Hosting international students increases cultural competency

Youth whose families host international students gain cultural competencies that could benefit them socially and in future careers.

Cultural competency is defined as the ability to interact well with people that come from a different culture than your own. This capability is built as people compare one culture with another and gain an understanding of similarities and differences. This happens when people travel, host people in their homes, work with or go to school with people from another culture. As a person meets more people from a variety of cultures, comparisons expand and deepen, and the result is a person who can recognize and appreciate the wide range of differences in people.

According to an entry in Wikipedia, “Cultural competence comprises four components: (a) Awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, (b) attitude towards cultural differences, (c) knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews and (d) cross-cultural skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.”

In this world of global communication and global business, cultural understanding has become significant to any career youth decide to follow, whether it is with an international company or a local company that trades internationally.

How does this apply to hosting international students? A young person whose family has hosted an international student learns by doing. He or she learns firsthand, directly from the international student who is being hosted. It is not difficult to imagine the language that is exchanged, the knowledge of food that is exchanged as the student and host sibling cook together, the social differences of teenage information that is exchanged as the youth discuss music, relationships, clothes, dance and school. If a family hosts more than once and chooses youth from different cultures, the host siblings will enrich their cultural competency and cultural sensitivity as a matter of course.

Through the Michigan State University Extension 4-H Exchange Program, families can host for summer month-long programs youth from Japan, Poland, Norway, Argentina and Cameroon. For the year-long program, families can host students from Japan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan or Ukraine. To get more information, go to the International Exchange Program page on the Michigan 4-H webpage.

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