This semester, I have chosen to connect my Globalization and Education class taught by Professor Miller-Idriss to a volunteer experience at the American Councils for International Education. With the spread of globalization, there has been an increase in the amount of educational and cultural exchange opportunities for students as a means of expanding multiculturalism. The American Councils for International Education works alongside the State Department in order to serve students from the United States, as well as students in various countries who wish to fulfill their exchange experience here.
My role at this organization is as a scholarship evaluator for students in the Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX). The applicants in this program are from Eurasia, Europe, and Southeast Europe. The American Councils for International Education trains its volunteers to review scholarships in a way which identifies the most qualified students who are ready to spend a year with a host family in the United States while attending a local high school. This selection is made based on the applicant’s perceived motivation and ability to immerse themselves into U.S. society which is displayed in their interview and application essays.
It has surprised me how rewarding of an experience it is to be a scholarship evaluator. All of the applicants are striving to reach the same goal of coming to the United States and expanding their cultural knowledge. Their dreams are always far and wide, and their ambition seems to be unstoppable. What is incredibly touching are the responses the applicants have to questions of political, economic, and social issues which touch their lives. Each applicant has different passions towards civic engagement and social justice, including women’s empowerment issues, increasing services for those with physical disabilities, and expanding rights for the LGBTQ community. It is heartwarming to see their individual connections to societal issues and how they believe they can make an impact. The applicants see expanding multiculturalism and encompassing others’ perspectives as a strength which is an important skill in a globalizing world.
My volunteer work at the American Councils for International Education has been a valuable experience which allows me to explore the importance of educational and cultural exchange opportunities first hand. Students who are selected for the exchange programs are always those who demonstrate a sincere motivation to come to the United States and share their own culture, and then go home and share the values of civic engagement and cultural experiences learned in the United States. In Globalization and Education, we learned about expanding exchange opportunities with the hope of increasing cultural ties and bridging communities. Exchange programs are one component under the umbrella of International Education which can lead to the interconnectedness of societies, and I am happy to play a role in promoting such efforts.