By Grace Brennan

18 January 2024 - 15:00

A girl studies the map while exploring a new city

In this article you will discover the benefits of exchange programmes, from new perspectives to cultural experiences and more.

An exchange programme is one of the most effective ways to boost your English language skills, as well as explore new cultures and create international experiences. Exchange programmes are often organised through educational institutions or language schools, and are popular with learners of all ages, and from all backgrounds.

Exchange programmes also give you the opportunity to practise and pick up new English words, expressions and grammar in context. The result is that you’re more likely to remember vocabulary that you’ve seen in action and gain a deeper understanding of the way the language is used in everyday life. What’s more, taking part in an exchange programme can help you feel more confident when you’re communicating in English. This confidence can help you with your overall communication skills - even in your native language! 

Besides improving your English, an exchange programme can be a great adventure and a timeless memory.

You can start getting ready for your next cultural exchange program by taking the IELTS test. The British Council offers a wide range of IELTS preparation resources to help you get ready for your test. Check IELTS Ready

Learn more about IELTS Academic

Here are just some of the many benefits of an exchange programme.

1. An exchange programme will broaden your world perspective

The benefits of exchange programmes are plentiful, but perhaps the most impactful is their ability to expand how you see the world. You will be living in a different country, with a different language, different customs, and a whole new environment. This huge change will help you understand the very diverse lives that people live, and that there is huge potential to learn from the contrasts.

Whether you have to adjust to later dinner times, louder cities, or different political systems, an exchange programme takes you out of your comfort zone and opens up your view of the world and of yourself. Spending an extended period of time in another country can force you to reassess any stereotypes or prejudices you might (unknowingly) have, helping you to be more empathetic to people in challenging situations. 

Also, a student exchange programme forces you to be more resilient. You have to be able to problem-solve and adapt in your new place – characteristics that are valuable in life, work, and personal relationships. 

2. An exchange programme will boost your language skills

Research shows that people who enrolled in exchange programmes saw the quality and quantity of their language development significantly improve. Part of the reason is because exchanges involve being fully immersed in a language – you conduct all daily activities in the local language and become part of a community of expert English speakers. Such engagement dramatically improves your listening skills, vocabulary, and overall English fluency - an important benefit of exchange programmes. 

At the same time, because you interact with locals during an exchange programme, you’ll get to grips with more informal language, be exposed to different accents, and see how language changes in various scenarios (for example, common terminology at work versus out with friends).

While studying a language in a classroom can establish a foundation for speaking, there really isn’t anything like living in a language. An exchange means that you are always submerged in your target language, and so you naturally start to think and act in that language. In turn, your proficiency accelerates and you feel more at ease conducting yourself in the language.

3. You will have a memorable adventure

An exchange programme isn’t just about fuelling your academic goals, it’s also a special chapter in your life. One of the most important benefits of exchange programmes is that they push you out of your comfort zone, forcing you to navigate new streets, sample exotic foods, and try new activities. While exchanges can initially be daunting, they very quickly become fun as you dive into the exciting new experiences around you.

For many people, exchange programmes allow them to explore new landscapes and have novel experiences. Of course, part of the adventure is making friends and coming into contact with people who will inspire you to do even more local activities – making your exchange programme experience an even more unique adventure.

4. An exchange programme will develop your soft skills

Nurturing soft skills is essential for your personal, academic and professional growth. An exchange programme helps the process in a number of ways. Cross-cultural interactions demand active listening and effective expression. Being thrust into a new setting requires resourcefulness, and forming new relationships fosters interpersonal skills. 

Living abroad also helps you to develop independence and self-confidence, as you learn to make decisions and navigate your daily routine in an unfamiliar place. Likewise, you will learn how to network, as you build relationships with people from around the world – a skill that is transferable to your career. 

5. You will experience a new culture

The benefits of exchange programmes start with the culture itself. Moving overseas and committing to living in an unfamiliar culture demonstrates your curiosity. It also provides a window into the daily traditions and behaviours of a different culture - some of which you might adopt yourself! 

What’s more, people who recognise and have reverence for other cultures tend to be open to new experiences. Once you’ve experienced an exchange programme, you’ll recognise the many advantages of experiencing cultures different from your own. This experience also helps you develop cultural sensitivity, because you’re exposed to different cultural norms and values from the ones that you grew up with. 

These are just a handful of the benefits of an exchange programme. Rather than read about them all, why not apply for an exchange programme and discover the perks first-hand? An exchange programme really is just that – an exchange of knowledge, culture, and life-changing moments.

If you’re considering taking part in an exchange programme, you might need to sit an English language test like IELTS. Learn about how you can prepare for IELTS with IELTS Ready.