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SPOTLIGHT ON - JULY 2015

CULTURAL EXCHANGE 
Working together to help students learn about America, while they become more interculturally competent and transform themselves
By Jessica Kissell, Director, Employer Relations

Employers play a critical role in facilitating cultural exchange. In the Toolkit section below, you’ll find more ideas on how to enhance the cultural aspect of the Work & Travel USA program. CIEE also has created a series of programs and initiatives to foster the cultural component of the program – the goal of these efforts is for students to build intercultural competency, to learn about America, and to experience personal transformation.

Civic Leadership Summit
The Civic Leadership Summit (CLS) is an exciting annual event in Washington, D.C., that focuses on intercultural awareness, civics, and social entrepreneurship. It’s an important part of our ongoing commitment to facilitate cultural exchange that promotes mutual understanding and peaceful relations between people of the United States and other nations. Students apply for spots at the summit, and, if accepted, they’re awarded a fellowship grant that includes travel, accommodations, meals and all summit activities. For a glimpse of last year’s summit, watch this video created by one of our Fellows.

This summer’s event will be the third annual CLS, and we’ve had a tremendous response! More than 1,260 exchange visitors applied from our ~18,000 summer cohorts – up from 820 last year and 500 in the inaugural year. We’re in the process of selecting 60 Fellows to join us at American University in Washington, D.C. from August 3-6 for challenging and inspiring activities delivered by CIEE and several nongovernmental organization collaborators. These include Ashoka Youth Venture, Street Law, Girl Rising, and the World Justice Project. You can read more at www.ciee.org/civic-leadership-summit.

This year, we had applications from 62 countries, including Afghanistan, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Colombia, and the Czech Republic – and that’s just the ABC start of the list! To give you a sense of this year’s applicants, check out a couple of great video submissions:

Connect USA
As noted last month, we host Connect USA events throughout the country. These regional events are designed to help CIEE Work & Travel USA students learn more about life in America, increase their cultural awareness, and provide opportunities for them to think about the impact they have on their own communities back home. In addition to the cultural component, these gatherings also are a great way for students to meet, network, and have fun with other students.

We’ve partnered with some of our NGO collaborators, Ashoka Youth Venture and Street Law, as a way to help provide engaging (and fun!) workshops. We’re now planning more than 40 summer events and are inviting students across the country. Please visit our blog for specific Connect USA events in your community. Please encourage your students to attend these, and we welcome your participation, too! Thank you for supporting these events.

Online engagement and social media
In addition to in-person events, we engage with our Work & Travel USA students through email and social media. This is an easy and accessible way to offer support, ideas, and tips to help make their time in the United States enriching, rewarding, and life-changing.

We send a variety of information via email to help make sure our students make the most of their time here, including:

  • Culture Guide USA – a monthly newsletter explaining key American cultural events and topics like holidays, government, national parks, and fun facts 
  • On the Go – a series of emails providing tips and information about the program, and tools to help transition to life in America
  • Top 10 Things to Do – a list of the can’t-miss local activities and attractions in their region 

This summer, we’re ramping up our social media presence to further boost student-engagement efforts. See the links below, and feel free to follow, share, like, hashtag #, and tweet while sharing with your students!

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