The pandemic hasn't just put the breaks on vacations, it's dealt a blow to international exchange programs that give teens invaluable life experiences.
A homestay travel platform has been forced to switch to online games and networking in the wake of Covid and Brexit.
Startup World is a Village originally launched to connect families, helping them organize cross-border language and culture exchange trips for their children.
However, with overseas travel and school trips canceled due to the pandemic, it developed a new platform, Digital Journey, to help children find “digital pen pals” and brush up their language skills through online games, quizzes and missions.
Digital Journey is being targeted at families as well as schools in the UK, France, Spain and Germany, which can use it for teaching and as a way to digitally “twin” with institutes in other countries. It was also set up in response to Brexit, according to founder Camille Huyghues Despointes.
As part of the UK’s departure from the European Union, it leaves EU student exchange scheme the Erasmus Programme. As a result there will be less financing and freedom for students and teachers who would have previously benefitted from long-term permits.
The British Council’s Language Trend Report 2020 suggested Brexit will negatively impact language learning in schools too, with a shift in attitudes and an increasing number of pupils and their parents feeling that European language skills will be of limited use following the UK’s exit.
World is a Village, which is part of the UK’s Founders Factory program, has also decided to team up with charity Founders4Schools, set up by investor Sherry Coutu, who has previously served as a board member for LinkedIn, a non-executive director of property website Zoopla and the London Stock Exchange.
Founders4Schools helps teenagers connect with business leaders and employers to boost their chances of cross-border employment once they leave education.
“The UK is not regarded as a leader when it comes to training our young people to communicate in foreign languages,” said Coutu. “Brexit and the end of the Erasmus programme don’t help; they amplify the issue.”
World is a Village is among several platforms adopting new models, as operators of tours, activities, and attractions begin to offer online classes, virtual tours, and digital souvenir sales as travel restrictions bite. Travel companies and organizations are also embracing livestreaming to generate future bookings.
World is a Village will now be counting on friendships built during coronavirus to eventually converting to travel opportunities once Europe’s strict border restrictions start to lift.
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Photo Credit: World is a Village originally launched to help families organize culture exchange trips for their children. Ethan Hu / Unsplash
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