High school student exchange programs made possible between U.S., Poland

A U.S.-Poland Parliamentary Youth Exchange Program bill was approved on September 5 by the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill will create the opportunity for high school students both in Poland and the U.S. to spend a year abroad experiencing each other’s cultures and education systems.

The bill needs to be authorized by President Bush, but this is seen as a formality only. The high school exchange program is modeled on the already existing program that is in force between the U.S. and German high schools. The U.S.-Germany Congress Bundestag program sees full scholarships given to students living in their respective host countries and studying within the host country for a year. The bill was propagated by the Republican senator Richard Lugar. A long term ambassador for international student exchange programs, Lugar has also vouched for Poland before. He was one of the first senators to back Poland’s entry into NATO.

Students under the age of 19 will be eligible to enter the program. If accepted, a full academic year of study abroad will be carried out. The two nations will establish a mutually accredited program whereby the academic year will account for in the student’s home country. The concept is to create awareness of the differences in cultures, but also to learn about the countries’ respective histories, constitutions, political systems and languages. Undoubtedly the program will prove successful for both countries.

With an estimated 10 mln Polish Americans living in the U.S. who claim Polish decent, this exchange program will be a way to become familiarized with the history and culture of their ancestors. For Polish students this will obviously be another way to become more aware of the workings of a successful Western society and get a look at what Poland is aspiring to be.

Universities both in Poland and in the U.S. already offer many exchange possibilities for tertiary students. This high school exchange program will mean such experiences will become available at a younger age. The students will be placed with host families with whom they will live and participate in daily life. It will be an opportunity to see how differently families function, how values are placed differently on elements in day-to-day life. Most importantly it will be a possibility to experience the language of their host country first hand. A budget for the program has not yet been approved.

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