Over the next three years, Stiftung Mercator will be investing 2.3 million euros in school exchanges between Germany, China and Turkey, allowing the number of grants for year-long exchanges and short-term programmes to be increased from 690 to 1,080.
"An international exchange should not fail due to a lack of funding. That is the core philosophy behind our grants", says Bernhard Lorentz, president of Stiftung Mercator, referring to a May 2013 study conducted by the Ger-man Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin). The study found that it is a family’s income above all that determines whether children are able to spend a period of school time abroad. The Mercator student grants are available to pupils at all types of school who are between 15 and 18 years of age and are currently attending school in Germany, Turkey or China.
In June 2012, Efe Eroğlu came from Turkey to Germany on a Stiftung Mercator grant, finding a home from home with Monika Hoffmann and her family in Fürstenwalde. This was already the third time that the family had taken in a young person from abroad. "If you surround yourself with young people, you don’t age so quickly yourself", says the 48-year-old, citing one reason why the family decided to host exchange students. Another benefit, she continues, is that you learn a lot about other cultures.
Nonetheless, only few families are quite so keen to put up a young person from abroad, with the result that exchange organizations are desperately searching for host families for pupils coming to Germany. As host mother Monika Hoffmann explains, however, many of the concerns of potential host families are unfounded: "You have to get the idea out of your head that an exchange student will be a stranger in your house. After all, an exchange student doesn’t remain a stranger but quickly becomes part of the family." She goes on to say that it also encourages one to try out new things oneself. Efe, for instance, took his host parents with him to heavy metal concerts – giving Monika and her husband the chance to see a very different side of Germany.
For exchanges with China and Turkey, Stiftung Mercator cooperates with three organizations: the German Youth for Understanding Committee (YFU), AFS Interkulturelle Begegnungen and Experiment. For German-Turkish exchanges, Rotary International is an additional programme part-ner. Applications for Mercator student grants can be made directly to the exchange organizations. Closing dates for application vary according to the organization and can be found on their websites. Furthermore, the partner organizations make information available to prospective host families.
Stiftung Mercator is currently developing additional programmes aimed at further intensifying exchanges between Germany, China and Turkey and also at reaching new target groups. To this end, an additional 1.3 million euros – on top of the 2.3 million euros for school exchanges – will be made available until 2016 under the “Mercator Exchange” umbrella to fund exchanges between young leaders and information disseminators such as teachers and journalists.
We will be happy to arrange contact for reporting purposes with current and former exchange students and host families.
Further information about host families and grants can be found here:
About Stiftung Mercator:
Stiftung Mercator is one of Germany’s largest foundations. It initiates and funds projects that promote better educational opportunities in schools and universities. In the spirit of Gerhard Mercator, it supports initiatives that embody the idea of open-mindedness and tolerance through intercultural encounters, encouraging the sharing of knowledge and culture. The Foundation provides a platform for new ideas to enable people – regardless of their national, cultural or social background – to develop their personality, become involved in society and make the most of the opportunities available to them. In this sense it is committed to inspiring ideas. Stiftung Mercator takes an entrepreneurial, international and professional approach to its work. It has a particular affinity with the Ruhr area, the home of its founding family.www.stiftung-mercator.de/en