After taking part in an Erasmus+ in-person exchange program and traveling to Estonia for a semester, Farah knew that she wanted to continue connecting with others around the world. She didn’t feel exposed to much diversity living in Jordan, and her time traveling abroad helped her realize the importance of continuing to search for opportunities to meet new people and learn from new experiences, compelling her to participate in virtual exchange.
Soliya’s Global Circles was the perfect way for Farah, a graduate student at Jordan University of Science and Technology, to continue making these connections. She says that her travels abroad gave her the opportunity to explore the physical locations of a new country, but she was interested in exploring people different from her, including their behavior, attitudes, culture, traditions, and habits. Global Circles allowed her to do just that.
Before participating in this exchange, Farah lacked confidence in herself and wouldn’t participate in discussions even if she was knowledgeable in the area or topic being discussed. Her confidence grew as a result of participating in this program, and she is now able to engage in conversations with others, leaving no room for self-doubt or hesitation. Her fear of being judged or insulted was wiped away early into the program. “People were very kind, I didn’t face any problems like someone hurting [my feelings]… this made me feel like I want to keep participating because it gives me the confidence to talk in front of the camera as I was very shy before,” she said. With these new skills, Farah was able to present a pitch in front of an audience of about 300 people as part of a long-term project she was working on addressing food waste. This newfound confidence has broken down barriers, allowing her to step out of her comfort zone and into new opportunities for success.
She was able to build meaningful long-lasting connections with her peers in other MENA countries and the U.S., using social media to keep in touch with one another. There is a real sense of community among the group as they regularly share opportunities for other virtual exchanges, facilitation trainings, and events that could be of interest to their peers. This type of bond that grew out of their virtual exchange sessions continued past the program end date. Farah and her peers are still in contact with one another, showing just how impactful virtual exchange programs can be for participants who are looking to build lifelong friendships with peers across the globe.
Thinking about joining a virtual exchange program? Farah says, “you have to take a chance to try it, if you take it you will gain more, but if you lose it, maybe the next opportunity will not knock at your door again.” She says virtual exchange “is an open opportunity without borders with a great and respectful environment,” and encourages other young people, like her, to step out of their comfort zone and sign up for a virtual exchange.
Read the transcripts for each audio clip here.
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Global Circles is implemented by Soliya and is supported by the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative (JCSVEI). JCSVEI is a U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs program administered by the Aspen Institute.