How to rock a culture exchange program?

By Linh PMP

Wanna get ready before going across the border and become your country’s ambassador? It would be fun and not so stressful if you read through some tips below.

Warm up

Research yourself – Specific Figures Speak Louder

  • About the host country’ relations with your home country
  • About the host country’s and your home country’s culture, specialties, famous places, significant people, and another topic of your major (such as economics, education or environment, etc)
  • About the student community, the youth trend in the two countries so that you can make some comparisons
  • About the program schedule – topics to discuss, places to visit & their significance (check in advance to get yourself more excited and prepare with some smart questions that you may want to ask)

Prepare to bring along

  • What required in the program checklist by the organizer
  • Gifts for people in host country (homestay family, organizers, coordinator, translator, host school, new friends). Remember to wrap them beautifully. And make sure that you understand the story behind the gift.
  • Traditional costume, an object of tradition (that others can touch), or tools for a traditional game (that others can be engaged in)
  • Tourism brochure and video
  • Notebook, pen, camera & laptop
  • A print and a soft copy of your brief program schedule, accommodation address and emergency contact

Suggested gifts

Portable, not so heavy, country-specific, well-wrapped

Specific suggestions for  Vietnamese: Small Stone Drum, Embroidery / Dong Ho Painting, Silk scarf, O Mai Hong Lam, Mai Coffee Keyhanger / bookmark /postcard

Get ready with Culture Performance

Be open! Be yourself!

  • Singing: Songs in your own language is nice. It would be very impressive if you can sing your country’s song in the host country’s language. You can also break the ice by including a simple song of the host country (children songs are acceptable then).
  • Dancing can be great – body language is almost international lol. You can search on youtube some sample dancing videos and simplify a bit to make yours. Invest a bit in costumes and accessories to make up for your non-professional skills if necessary.
  • Fashion show of traditional and modern costumes would be fun. Make sure to practice the catwalk among the group with the music.
  • Musical instrument! You can play the instrument of your own country or surprise them with their traditional instrument. When joining the exchange event in Japan, I was so surprised by a Japanese guy playing Vietnamese “đàn bầu” – which is even super difficult for Vietnamese, a Japanese girl writing calligraphy in Vietnamese traditional costume . I appreciated it a lot.
  • It’s cool if you can show a short clip about your country before or after the performance and welcome international friends to visit your homeland.
  • Make sure that you spend some minutes to explain the meaning of each performance.

Specific suggestions for Vietnamese

Sample 1: 

  • Tradition songs of 3 regions: North (Trong Com), Center (Muoi Thuong), South (Ly Keo Chai). Showing clips about 3 regions of Vietnam to match each song.
  • Dancing with ao dai “Mot thoang que huong”

Sample 2: 

  • Fashion show ao dai, music “Xinh tuoi Vietnam”.
  • Singing and dancing “Cay Da Quan Doc”

Other suggestions

You will have time for interaction with international friends, either officially in event day or during the homestay time, so you may want to bring some Vietnamese “ingredients” to make your own culture menus. In case of Vietnamese, you can bring “banh da nem”, “moc nhi”, “nam huong” and “mien” from the home country to make spring rolls. Make sure to check whether the ingredients are allowed by the airline. If possible, you can check with people in the host country whether the ingredients are available there so you don’t have to bring along.

KEep calm and fire up

work in group

  • If you go in a group to represent the country, just team up with your fellows as soon as possible. If you go alone, you can ask for support before your departure or ask students of your nationality living in your host country to help you out. For sure, the hosts would be also willing to support you if you are clear about what you need. So don’t worry.
  • It’s time to practice leadership and team spirit. Please RESPECT each other, set DEADLINES and discuss REGULARLY.
  • Be serious and also get fun. Be emotional as you can.
  • Be specific in the idea, the information and the feeling.
  • Remember: “The shorter, the sexier”. Try to make every meeting as well as your performance as concise as possible.

Be professional

  • Listen carefully. Take note.
  • Ask questions. Give comments.
  • Express feelings.
  • Observe and follow the rules.
  • Be tolerant with the differences.
  • Be the one who actively ask for communication.
  • Communicate with both locals and foreigners in the host country.
  • Bring your namecards! It is not expensive to get. And it worths!

Be careful, not to lose ON the way

  • Passport (keep a scanned version in your phone and some photos ready to use in case you have to replace the lost passport)
  • SOS Card / Organizer Contact that will be provided to you when the program starts
  • Uniform (would be bad if you go in a group and look so weird as an outlier in some group pictures)
  • Cash/credit card if applicable
  • Your belongings (check everything before you move to a new destination)

Follow-up

  • Write a report to share about your experience and send it out.
  • Keep in touch and invite your new friends to Vietnam.
  • Treat them well in Vietnam, in which way it makes you understand Vietnam more!
  • Think of a new project/ idea, such as being an organizer / coordinator of similar program in Vietnam.

And finally, THE JOURNEY IS YOUR ASSET

  • Set your goals: your places to discover, food to try, number of new friends to make, etc.
  • Try to do at least one new thing: singer, presenter, MC, leader, etc.
  • Learn from the way they organize a program and take care participants, both the good and the bad, so that you can become a great host later on
  • Build your network and keep in touch with them
  • If you have time, search for and participate in a volunteer projects where you can work with international friends in your home country to sharpen your skills everyday, and also to have great memory on the way. Some opportunities for Vietnamese students: Local Buddies Recruitment

Good luck. Live sweet!

Featured photo: Minh Đức

 

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