Interstate Exchanges: Life skills youth develop

Youth will gain life skills when they travel internationally. They can also develop life skills participating in an Interstate 4-H Exchange.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development hosts several international exchanges where youth can travel internationally to learn about other cultures; by traveling internationally youth gain life skills.  Youth can also develop life skills participating in an Interstate 4-H Exchange.  Washington State University Extension (WSUE) says that 4-H interstate exchanges promote friendships, travel and perspectives. Interstate Exchange 4-H club hosts group from Montana by Marietta Times discusses how the program has allowed 4-H’ers to develop lasting friendships and to explore the U.S.''

Some Michigan 4-H Clubs have recently participated in an Interstate 4-H Exchange and found it to be a great learning experience according to Michigan State University Extension. For the 2013-2014 year, Washtenaw County exchanged with Burleson County, Texas. 4-H youth appreciate new cultures through state exchange stated that the initial draw to the experience was the opportunity for youth to travel to a different state and meet new people; the youth ended up learning a great deal more as a result of their experiences. Gratiot County has a vibrant and active exchange club as well.  Sixteen of the Gratiot County 4-H’ers and their families hosted Montana 4-H’ers in 2013 and in 2012 the Michigan youth visited Montana.  Kalamazoo County 4-H youth have been doing interstate exchanges for over 60 years traveling as far as Mexico and as close as Pennsylvania.   This summer youth traveled to Hampshire County, Mass. and the Kalamazoo County youth are already busy preparing for their friends from New England to visit in the summer of 2014. 

Similar to the International 4-H Exchange process, when youth travel during an interstate exchange they are hosted in homes of other 4-H families from the hosting state.  If possible, youth are paired with another 4-H’er of the same gender, age and with similar interests.   Youth develop a variety of life skills including record keeping, planning and organizing, goal setting, problem solving, and decision making.  Communication, cooperation, social skills, conflict resolution, sharing and nurturing relationships are other life skills youth gain.  As a participant in interstate exchanges, youth will learn to contribute to the entire group, leadership skills, teamwork and self-motivation.  They will also learn healthy life skills and management of their feelings, self-responsibility and self-discipline.  Furthermore, youth life skills are developed during this experience by learning about other cultures and accepting their differences. 

There are many other Counties in Michigan that have participated and benefitted from a 4-H interstate exchange.   A Guide to 4-H Youth County Exchange Programs has many resources if you’re interested in getting youth involved in a 4-H interstate exchange as well as the article Ten tips for organizing a 4-H youth exchange. The overall experience can be summed up by a Michigan County participant, “So many wonderful experiences, so many wonderful friends, and so many wonderful life skills that will take youth beyond their 4-H career.”

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