Exchange schools have been the backbone of culture exchange in countries dedicated to improvement of academic standards. Council of International Educational Exchange (CIEE) is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to promoting international education and exchange since 1947.

CIEE is based in United States and has been committed to giving students an international perspective on a range of subjects. CIEE operates in 40 countries and covers 175 diverse programs. CIEE organizes seasonal work experiences in the US and covers over 45,000 students. The Academia Magazine had a session with CIEE Director Dr Martin Kley to shed light on the need for culture exchange in today’s age and how CIEE helps children with varying backgrounds learn through cultural exchange.

The idea of CIEE dates back to over 60 years. At the time, Europe was suffering from the aftermath of World War II and international corporate exchange was almost non-existent. The European market did not trust anybody and did not have many options at their hands to rely on either. This trust had to be rebuilt and that is how CIEE came into being to allow countries to have more trust in each other for various purposes. “Today CIEE brings children from all over the world and sends children to different parts of the world too to spread peace and trust,” Kley said.

Students at CIEE study a wide range of subjects – from history, language, business, public health and architecture to media and communication as well as entrepreneurship. The wide range of subjects are taught to challenge diverse thinking.

Dr Kley told the Academia Magazine how interaction with a new place was extremely important. “It is vital to organize field trips to give students additional exposure to social and political scenario of a different place, where ideas meet different perspectives that adds strength and meaning to your understanding of a subject.”

Varied Exposure

A student of architecture gets to know about political and social science by meeting different people and experiencing how different countries approach a subject. Students at CIEE also get to meet government bodies and contextualize academic experience in Berlin’s German context with such disciplines.

CIEE also promotes startups and entrepreneurial business studies a lot, Kley said. Berlin being the hub of startups opens up a lot of career options for students. Many students at CIEE get internships and the startup lab at CIEE helps students acquire such experience faster, the CIEE director said.

“CIEE has a separate program called Entrepreneur Laboratory (e-Lab) dedicated to promote startups in Germany. West Berlin lacked a manufacturing base and to survive new businesses had to make it to the market. Berlin was a place of art, not industry.”

“CIEE soon realized the importance of sustainable industry-based economic activity as the driving sector for Berlin and with the help of government, we started facilitating students to fill this gap as future market leaders. Being specific about it could help students understand businesses in the European context,” he added. CIEE encourages children to think in a local context using international exposure. Many students develop applications while studying at e-Lab and develop it by conducting local market research, Kley added.

Commenting on the differences between education in the US and Germany, Kley said the US and Germany seemed “worlds apart”.

“Students in Germany are not used to the concept of paying for tuition and there are very few private schools that charge tuition fee. Whereas the US has a more diversified culture that comes with tuition fee. In the US, education is like a product, if you send your child to Harvard University that’s a big investment that provides solid academic exposure but a hefty debt and would not promise a job or career. However, if you study at Humboldt University or Freie University in Berlin, it might land you with similar opportunities without any debt, meaning you could go straight into job or business market.”

He also mentioned some other differences like how education in the US was more supervised. Another academic culture in Germany is to pick your major at the beginning of your degree, while in the US students may or may not pick their majors for 2 years into the degree. Germany considers education like a specialization, he said.

“In Germany we teach, but we don’t expose students to German standards and we don’t want to duplicate the system either, so it gets challenging to them in many ways to be more creative and efficient,” Dr Kley added.

“In US children are not accustomed to having final tests but rather take weekly or minor tests. So if a student does not pass a subject he/she will have many options to pass. Students in the US are more guided with a much bigger academic staff.”

Kley mentioned the differences to highlight the importance of culture exchange and what it exposed students to. “For culture exchange, institutes everywhere should allow to give up some control. It should not come to you as a problem, only then children could experience different things and not just the mechanics, this will encourage more frequent chances of getting a real experience, which is the idea of cultural exchange.”

As of now CIEE also offers 50 internships every semester where students from anywhere in the world can apply via an existing university. With AIC Academic Internship Council, students get to choose anywhere between 1 to 5 different internships based on their interests.

Students may often have multiple opportunities to choose from. CIEE in 2019 would open doors to more disciplines and plans to work with more countries. Academic disciplines of STEM subjects would have more focus of development.

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