- Posted March 14, 2014 by
District of Columbia
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Why study abroad? Ask Michelle Obama
Building Mutual Relationships Through Exchange Programs
Thanks to U.S. Department of State sponsored study abroad programs like the Gilman Scholarship and Fulbright Program, I was provided the opportunity to learn about different global histories, cultures, and surprisingly, a great deal about the United States. I was introduced to unique stories and perspectives through conversations with people from all parts of the world. Study abroad programs provide the foundation for American students to build genuine and mutual relationships with citizens of other countries, which in return bolster bilateral relationships through the power of consistent civil society engagement.
As a Fulbright Scholar in Australia I learned for the first time that earth’s unprecedented environmental changes continues to adversely impact the safety and security of millions of citizens residing on low-lying Pacific island states. I have used this new knowledge into a final thesis for my master’s degree in global affairs, where I am working on identifying best practices and recommendations for the United States to develop long-term plans to assist Pacific islands to adapt and build resiliency in regard to our changing global environment.
Because of the significant personal and professional growth I experienced from traveling abroad, I am a major advocate for American students to study overseas, and for citizens from other countries to study in the United States. As a student who has benefited greatly from exchange programs, I have realized that similar programs aimed at building mutual relationships in the U.S. can positively contribute to the United States’ education system and international relations. This idea would translate into a domestic version of the Fulbright Program where, for example, American high school students residing in New York State can spend one academic year studying at a high school in Tennessee State; education requirements, courses, and host families would be arranged through pre-established exchange agreements. A domestic exchange program will help foster mutual understanding among America's diverse citizens, which can potentially help increase the number of Americans who study abroad in the future.