Through podcast episodes that highlight similarities between cultures, mutual aspirations, and shared challenges, participants of Amideast’s Qisasna learn to voice their opinions to wide audiences and utilize their communication and podcasting skills. Both Emilia from the U.S and Abdulrahman from Yemen showcased their leadership skills and empathetic values by helping their teams create culturally aware and unique podcasts.
Emilia, a Utah State University student pursuing a degree in international studies, was intrigued by the Qisasna virtual exchange program. Hearing that she would work with students from Yemen and having previously visited the Middle East, Emilia believed that Qisasna would help her relive an experience she loved. Inspired as well by an interest in art and culture, she jumped into the program. Meanwhile, Abdulrahman, a junior pursuing a degree in information technology at Aden University, had heard a few Qisasna podcast episodes. This motivated him to join the program to learn how podcasts are made and to use his newly acquired English language skills and cultural knowledge. Although each participant had a different ambition that drove them to join Qisasna, neither expected that the program would take them on a trip that involved more than simply an online exchange of ideas. They found a space where they could learn, express their ideas, make friends, and acquire a variety of skills that would prepare them to be global citizens and shape their personalities.
Despite their excitement, Emilia and Abdulrahman initially felt hesitant at the start of the exchange and were curious about what their experience would be like. Would they only learn about podcasting, and how could they benefit from making a podcast with someone in another country? “Usually when someone is about to meet a person from another country or culture there is overthinking, such as about what is the proper way to start a conversation with them. Surprisingly, it turned out from our first meeting that we are more alike than different. Although we have different backgrounds and nationalities, we share a common interest in music and TV shows, and even have similar hobbies,“ said Abdulrahman.
It turned out from our first meeting that we are more alike than different. Although we have different backgrounds and nationalities, we share a common interest in music and TV shows, and even have similar hobbies.
It did not take long after their initial meeting to become engaged participants, and soon both Emilia and Abdulrahman were demonstrating leadership skills as the podcast managers for their teams. Following up with their peers and arranging the podcast production, both participants were challenged, but they managed to shine. Emilia and Abdulrahman experienced the value of teamwork and the need to be sensitive to the many differences among group members.
Emilia and Abdulrahman concluded that Qisasna is not just an exchange of learning how to make a podcast, but rather a deep dive into culture and a journey in making friendships. “Although I learned the essential components of podcast making and the process behind it through my time in this program, those were not the most valuable skills I acquired. From the first meeting, each participant was given a duty; I was dubbed the U.S. branch podcast manager. Despite often working with others (in educational, workplace, or personal settings), this was the first time I had a manager [role]. Throughout the process, I learned how to be assertive while still being kind, communicate more efficiently with a large group of people, and manage my time, along with the time of others, more constructively,“ noted Emilia.
Qisasna is an excellent program that allows students to connect with others their age across the world. This program pushes you to learn more about yourself, others, and our world. I hope to one day see many more programs like this.
Throughout the semester, Qisasna participants like Emilia and Abdulrahman are encouraged to meet weekly to discuss a shared challenge they would like to address in a podcast. By focusing on shared challenges, they not only demonstrated the cultural similarities between American and Yemeni youth but were able to perfect a podcast that illuminates and inspires others.
Focusing on the role of youth in addressing global or local challenges, Emilia’s team Podcasiety (a combination of Podcast + Society that also means “My Podcast” in Arabic) interviewed a wide cross-section of society, gathering diverse perspectives on the importance of providing encouragement and development opportunities for youth. Reflecting on the value of being part of Qisasna, Emillia noted: “Qisasna is an excellent program that allows students to connect with others their age across the world. This program pushes you to learn more about yourself, others, and our world. I hope to one day see many more programs like this.“
Meanwhile, Abdulrahman’s team felt it was important to shed light on educational challenges faced by young people today in both countries. They managed to stay optimistic, trying to highlight solutions and positively influence their listeners to believe that there’s always a way to overcome challenges in society. Through meeting regularly over the course of the program, Abdulrahman said his team developed an exceptionally tight bond and were compassionate about each other’s challenges. “It is not only about the podcast, but rather a journey full of sharing, laughter, and learning,” he said.
The exciting process of orchestrating a podcast episode from start to finish, working with different students across multiple time zones, meeting new people, and relating to one another over shared aspirations and dreams sums up what virtual exchange is all about. After a marvelous semester, Emilia and Abdulrahman are now both part of the exchange program’s alumni network and are ready to start a new chapter in their cultural exchange journey.
It is not only about the podcast, but rather a journey full of sharing, laughter, and learning.
You can hear and support Qisasna students’ podcast episodeshere.
If you are interested in bringing this program to your institution, complete this form.
Qisasna is implemented by Amideast 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.