It was 2007. For the very first time in life I took an airplane. The final destination was Norway. I was one of the participants in the exchange program, Connect (at that time called Team network), late in 2007-2008. Surely living one year abroad made (and still makes!) a huge difference in my life. Before packing the luggage and entering the airport, a lot of emotions took place. As a member of a Brazilian organization, I applied for the process and the months of exams, interviews and waiting were very intense. When the final result came, an exceeding joy anticipated all the meaningful experiences that were waiting for me ahead.
By the time I went to Norway I was a student at University in Brazil. For one year, I decided to stop my graduation courses and live the exchange program possibilities that broadened my personal experience. Being a student at Hald internasjonale skole in Mandal, living with a Norwegian family and working as a volunteer in a place called Karmøy were opportunities that helped me in personal formation, challenging myself and offering me the chance of learning a life-based knowledge.
Stopping my graduation courses was a question that turned into a good decision afterwards. The set of experiences lived in Norway allowed me to reflect and mature in my academic and personal background, bringing even more meaning to what I studied and what I was professionally prepared to do.
The school moto at that time was: go, learn, become. Assuredly this is the synthesis of what I lived. Considering all the benefits I experienced through exchange program, I would highlight three of them that made a substantial impact in my personal life and, as a consequence, in my professional development.
The first advantage which came from living abroad was the acquirement of a global understanding. As a student in an international school with people from different countries, I could understand more about global issues and its impacts all over the world. The references that were far, after living one school year with people whom definitely became part of my life, became closer and tangible. The 21st century professionals have to deal with a global perspective.
“The references that were far, after living one school year with people whom definitely became part of my life, became closer and tangible. ”
A multicultural awareness was also a positive consequence. Cities all over the world become, more and more, places of multiple identities and cultures. As professionals nowadays we have to be aware of that condition to communicate correctly and precisely. Once you are soaked in a new and different cultural environment and you experience it on your own life you can collaborate with this context that reaches urban contexts today.
The third advantage from exchange program is a life-based learning. What you learn from a life experience indeed belongs to your life. More than a theoretical approach, the opportunity of applying knowledge and learning from what you do is transforming. By all means the quality of education is important and has to be reached when it comes to professional formation, but, as decisive as it is, the effort to reflect on what has been taught and the challenge of thinking about how it can be applied in personal life are something very confluent in 21st professional context which is distinguished by complex situations.
One interesting point also worth of mentioning is that you cannot measure nor grasp all the consequences you will have from an exchange program in your life and career. That why I say: once you are in an exchange program, enjoy all the opportunities you get! After all, global understanding, multicultural awareness and life-based learning still are (and will be) valuable for a long time to come.
Edson Munck Jr Brazilian participant in the Connect Exchange Program in 2007-2008
Head of Fatev, the Theological Seminar of Movimento Encontrão