Chile affirmed its presence on the global stage in April as Economic Minister Pablo Longueira announced an increase in the country’s “Pingüinos sin Fronteras” exchange program to include five hundred students for the upcoming second semester of this year.
The government-backed initiative Pingüinos sin Fronteras, or Penguins without Borders, sent 40 Chilean high school students to New Zealand earlier this year. The youngsters are now midway through their six-month international experience and are due to return to classes in Chile in July.
“The first students come from [Chile’s] 15 regions and they are experiencing something utterly unique,” Longueira said. “We thank the authorities in New Zealand for the hospitality they have shown them, as a country with tradition and experience in receiving foreign students.”
The government first launched the student exchange in November of last year, and those currently abroad are part of a pilot run of the program. Students between 14 and 17 years of age with top academic standing are eligible for the exchange. Students are only selected to participate in the program after a rigorous application process with written and oral challenges in both Spanish and English.
For the second round of pinguinos, Longueira pledged to send 500 students, with a goal of sponsoring 1,000 children a year in the future. These efforts reflect one of the many proactive strategies the Chilean government has employed to help spur the country’s growth and development.
“Experiences like these as a whole elevate and improve the human capital of our country,” Longueira said. “If we want to achieve the bar of ‘developed’ by 2020 we need more innovation and entrepreneurship. In order for this to happen, we have to begin to change people’s mentality starting with the youngest.”
While the program has wide-reaching implications for Chile’s future, it is even more powerful for the handful of lucky students chosen to represent their country abroad.
“We are sharing with Kiwis, Asians, Europeans, and Africans, which allows you to learn more about different realities,” Andrés Solís, a youth from Rancagua participating in the program, told El Mercurio.