In their own voices, World Learning program participants remember their international education

This week is International Education Week, a joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education to celebrate the enduring value of international education and exchange. Each year, students and participants in international education and exchange programs gain knowledge of critical global issues, immerse themselves in different cultures, and exchange ideas and perspectives. As they apply what they’ve learned in their everyday lives, they build a more connected and resilient world.

To celebrate International Education Week, World Learning program participants share how international education and exchange impacted their lives.

Originally from El Salvador, Enner Martínez participated in the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD) which brings future leaders to the U.S. to experience higher education, gain professional skills, and explore new cultures and values. Since his participation in 2013, he has gone on to become a Fulbright student at Brandeis University, where he is completing his master’s degree in sustainable international development.

“I got the opportunity not only to take classes and to expand my knowledge in different academic areas, but beyond that, I got the opportunity to grow as a person, professional, a citizen of the world, and to become an effective leader not only by readings or theories but by applying that knowledge when I went back to El Salvador,” he said.

Each year, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) brings about 4,500 visitors to the U.S. for observational study tours ranging from a period of a few days to three weeks. Lateefah Musah, who lives and works in Nigeria, participated in IVLP and even won an Impact Award to implement a project built upon her IVLP experience.

“One key lesson I learned from being part of the exchange program was that everybody from different parts of the world is trying to play their part to make humanity better in our different corners, spaces, and communities,” she said. “Whether it’s with our messaging when it comes to election violence, starting up an organization that helps or supports peacebuilding, economic development, etc., young people are at the forefront of these conversations.”

Earlier this year, HSBC and World Learning launched the 21st Century Financial Resilience through Education and Employment (21 FREE) project in Algeria. The project trained more than 600 community mentors to teach youth personal financial management and job skills. Yacine Halalchi explains his major takeaways as one of those community mentors.

“One of the great lessons we learned in this program is collaboration,” he said. “It’s not only a module but also integrated into the curriculum. The group activities allowed us to develop our listening skills and hear from people’s experiences. This allowed us to exchange with other people and find solutions fast, develop ideas, and try to create a bigger impact in our communities.”

Camden McCormick was one of 27 U.S. high school students who traveled to Spain this summer to learn its language and culture. While visiting the cities of Granada and Guadix to learn how different cultures and religions came together over the centuries, she touts her improved Spanish language skills.

“I find myself thinking of phrases and speaking them in Spanish, and knowing what I’m saying and being able to repeat and not even having to think about it that much anymore,” she said. “My pronunciation has gone through the roof and my language skills have gone up exponentially.”

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World Learning empowers people, communities, and institutions to create a more peaceful and just world.