This article will explore how you as an early career lecturer should encourage your students to consider going on an overseas exchange during their time at university. It will also offer advice on receiving incoming exchange students into your classroom.
Increasingly universities are focusing on exchange programmes in order to meet the internationalisation agenda. Forming liaisons with universities overseas can benefit the learning experience of students and the research life of your department. Having a wide range of exchange partners will also make your university seem more attractive to potential students during the admission process. However, this article will focus on the way that you as a lecturer can enhance your students’ experience.
Why promote exchanges?
Student exchanges benefit the individual in many ways. The excitement of immersing yourself in another culture for an extended period of time means that students learn a great deal about the world, other people and themselves. Going on an exchange will also enhance a student’s employability because employers are impressed by someone who takes this sort of initiative. So it is now an important part of your duty to guide students who may wish to go abroad.
Where do I find the information?
Your department may have a member of staff responsible for managing the exchange programme. If so, make sure you talk to him or her to find out exactly what you offer. If there is no one currently responsible for this area, why not volunteer to take it on?! Your university’s International Office will be the administrative hub looking after all incoming and outgoing exchange students, so it’s important that you make links with that team too.
To deal with initial inquiries of interest, most universities also have a dedicated website and page in the prospectus giving information about why exchanges are a good idea and where it is possible to go, so refer to those for background information. Another important avenue is to ask students who have been on an exchange before to link up with those interested in going in the future. They will be able to give a genuine picture of the experience, both highs and lows.
What can I practically do?
Make sure you are aware of the exchange programme ‘cycle’. Students have to think about this very soon after the start of the academic year and in many cases will apply before Christmas, so if you are going to talk to your students about this, make sure you allow them enough time to fill in applications.
Receiving exchange students in your classes
As well as sending students out to other universities, your department will receive exchange students from overseas and you might find one in your class. Unless advised otherwise, these students should be treated in exactly the same way as others. You will probably find them confident and outgoing: after all, it takes guts to uproot, travel thousands of miles and throw yourself into another education system.
There may be slightly different administrative procedures for these students, so check with either the tutor responsible for exchanges or your teaching mentor to find out whether, for example, their work will be marked in the same way as other students. But these minor difficulties aside, you will usually find that having an exchange student in your class is a benefit because, not having gone through the English school system, they bring a different view to the subject. This will enhance everyone’s learning experience.