Fatima experienced virtual exchange for the first time as a student at Lebanese International University (LIU). “It was very empowering to be in the Soliya program because it taught me how to communicate with other culture,” she said. The experience was so transformational that Fatima adopted Soliya into the class she now teaches at LIU. She saw her students gain confidence and enhance their communication skills. “When students connect with people with different thoughts and backgrounds, they become exposed and start to reflect and develop their own perspectives, “ she said.
Integrated into university courses across a variety of disciplines—including media studies, international relations, and religious studies—Soliya’s Connect Program gives students the opportunity to build meaningful relationships across national, cultural, religious, and ideological boundaries. Small groups of students from across the United States and the Middle East and North Africa gather weekly for a semester for facilitated dialogue, seeking to understand each other’s perspectives on global and international issues.
The program was life-changing for Matt, an American participant. “One of the biggest misconceptions was the fact that Arabs in general are very close-minded,” he said. “But when we started communicating with each other and listening to our stories, we dropped all these labels and start connecting with each other as human beings.” The program also helped him recognize his power to change things as an individual. Matt became a facilitator who now dedicates his time to facilitating exchange for other students.