To celebrate International Education Week, the Stevens Initiative is uplifting the voices of those who have experienced virtual exchange firsthand. This year, we asked alumni and participants to share testimonials answering one of five prompts about how virtual exchange impacted different areas of their lives. Read all of this year’s selected testimonials below.
You can find our full lineup of activities and announcements during 2021 International Education Week here.
How has virtual exchange influenced your academic or career goals? How did your virtual exchange help you achieve your academic or professional success?
"I discovered the potential of using business ideas to solve social issues, and it inspired me to pursue a career in social impact. I now work for a global corporate social responsibility software company where I use the skills from my virtual exchange every day to connect with my clients and colleagues."
Erin, United States, William Davidson Institute’s M2GATE
"There were many benefits to this virtual exchange program. I not only interviewed a Moroccan woman leader who is now a minister and met various students to exchange Moroccan and American culture with, but also learned how to interact virtually as a college student. Since technological advancements continue to change, I need to be prepared for tomorrow's career."
Omar, Morocco, Hassan II University and Kennesaw State University’s Women’s Leadership Virtual Exchange
"We all need that push that kick starts our career journey. To me, M2GATE was the push I needed to pursue the career of my dreams as a communication specialist working with similar programs to foster a generation of global citizenship and innovative powers."
Hela, Tunisia, William Davidson Institute’s M2GATE
How have new skills that you developed during your virtual exchange helped you throughout your life?
"The exchange was a great opportunity to learn how to dive deeper into myself and know the reasons behind what floats on the surface. I learned how to pay attention to my reactions, identify my feelings, and detect what triggers me. It is a nice feeling to be more self-aware and to get to know the self better."
Amal, Morocco, Soliya’s Connect Global
"Virtual exchange for me isn’t only about eight weeks, but more about how it shaped my life and mindset and kept me engaged with the program to this day. It’s about the door full of opportunities that it opened for me, the skills and life experiences that I gained, and the responsibility it has infused in me to become the leader I always wanted to be and to inspire more young leaders to change."
Ferial, Algeria, World Learning’s The Experiment Digital
"Asking good questions is a crucial skill that changed my perspective of the world. Thanks to this skill, I am able to understand others' points of view and make decisions based on deep understanding. Moreover, this skill introduced me to other interesting careers based on asking questions."
Yasmine, Palestinian Territories, Soliya’s Connect Global
What is something new that you learned during your virtual exchange, either about yourself or others, that has changed your view of the world?
"The exchange program was a vital turning point in my life. It offered a dimensional view of my shortcomings and encouraged me to embrace my strengths all whilst providing me a safe space to unleash my curiosity. It served as a portal into different worlds that I had not previously explored. The program was an exchange of experiences, cultures, hardships, and triumphs."
Fatima, United Arab Emirates, Soliya’s Connect Global
"Through virtual exchange, I have had the rare opportunity of unlearning and learning about different cultures, beliefs, values, environment, and opinions as vital tools that define every human, and the role empathy plays in accepting new norms. It has helped me create a unique blueprint for global competence and self-exploration."
Femi, Morocco, Mohammed VI Polytechnic University and Texas A&M University’s Engage: Leadership in a Virtual World
"This program helped me think outside the box, find my passion to travel all over the world, become knowledgeable about different cultures, and mix with different ideas. I’ve participated in two programs, and each has given me the chance to find and apply my skills in the real world. I am grateful."
Rebaz, Iraq, IREX’s Global Solutions Sustainability Challenge
"This is an experience I believe every student should have. It has opened up my mind, awareness, and love for other cultures. One of the most life-enriching experiences to discuss real-world issues with students around the globe."
Cecelia, United States, Soliya’s Connect Global
If you participated in virtual exchange during the pandemic, what role did your participation play in helping you feel more connected to peers and the world around you, especially in times of social distancing, limited travel, and time away from friends and family?
"Participating in the Soliya Connect Global program helped me through difficult times. Connecting virtually with people from around the world elevated my spirits and gave me a psychological boost. I felt hopeful that dark times would soon be over, I had something to look up for, and I learned in a joyful environment. It was a mind-building experience. We formed friendships and felt deeply connected and never alone or isolated."
Fathia, Tunisia, Soliya’s Connect Global
"During my participation in the virtual exchange, the pandemic kept me from meeting my colleagues and teachers. I was really sad overall, but I was happy because I was able to follow my goals and participate in many online activities that helped me to get to know friends."
Elzhraa, Egypt, Global Ties U.S.’s MENA-USA Empowering Resilient Girls Exchange
"At that time, curfew was so difficult, so the program was a miracle. The program helped me meet new friends through listening to their opinions, cultures, and habits. I had the benefit of hearing from others and learning to accept and respect each other's opinion. I learned from the program to share my opinion without fear."
Fatma, Libya, Soliya’s Connect Global
Share about new friendships with peers abroad that you made through your virtual exchange. How have these friendships affected you?
"It is so rare to meet and engage with so many diverse people our age who are equally passionate and dedicated to creating positive change in the world. We continue to stay connected, aid each other in our endeavors, and have a ton of fun! I am forever inspired by my friends and mentors from The Experiment Digital."
Elaine, United States, World Learning’s The Experiment Digital
"I made a lot of friends from countries all over. They are good friends. Even though we grew up in different countries and different cultures, we are all humans."
Tarik, Morocco, Soliya’s Global Circles
"The Experiment Digital was my chance to open up to the world from my desk. Now, I have new friends from different backgrounds and thoughts. Even in Algeria I met people I didn't know before. I learned from them, and they helped me to change some of my perspectives and also helped me learn new vocabulary."
Nour, Algeria, World Learning’s The Experiment Digital