Student exchange is a real win-win for all involved

There are 14 individuals among us whose lives were recently changed by a two-week trip to Scotland.

Twelve of those are Scotland High students and the other two were their chaperones. If you read Friday’s front-page story about their trip as part of the annual student exchange program between Scotland High and Oban, Scotland — each considered the other’s sister city — then you know who these individuals are.

But each of them is a different person now than before they boarded the flight to Scotland.

These annual trips to Scotland, which have been going on for more than 25 years, require an incredible amount of planning, organizing and preparation to pull off — and not only by the advisors and chaperones. Each student participating must also bear a good portion of the responsibility, including the necessary steps to obtain a passport, hold their own fundraisers to help with costs and figure out just what to take with them.

The benefits of such an experience, however, go far deeper.

The educational benefits include: And understanding of an array of different cultural and community perspectives; awareness and adoption of alternative, multi-faceted approaches to learning; analytical and problem solving skills; as well as enhanced interest in global issues as well as a broader general knowledge.

The personal benefits include: Self-development and awareness leading to enhanced self-confidence and self-esteem; maturity and social poise, fueled by the necessity to confront challenges outside a familiar support network and comfort zone; integration into another family as well as the development of life-long friendships, fostering an appreciation of home and family; along with a tremendous sense of accomplishment upon completion.

And the long-range benefits include: Finding themselves more comfortable in “foreign” environments; prospective employers in almost every field look favorably on experience gained while living overseas; An awareness of group dynamics and personal sensitivity towards others; and an excellent measure of personal flexibility, encompassing an ability to reach compromise, focus and succeed through challenging times.

And we are sure there are more.

So we applaud those who have been involved with putting these student exchange excursions together over the years, because the opportunity of such life-changing events has certainly enhanced the lives of not only more than 250 Scotland County students, but also the same number of students who have come to Scotland County.

One more thing.

We think those in Scotland County who can, should consider getting involved in this student exchange with our sister city. How? That’s easy, and there are three ways — first, perhaps making a contribution to the program to help defray costs would be best; or you might want to get involved by giving your time to help operate fundraisers (for the first two, contact Kelly Ficklin by email at [email protected]); and if you are really interested in be a part of the student exchange effort, consider being a host family (contact Sister Cities Internation at 202-347-8630 or [email protected]).

The student exchange program is a worthwhile experience from every aspect for anyone involved, so we hope the tradition of this experience continues here in Scotland County.

And by the way, this county will play host to those students from Scotland for two weeks in October — a good chance to open our arms and hearts to those who will visit.