International Education Week (IEW) is an opportunity to celebrate the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide. This joint initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education promotes programs that prepare Americans for a global environment and attract future leaders from abroad to study, learn, and exchange experiences.
Last week, participants, partners, alumni and staff came together in honor of IEW to discuss what makes World Learning’s management of its more than 90 international exchange and education programs so effective. International Education The World Learning Way recognized the hard work our staff does to facilitate cutting-edge exchange programs that connect people from around the world.
Innovative Uses of Technology to Extend Learning
One panel focused on how World Learning’s exchange programs use digital technology to extend learning and enhance engagement.
Celebrating its 10th year, the Global Undergraduate Exchange Program (Global UGRAD)administered by World Learning on behalf of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs recently changed from a full academic year program to a semester-long exchange. With this change, the World Learning team saw an opportunity to get innovative and developed the OPAL course to prepare students for their exchange experience.
OPAL, which stands for Online Professional and Academic Learning, lengthens the Global UGRAD program, and, “prepares students for the leadership skills they’ll need as well as the intercultural competency skills they’ll need in American academic life,” explained Program Associate Lauren Perrino. Participants like Budoor Snober, a current Global UGRAD student from Jordan, found the course helpful. “Because we did these modules before we came to the U.S. we were able to understand what to expect when we arrived at our universities,” added Snober.
The Digital Young Leaders Exchange Program (DYLEP), on the other hand, is an entirely virtual program that takes place over four months and engages 350 high school students from across the U.S. and Iraq. The program, funded by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative, is modeled after the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). It was created to extend the reach of IYLEP’s in-person exchange to those who would not otherwise be able to travel and participate. As Program Associate Hayley Lepp explained, “We can reach hundreds of students affordably, and because it’s really hard to send American students to Iraq, DYLEP allows us to connect them live, virtually.”
Public/Private Partnerships to Advance Shared Goals
Another panel discussed how public and private funders can come together to create stronger, more impactful exchange programs.
The Women in Science STEAM Camp (WiSci) uses a summer camp model to expose high school girls around the world to computers, coding, career opportunities, and female role models in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) fields. This year, the camp was held in Malawi with 98 students from the United States and seven African countries. The program receives funding from the U.S. Department of State, the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships, and companies such as Intel, Merck, and Google.
Describing how the camp taught her new skills and helped shift her perspective, participant Marie Mbullu said, “Being able to write code and have [my team’s] robot complete its challenge was something I never expected to do. Seeing the big picture was nice and something I had never thought of before.” Mbullu, as the president of the black student union at her school, tries to get more internship opportunities for students to get involved in STEM fields. “When I saw science on an international scale,” she explained, “I saw how it affected every subject and sector.”
This year, in addition to supporting the camp financially, Google sent a team of 17 staff members and engineers from around the world to teach at the camp. Google’s Astri Kimball explained that this allowed Google’s engineers to see how the girls interacted with their products. “We want to make computer science relevant to everyone,” she said.
Discussing why WiSci was chosen out of thousands of projects, Kimball said, “We look to where we can make a big impact. We like to work with partners like Intel and World Learning because we know it will maximize our impact.”
Continued Impact of World Learning Alumni
The event also highlighted alumni who took the risk of leaving their comfort zones to experience new cultures and customs through international exchange. Mckim Jean-Pierre, an alumna of The Experiment in International Living’s Leadership Institute, said it best when she stated, “There is so much value in education, and opening the doors to those who might not get it is super vital to me.”
Innovations in exchange programming help to expand access and reach to more people and ensure alumni have the resources and support they need to make a difference. With 85 years of experience, World Learning’s impact is measured in the exponential reach of the work, passion, and projects alumni implement in their local communities around the world.