One of the best ways to take advantage of study abroad or meeting international visitors coming to our region is through exchange programs. Our region has many exchange program opportunities for all ages to create both global competence and experiences of a lifetime.
Exchange programs are defined as arrangements, in which people from different countries visit each other’s country to strengthen links between them, improve foreign language skills, or learn about specific institutions or ways of life. Whether the visit is one-way or two-way, the popularity of these experiences has grown from a good way to develop global competency skills and foster understanding to a must for internationally minded high school and college students. There are also many opportunities for adults and professionals to experience the benefits of exchange programs.
Benefits of Exchange
Exchange programs not only allow us to step out of the familiarity of our own culture, they encourage us to grown as human beings by experiencing the larger definition of what it means to be human no matter the culture. Short term we may experience both the excitement and sometimes the mental discomfort that that comes from seeing first hand how other people in the world think and live. Long term, exchange programs, can give us perspectives and friends that can influence the rest of our lives.
General Exchange Qualifications
While each of the programs described below require different qualifications and financial commitment, all are looking for students and or adults with strong interest in learning about a different culture or interacting with people from other countries. Some programs require specific foreign language skills, knowledge of the world, and its countries. All require flexibility, willingness to adapt, resilience, tolerance of ambiguity, and curiosity.
Foreign Visitors’ Programs – Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council (GCWAC)
Each year the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council applies to programs sponsored by the Department of State to be one of several United States (U.S.) regions hosting groups of foreign visitors. The guests who come to Cincinnati are from all over the world. They come to exchange information and learn in meetings with U.S. professional counterparts in businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and non-profits. The trips are organized around specific topics such as water management, human trafficking, branding/marketing, good governance, youth employment, or museum management to cite some recent exchanges. Citizens in our region are given the opportunity to host guests for dinners in their homes, a highlight of any visit, or participate in Global Gaggles, which are informal presentations and conversations with visitors. Go to globalcincinnati.org or become a member of GCWAC for more information.
Sister City Exchanges
Cincinnati has nine sister cities including the newest Amman, Jordan, recently formalized with a visit from Jordanian dignitaries to Cincinnati June 12 of this year. The Cincinnati Sister City list, plus Amman, is as follows: Gifu, Japan; Harare, Zimbabwe; Kharkiv, Ukraine; Lizhow, China; Munich, German; Nancy, France; Mysore, India; and New Taipei, Taiwan. There are additional sister city of sister state programs in our region. All of these relationships include exchange visits from officials, businesses, educators, and citizens. The multiple exchanges between Munich and Cincinnati were outlines in a recent blog on the Global Cincinnati website. For specific information on how you can become involved or participate in exchanges, go to cincinnatisistercity.org. Visit sites for individual cities or go to globalcincinnati.org.
Children’s International Summer Villages (CISV)
CISV was founded in 1946 by psychologist Dr. Doris Allen, following the devastation of World War II. Cincinnati is CISV’s U.S. base, and the international headquarters are in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. According to the website: “We are a global community of dedicated volunteers, creating opportunities for all ages to experience the excitement and enrichment of cultural diversity through our educational programs. We are founded on our belief that peace is possible through friendship – and that the real difference can be made by starting with children.” The site goes on to focus on CISV values expressed in their work: friendship, inclusiveness, enthusiasm, engagement, and cooperation.
By 1951, Dr. Allen’s work brought delegates from eight countries to Cincinnati for the first CISV experience. CISV is defined as “charitable, independent, non-political, volunteer organization promoting peace education and cross cultural friendship”. Each year CISV achieves its mission through over l80 programs in the 60 countries where it operates. Those interested in CISV can participate in local activities beginning at age 11 or apply to specific programs through their local chapters. Programs include the unique four-week international camp known as Village. Since l95l, over l90, 000 people have participated in more than 5000 international activity. For more information on CISV, go to cisvusa.org or cisvusa.org.
Rotary International Youth Exchange
Rotary International (RI) consists of 34,000 clubs in over 200 countries, with 1.2 million members. There are several clubs in our region, but the downtown Rotary Club of Cincinnati is one of the oldest having been the 17th club founded after the first in Chicago. Exchange of youth and adults has been a cornerstone of the international non-profit whose motto is “Service Above Self”.
Rotary Youth Exchanges offer study abroad for a few weeks or a full year for more than 8,000 students annually between the ages of 15-19. Costs vary, country to country, but local Rotary clubs generously host students and provide room and board with a host family as well as a small monthly stipend. Participants provide round-trip airfare, insurance, travel documents (passports and visas), and spending money for additional travel and tour fees.
Contact your local Rotary Club to see if it participates and to learn about the programs offered. Specific applications are required as well as orientation. Students are asked to apply 6-12 months before you plan to leave. Exchanges may also include hosting an exchange student from another country, which can be rewarding for the whole family. For more information in this region reach out to one of our many Rotary Clubs in the area by going to Club Finder on the RI website.
Rotary Overseas Scholars
Global Grant Scholars is a Rotary study abroad program for U.S. post grads or for foreign students who want to study in the U.S.
Cincinnati Rotary Club is currently hosting Koichi Tomoshige from Japan who will be conducting basic lung cancer research at Children’s Hospital.
Additional Resources for Global Exchange
For students interested in more information on exchange programs in the Cincinnati Region, go to Global Cincinnati.org and look at the many global organizations in our area, or sign up to attend the International Education Summit November 19, at Northern Kentucky University sponsored by the Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council.
Deborah E. Schultz
Advisory Board Member, Greater Cincinnati World Affairs Council