To celebrate International Education Week, the Stevens Initiative is uplifting the voices of those who have experienced virtual exchange firsthand.
Over the last two years, testimonials from virtual exchange participants and alumni have been a touchstone of our International Education Week celebrations each November. In honor of the tenth anniversary of Ambassador Stevens’ passing, we asked alumni and participants to share testimonials highlighting the skills, perspectives, and values they’ve gained through virtual exchange that are inspired by the ambassadors’ own experiences during his life. Read all of this year’s selected testimonials below.
Ambassador Stevens celebrated the things that make us different. While virtual exchange can help you identify similarities with your peers from different places, it can also teach you to celebrate your differences. How did your virtual exchange teach you to embrace the things that made you and your peers different from one another? How did your virtual exchange help you feel more comfortable engaging with people who may not have the same backgrounds, beliefs, or interests as you?
"If not for our differences, I wouldn't have learnt a thing from my peers; how boring that would have been. Through my virtual exchange program, I learned to have a genuine interest in others and to accommodate their differences, because it’s only through that which we can learn from each other and live beautifully together."
Abdul-Latif, Morocco, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and Texas A&M University's Engage: Leadership in a Virtual World
"The virtual exchange experience boosted my confidence and taught me how to handle conversations properly. It showed me that no matter how many different cultures you meet in the virtual exchange, you can still find something familiar between us. I learned to accept and cherish views with an open mind and heart."
Azza, United Arab Emirates, Soliya's Global Circles
"The virtual exchange opened my eyes to how much media influences our worldview, particularly of countries we are politically at odds with. Being able to speak directly with students my own age in countries such as Syria and Yemen enabled me to realize that we share so many more similarities than differences."
Aiden, United States, World Learning's The Experiment Digital
"I learned that there are people similar to me in mindset and goals who are searching for solutions to the problems that face our world and threaten our peace and well-being. Even if these people are on the other side of the planet, this program aims to diminish this distance, bringing and connecting our minds together."
Muhanad, Libya, Culturingua's Global Social Entrepreneurship Journey
Global experiences influenced Ambassador Stevens’ academic and career interests, and he eventually became a diplomat. How has virtual exchange influenced your academic or career goals? How did your virtual exchange help you achieve your academic or professional success?
"The program had a deep impact on the way I view engineering design. It reminded me that the design process is more than just numbers; it has a human element as well. As an engineering student, my goal is now to design solutions by being mindful of human needs."
Mohammad, United Arab Emirates, American University of Ras Al Khaimah's, ACT: Developing Empathetic Leadership
"Inquiry guides our search for meaning in this vast world. To me, Soliya's Connect Global helped me find my calling. This experience introduced me to intercultural communication, which guides my career. I am now a PhD student, specializing in intercultural communication. I have honed my skills in virtual and physical intercultural interactions to prepare for the globalized world."
Hamdi, Tunisia, Soliya's Connect Global
"Because of Virtual Tabadul, I have become culturally aware of the people and communities around me. I have used this newfound knowledge to move into my new career as a Language and Cultural Facilitator with the U.S. Peace Corps. With this as a foundation, I am positive that I will only grow and expand in my new career."
Houcine, Morocco, Florida International University's Virtual Tabadul
"My virtual exchange program taught me a process for making ideas into real projects in collaboration with teammates from different backgrounds other than my own. Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge shaped me to be a detective for community issues and filling in the world's needs by implementing projects."
Koband, Iraq, IREX's Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge
By listening to others and being open to different perspectives, Ambassador Stevens had a unique understanding of humanity and the world around him. What is something new that you learned during your virtual exchange, either about yourself or others, that has changed your view of the world?
"This was such a unique and wonderful interactive program. I don't think I would have had the opportunity to engage so regularly in a group of different cultures if I had not participated in Soliya's Global Circles. It was an amazing and worth-remembering experience. I also got connected with like-minded people from around the world."
Wardah, Palestinian Territories, Soliya's Global Circles
"Having a global platform through the virtual exchange has redefined my worldview by showing me that welcoming differences, challenges, and new perspectives can change the world for the better! Being exposed to so many cultures, beliefs, and environments made me become more open-minded and aware to ultimately design better, impactful, holistic solutions for issues in the real world."
Grace, United States, New York Academy of Sciences' Junior Academy
"Since I started participating in the program, I felt super excited and thrilled to learn new things about my field of study as well as about new cultures and lifestyles, both of which expanded my scope and made me see the world differently."
Moustafa, Egypt, Institute of International Education's HIVER
“Indeed, the world is a global village. I enjoyed every day of my virtual exchange program, not just because I loved seeing different faces, but because of how I was able to accept others' views during discussions. Irrespective of our differences, we almost always were able to solve everyday issues.”
Hulda, Morocco, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and Texas A&M University's Engage: Leadership in a Virtual World
Ambassador Stevens had many unique experiences that came from his time abroad. Virtual exchange can make the same possible for many young people without them having to leave their hometowns. What unique impact came from your virtual exchange that you wouldn’t have had in another education or exchange experience?
"For me, the experience was so unique. I can affirm that it was an important, necessary experience you have to go through before experiencing the others. It introduced me to the world of differences where I got the chance to meet wonderful people, and together we worked on emphasizing our skills and developing them while maintaining a positive and stimulating workspace."
Aya, Tunisia, Global Ties U.S.' MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange (MERGE)
"My experience as a student in the Transitional Justice Legal Exchange was very interesting and rich. It created a positive and friendly climate for virtual learning, it helped me to develop my skills in active listening, and it encouraged teamwork across cultural and language differences, which has made me more tolerant and creative. If there is the possibility of redoing this experience I will do it again!"
Sihame, Morocco, Seattle University School of Law's Transitional Justice Legal Exchange
"Through my virtual exchange, not only did I get the chance to meet people from different cultures and backgrounds but also work on healthcare innovation in low-resource settings. I am now able to tackle problems from an international perspective. I also became a better listener and developed a better understanding of cultures worldwide. Virtual exchange helps in building bridges towards a more peaceful world!"
Inas, Lebanon, Engineering World Health's Virtual Exchange for Global Health
"My virtual exchange experience was indeed profound and eye-opening. Having met different people from various cultural backgrounds and perspectives, my 21st-century skills have been enhanced. I am now able to communicate efficiently, think critically, and accept differences. It is absolutely a life-changing experience."
Imane, Morocco, Soliya’s Connect Global