25 October 2023

A recently initiated project at LiU provides international exchange students, who come to LiU for one or two semesters, the opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange experience. In this project, students have the chance to visit schools in Östergötland and share their culture with pupils while gaining a deeper insight into Swedish culture.

Students at the Student House on Campus Valla.
Students at the Student House on Campus Valla. Magnus Johansson

The project is called Borrow a Student and was launched in the spring of 2023. Through these interactions between students and Swedish pupils, LiU hopes to offer international students a unique opportunity to explore parts of Swedish society they would not have otherwise encountered, while Swedish students have the chance to interact with people from entirely different parts of the world.

Enriched the day for the students

One of the participating schools is Kunskapsskolan in Norrköping, which organised various activities for the European Day of Languages. Teacher Malin Eringstad contacted LiU to inquire if there were international exchange students interested in presenting their culture on this day.
- Every year in September, we participate in the European Day of Languages to celebrate languages and diversity. It was here that the Borrow a Student project fitted perfectly with the activities we had planned, she said.
She continues to explain that the meeting with international exchange students truly enriched the day and became one of the highlights and where culture came to life.
- Even though we, as language teachers at the school, have experience with the language and culture, it's something entirely different when a person from a country shares their experiences. It's also a fun opportunity for students to meet people outside of the school staff, creating something new and exciting.
- Students in grades 8 and 9 attended different lectures - those studying German listened to a lecture in German, and those studying French received a lecture in French. Unfortunately, there was no student from a Spanish-speaking country, but students had the opportunity to listen to students from the Netherlands, China, and Canada. This was greatly appreciated by all students, she explains.
She concludes with the hope that Kunskapsskolan's students are now more motivated to learn their own languages and that they themselves may become exchange students in the future.

Opportunity to reflect on cultural differences and similarities

A total of seven international exchange students participated at Kunskapsskolan. One of them is Daniel Friedrich from Germany. He arrived at LiU for his exchange period in August and learned about the opportunity to participate in the project during one of LiU's information meetings. He was surprised by how different the Swedish classroom was compared to German classrooms, and that the Swedish classrooms felt more personal. The best part of his experience was the open conversations with Swedish students.Picture of the student Daniel FriedrichStudent Daniel Friedrich
- The learners were very curious and asked a lot of questions. It was fun to provide them with insights into my culture while learning more about Swedish culture. Germans and Swedes are generally similar, but it was interesting to discover the areas where our cultures differ, said Daniel Friedrich.

Clara Reitz, also from Germany, is training to become an elementary school teacher. She says that her participation in the project has helped her develop as an individual. She has also started to think more about her own country's Picture of the student Clara ReitzStudent Clara Reitz characteristics and traits.
- The preparation for my presentation made me reflect on my own country, its most prominent features and traits, but also the peculiarities and stereotypes that exist. It gave me a sense of pride and responsibility to be a representative of my country. But even more importantly, it was hearing the students' perspectives. They not only expressed their opinions about my country but also asked me about my view of their country, which made me reflect on my own cultural experiences.
She feels that the students truly took something valuable away from the visit and reflected on cultural similarities and differences. At the same time, she learned a lot from the visit.
- I took a lot from this experience, making it a truly rewarding intercultural experience. But most importantly, it was the joy of interacting with the students and learning from them, perhaps even more than they learned from me.

Agathe Mazet from France also participated and presented French culture. According to her, the best part of the visit was the questions the students asked after her presentation.Picture of the student Agathe MazetStudent Agathe Mazet
- The students showed great interest in my culture and the anecdotes I shared. They even asked questions about what they thought of our politics. I was really surprised by their English skills and how fluently they spoke, with very little accent.
- What I will take away with me is the warm welcome we received. It was a fantastic experience, Agathe Mazet concludes.
If your school is also interested in hosting visits from international students, do not hesitate to contact Johanna Gistvik at LiU's International Office.

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