Education in Russia | Advantages for international students
Bridges to Understanding or Everything You Wanted to Know About US School Exchange Programs
In 2012, more than three hundred thousand Americans are studying outside the United States. And about a million students from other countries came to study in America. “This is an astounding figure,” said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the United States-sponsored World International Education Week. “In an age when we can go anywhere, just by clicking the mouse, we still want to see and discover this world.”
Hillary Clinton called education abroad “a bridge to understanding” helping to “shape our common future.” In the meantime, there is no need to worry about it. ”
For the first time, ideas for exchange programs appeared immediately after the Second World War. People in Europe strived to ensure that they and their children get to know each other, other countries and cultures better. Hate is fear multiplied by ignorance.
And friendship, real friendship with a person from another country, what the war so hindered, could really be a solution to the problem..
If such a friendship begins in childhood, these children grow up to prevent some kind of war. This is what the organizers of the first European exchange programs thought..
In the fifties, exchange programs were carried out for graduate students and researchers from the USA and the USSR. And large youth exchange programs came to the Soviet Union much later – already in the eighties..
FLEX: What awaits schoolchildren in America
The FLEX program approved by the US Congress is the first large long-term exchange program for high school students between the US and the countries of the former Soviet Union..
According to the organizers, the program helps to adapt to “life in a constantly changing and increasingly interconnected world.”.
The program is now twenty years old. During this time, more than 23,000 high school students received scholarships. Every year, about 800 schoolchildren come to the United States for one year, the children live with families and attend a regular high school.
The international non-profit organization American Councils for International Education – ASTRYAL / ACCELS selects applications for schoolchildren.
Children can take part not only from Russia, but also from the countries of the former USSR – Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.
Mary Shay, head of the FLEX alumni program in Moscow, told the Voice of America that the students come from all over Russia, not just from Moscow. With noticeable pleasure, she explains what awaits schoolchildren in the United States:
“The vast majority of young people really enjoy the opportunity to get to know the ‘real’ America and the ‘real’ Americans. It is very important that this program is aimed at adolescents in a difficult, critical age, just when they realize that they are becoming independent adults..
Many of them make important decisions for the first time in their lives without the participation of their parents. During the exchange year, many try new things – at school, with families, clubs and communities. They try new sports, enroll in theater and dance studios. So they not only learn, but learn to think independently, and also gain self-confidence..
Of course, they improve their English, and this becomes their strength in further studies and work. It really seems to me that such a program makes life more complete, gives a chance to find good friends, the opportunity to learn and understand something new, not only about this world, but also about myself “.
Mary Shay notes that Russian teenagers love to participate in volunteer projects: “The volunteer movement is very developed in the USA, it is an integral part of the life of any school and university, and many people unite to help, for example, homeless animals, children from low-income families, to learn a school subject without the help of a tutor, to introduce the older generation to new technologies and much more.
Within the framework of the program, children are involved in this process and acquire volunteer experience, as well as are inspired to create similar projects at home “.
FLEX Alumni Club – Agents of Change
After returning home, students automatically join the FLEX informal alumni club. This is not just all those who have ever participated in the program. From that moment on, the US Embassy in Moscow has supported young people’s projects and new ideas. This is where the fun begins, Mary Shay says..
Graduates can submit their project for a grant. For example, in 2012, 81 proposals were received from 10 countries of Eurasia. 40 of them were recommended for funding support. Among the winning projects there are five Russian ones, they are related to volunteering, helping children and organizing a separate waste collection point at the university..
As Mary explains, all projects are rigorously selected. They should bring maximum benefit to the community, district, school, with the minimum financial cost and maximum enthusiasm of the participants..
“The authors of the projects not only do a good deed, but also develop their personal qualities, which will be useful in the future when creating new projects, looking for work and just communicating with people.”.
Mary Shane told alumni stories
Yana Chichkanova from Magnitogorsk, a 2009 graduate, organized several events to help veterans. With a group of friends, they accompanied the veterans to holiday concerts.
In addition, Yana organized an artistic protest “Breathe Freely”, talking about an alternative to smoking.
In the city center, people tied colored ribbons on a tree. This was to show how many of the protesters smoke, how many do not smoke, and who is trying to quit this habit. In 2013, Yana will go to study at San Francisco State University.
Alena Ponomareva, a graduate of 2011, after returning from the United States, immediately went on another trip, this time to Japan. There she took part in an environmental scientific conference, presenting her project for the conservation of the Amur and Ussuri tigers..
Ksenia Geyevskaya from Irkutsk, a 1999 graduate, was able to raise the whole city for a big cleaning. Together with friends, she brought together activists, local communities, government and business to clean up the city on Lake Baikal in one day..
The idea gradually turned into a federal campaign “Let’s make Irkutsk Eco-Logical”. This year on September 15, 22,400 people from all over the region removed more than 20,000 cubic meters of garbage. Ksenia became one of the founders of the non-profit environmental organization “Chelovek.i.”
40 FSA / FLEX alumni organized a large fundraising event with Philips. The leader of the initiative was Marina Malykina, who spent the 1994-1995 school year in a tiny town in Amity, Oregon. Today Marina is a businessman, in her free time she is the host of her own show on the Dozhd Internet channel.