CULTURAL EXCHANGE DURING A PANDEMIC

Aderson Borges Costa,
Author and Portuguese Teacher,
St Nicholas School

Olha, a vantagem dessa pandemia ter acontecido agora no começo do século XXI é que é possível agente visitar e frequentar lugares no mundo inteiro sem sair da nossa casa! A internet é o grande instrumento que possibilita com que nós visitemos museus, cidades, estádios de futebol, prédios e escolas que estão no mundo inteiro através da internet com sites. Através de plataformas virtuais como, por exemplo, o Zoom, você pode se conectar com pessoas e conversar. Eu acho que a grande saída é a própria internet.

 

Look, the advantage of this pandemic having happened now at the beginning of the 21st century is that it’s possible for us to visit and frequent places all over the world without leaving our homes! The internet is the great tool that allows us to visit museums, cities, football stadiums, buildings and schools that are all over the world via the internet with websites. Through virtual platforms such as Zoom, you can connect with people and chat. I think the main way out of this is the internet itself.

Dr. Warren,
Director of Global Citizenship, History & Social
Sciences Department Faculty,
St. Mark’s School

That’s something I started thinking about last March when everything started shutting down. I was expecting at least one, maybe two years of no travelling. I quickly connected with different organizations such as Envoys which offer virtual summits for students. I also connected with the global educator benchmark group which is a professional organization that offers a lot of professional development. Both of these organizations had training for virtual exchanges.

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I partook in these training sessions because I felt like it was the best possible way of being able to bring the experience of a cultural exchange to students who have to sit in front of a computer. Our first organized exchange trip was with the Scindia School in India. It was a huge success. I was so happy that it even got to happen. Second of all, I was extremely impressed at the depth of the exchange. What the students said after the programme was that they had a great time forging friendships and they think they would probably stay connected with the people they were paired with moving forward. But they were really struck with how different their personal experiences are, but how many commonalities they had. We asked them to meet up synchronously for half an hour each week. One of the groups actually spent over three hours in these synchronous sessions without realising it because they were just having so much fun talking about their experiences. This virtual exchange achieved our goals because it forged friendships, participants were able to share ideas and culture. In fact, St. Mark’s students got to sample some Indian food so that they could have a little taste of India. I think that virtual exchanges are one way that these exchange programmes can still take place during a pandemic. We also held another summit with a school in Canada. During these, students were able to exchange ideas around cultural values and beliefs. That was another way to connect students on a cultural basis during a pandemic.


 

Ms. Selen
City of London School for Girls
Interview by Fedra

I think the definition of “exchange" has changed since the beginning of the pandemic. It is not the usual exchange we are used to and we know, but rather a different version of intercultural communication and interaction. Through different modes of communication, mainly online platforms, barriers in various aspects have been built. At the same time, we grew apart, but also came closer with one another because of the strange, new and unique situation. Through the modes of communication and cultural exchange, people have become more open and honest about their thoughts, feelings, and mental health. Many people feel more comfortable sharing knowledge with one another and communicating with strangers. Because of this open communication, we have connected on different levels and in different areas. Using social networks and sharing ourselves strengthened the trust in other people. This will have an impact on the future and it is more important than ever to overcome the barriers and still be as open and trusting once the world goes back to normal again.