Aga Khan Academies student exchange programme launched | Aga Khan Academies

Aga Khan Academies student exchange programme launched

01 November 2018

Mombasa students in HyderabadThe Aga Khan Academies launched its first student exchange programme in October 2018, with 16 students from Hyderabad currently in Mombasa, and 15 from Mombasa in Hyderabad. The two groups of year 9 students were escorted by faculty from their school and arrived at their respective destinations on the weekend of 20 October, just in time for the first day of school Hyderabad students in Mombasaafter the mid-term break. They will stay for a total of seven weeks, returning to their home Academies for the final days of the semester. The exchange programme is envisioned to be a defining experience for Academies’ students, one that will have a long-term impact on their personal and academic lives and that will help create a global network of friendship and knowledge-sharing. 

Student perspectives

Ten days into the programme, students appear to be settling in rapidly and comfortably into their new lives. The experience is doubly enriching for those who are day scholars in their schools, Rida Mawani (foreground)but who are now completely immersed in the residential programme at each location. “I have been enjoying myself thoroughly so far,” says Rida Mawani in Mombasa. “I have met new people and they have been really nice to me, which made me feel welcome. We were taken to Fort Jesus, a famous monument in Mombasa. It was great exploring the coastal Kenyan culture and also learning about the history of Mombasa and how it came into being. As part of the first ever batch of exchange students, I want to explore, know, wonder and enjoy each and every moment I spend here.”

Caelan MwitiMeanwhile in Hyderabad, Caelan Mwiti describes a school excited to learn about other cultures and to welcome new students: “People have been super friendly – they are trying really hard to help us and to make us feel welcome. You can see how interested they are in learning about our culture. For example, we’ve been practicing our dance for Cultural Night. Afterwards a group of students came to ask us about the song – they wanted to listen to it themselves and practice some of our moves. Our first night here we had a lawn dinner for year 9s, followed by dancing where we would alternate between Indian and African dances. One of my classmates has also been teaching me some Hindi!”

Welcome & orientation

To help the cohorts settle in, orientation and welcome sessions were conducted at each site for them to familiarize themselves with their new environment, as well as their roommates, dorm parents and classmates.

Aleesha Suleman, chaperone“We had a long, tiring journey but it was all forgotten the moment we got into the girls’ dorm,” narrates Aleesha Suleman, communications officer at the Aga Khan Academy Mombasa, who accompanied the group to Hyderabad. “We were greeted by the dorm master, Ms. Karuna, and some of the students - we couldn’t believe they were up that early! The campus is so gorgeous and very green. I only wish I was staying as long as the students on exchange!”

Himani Sood, chaperoneIn Mombasa, the exchange students were guided through icebreakers and introductory cultural workshops. “It was interesting to observe how they reacted to their new environment – there was a lot of nervousness, nostalgia, and apprehension that comes with being in a new place,” said Himani Sood, I&S faculty and chaperone to the Hyderabad students. “And it was important for students to know that that’s okay – this exchange will hopefully teach them how to manage those feelings and persevere against whatever odds they might face.”

Himani’s comments resonate with an aspect of the exchange programme, which hopes to target students’ resilience, adaptability, independence, and self-awareness, while enabling them to gain adeptness at navigating new cultural settings and working effectively with a range of people. The programme will help students become more pluralistic, as they recognise the value in diversity and learn to collaborate across cultures.

From the student mobility coordinator

The student mobility coordinator for the Aga Khan Academies, Elizabeth MacFarlane, has spent the past eighteen months developing the programme. She was in Hyderabad to see one group of students depart and to meet the incoming Mombasa cohort.  

“Finally seeing the exchange students embark on this journey and become part of an Academy community abroad is both a wonderful culmination of a long process and the start of a new stage for the network of Aga Khan Academies. A diverse group of students is participating, drawn from a range of national, cultural, and socio-economic backgrounds. What they share are leadership qualities, a sense of adventure, and a belief in the importance of learning from other cultures. We hope that involvement in the exchange will help build a network of leaders who look beyond their own borders as they work to develop their societies.”