.. that is what Kate usually tells students when they ask her what she recommends to study after high school. Kate is Amity's officer for international exchange programs with the international exchange organization AFS.
The nonprofit association for youth exchange and intercultural learning, states on its website: AFS Intercultural Programs is an international, voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit organization that provides intercultural learning opportunities to help people develop the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to create a more just and peaceful world.
When China opened up and the Amity Foundation was founded, exchange programs mainly brought people from overseas to China. Nowadays, more and more young people in China grow up in middle-class environments and as everywhere else in the world they ask themselves what to do after high school. More and more decide to take a gap year before joining the workforce or university. So nowadays Amity exchange programs are not only exposing overseas volunteers to Chinese culture, but also vice-versa.
AFS Chinese volunteers experiencing life in Germany for one year
In 2016, China and Germany celebrated the 'Year of student and youth exchange'
Since 2011, the Amity Foundation started to cooperate with the German branch of AFS. In 2016 the official “German-Chinese year for student and youth exchange”, five young people from China took an exchange year in Germany. They experienced life in Germany within a guest family and met like-minded people from all over the world. Here are some of their reflections on their experiences.
Zhang from Hohhot Inner Mongolia recorded her exchange year as following:
I used to have lots of concern about spending a year going to Germany while in high school. Is it worth to stay a year in Germany? And now I am so proud to say: YES! I could have never imagined that my life would be so amazing during the exchange year. I myself changed a lot and I am more confident, open-minded. I liked to share and spend time with friends as well as I enjoyed time when I was alone. I have to say thank you to my German host family and the school, who gave me such a great change. To be honest, at the beginning it is kind of difficult to get acquainted with a family with such a huge culture difference. It really takes time and you have to be really open-minded to accept and respect the difference. I grew up in a small city and I barely have opportunity to experience the outside world, only through the news and books. Now I feel such a real experience helped me to understand my values and dreams.
Meeting like-minded people from all over the world
Student Wang wrote in her report:
The first impression of Germany to me was a country being rigorous and serious. However I found it very different after I spent a year in Germany. People here are very positive, humorous and well educated. I could see calendars everywhere and people were just so good at making plans. Those plans are achievable within a certain time frame. I have learned a lot from them and now I like to make plans and make sure it is achievable and efficient.
Kate, who herself stayed overseas before working as an international exchange officer, gives the students one advice before they leave: “As an exchange student you have to be open-minded. Never be afraid or ashamed to ask questions when you are confused. It’s always hard to start school with a totally different language but try not to give up. Make a lot of friends and you can learn a lot from your peers.”
AFS students during an excursion during their gap year overseas
For more information visit Amity's exchange programs or contact
Helen Zhao, Amity Foundation, 71 Han Kou Road, Nanjing, China.