“We all have these different ideas, but we’re working towards one goal."
Building relationships across cultures is vital to creating a more peaceful and just world. People-to-people exchanges are thus a core facet of World Learning’s work. Each year World Learning offers youth, professional, and academic exchanges which bring together people from diverse cultures and backgrounds, promote their empowerment, and facilitate mutual understanding. Exchange participants gain the training they need to contribute as citizens and leaders and have gone on to form global partnerships that are advancing positive change on a variety of issues.
Alumni of one youth exchange program, the U.S. Department of State-funded On-Demand Youth Leadership Program (ODYLP), have been bridging the Pacific Ocean through their shared dedication to ocean conservation. Though their exchange took place in June 2019, the youth participants have continued to collaborate on ocean conservation projects in the U.S. and the Freely Associated States of Micronesia through the “International Teens Upholding Nature Association” they created during their exchange. The Association’s projects are community-specific but range from education initiatives to environmental cleanups and climate strikes, and the students have inspired new peers to join in their efforts.
“We all have these different ideas, but we’re working towards one goal,” says Nayantara Arora, a U.S. alumna.
Since the spring of 2019, ODYLP has imparted leadership and project implementation skills to more than 120 participants from all regions on exchanges exploring unique themes. The legacy of the program is enormous. Participants have gone on to complete over 50 group and individual community-service projects—impacting more than 40 communities worldwide.
Edison Broce, an alumnus of the academic Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD), has also been leading the way in environmental conservation. As the youngest member of parliament in Panama, Broce established the country’s first recycling law and is behind the push to reduce single-use plastics in the country by 2021. As a participant in Global UGRAD, which brings future leaders to the U.S. for an undergraduate experience, Broce gained critical professional skills while learning about U.S. culture and values.
World Learning exchange alumni are additionally grappling with pressing social, equity, and health issues. Psychologist Katerina Kovrova, a two-time alumna of the USAID-funded Community Connections Program in Belarus, has used what she learned on her 2006 and 2015 professional exchanges to launch a number of initiatives focused on supporting Belarusian children and families, like the Senior Friend project, a mentoring program inspired by Big Brothers Big Sisters; the Family Center, offering activities for children and educational sessions for parents; Courage Box, supporting children in hospitals and hospice care; and Our Craftsmen, employing people in recovery from substance abuse.
University of South Florida Professor Roger Peters turned his time as Fulbright Specialist improving drug counseling in Paraguay into an opportunity to study substance abuse treatment for incarcerated women in the U.S. and Paraguay with his host at Universidad Católica (UC) Nuestra Señora de la Asunción. The Fulbright Specialist Program is a unique opportunity for U.S. academics and established professionals to engage in two- to six-week, project-based exchanges at host institutions across the globe.
Jenny McNulty, another Fulbright Specialist alumna, launched a women’s mentorship program with her host at the University of Gondar in Ethiopia. It pairs senior faculty at the University of Montana, where McNulty teaches, with young faculty members in Gondar. The program helps less experienced instructors across various disciplines build skills and strengthen their careers. Fulbright Specialists share their expertise with host institutions abroad on a short-term project, but collaboration often continues well after the project ends.
Jack Turman helped create Morocco’s first Master of Public Health on the Fulbright Specialist program in 2016. Since then, he has stayed engaged with university faculty and students in the country to keep advancing public health education and assist in developing strategic plans to address community health concerns like juvenile diabetes and access to clean water.
“We can’t teach global health with PowerPoint slides,” says Turman.
Alumni of World Learning’s people-to-people exchanges are tackling some of the globe’s most pressing challenges. Our programs help them develop the confidence, empathy, and leadership skills they need to cultivate strong partnerships and collaborate to transform their communities and countries.