The Importance of International Exchanges


This past summer I traveled to Peru for 25 days. While in Peru I journeyed around the country visiting places like the Amazon Jungle in Puerto Maldonado, Lima, Cusco, and Machu Picchu. The cultural experience and freedom I gained was something I could not have learned any other way. There are many parts about intercultural exchange programs that are valuable, so I’ve decided to share with you what I appreciated the most (food included) and hopefully persuade you to consider participating in an international exchange.

One of the most rewarding parts of my international exchange was all of the people that I got to meet and the friendships that I created. I met teenagers, adults, and kids from many countries all over the world, including the United States. The ability to share something of yours with someone creates an automatic bond, and living with host families, sharing meals with friends and strangers, and even attempting broken Spanish with a waiter creates an unspoken understanding that I will remember for the rest of my life. You would, too.

The second most exciting thing (and quite possibly my favorite) is all of the incredible, delicious food that you get to try. Never in my life could I have imagined eating a guinea pig, an alpaca, or even a fruit that you crack open like an egg. One of the best ways to appreciate and understand a culture is to try their food. Some of the most memorable moments were over meals shared with people I could not even understand. At one point, we had just landed in the Amazon and were driving to the river. Our guides gave us our meal wrapped in a banana leaf as a plate. It was something I will never forget because it gave an insider’s look into how different the lifestyles are across the globe.

The last and most important part of an international exchange is the independence that you gain. While in Peru, I was able to go into the city with a friend and explore for however long I wanted, wherever I wanted. You learn to appreciate adventure. You learn to appreciate the unknown. You learn to appreciate being disconnected from anything and everything drawing you to a cell phone or computer, whether it be social media or texting a friend. Lastly, you learn to appreciate alone time, being able to discover yourself as you discover your new home.

Everything that I have discussed I lived through and loved every second of. International exchanges, although challenging at times, allow a person to connect with themselves, and a new culture in a way they may have never thought they could. Although there are many more, these are just a few reasons I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone and take part in an international exchange. Happy travels!

Below are some of the photographs I took while touring Peru.