at www.bjr.de/themen/internationales/individueller-schueleraustausch.html
¹A research paper published in 2002 by Bayerischer Jugendring, entitled „School exchange being tested“, shows that 38.8% of the German school exchange participants went abroad to study, 27.1 % decided to do an internship abroad, and 16.3% went abroad for their career.