About the Author: Michele Peters serves as the Special Assistant in the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ groundbreaking ExchangesConnect global social network promotes mutual understanding among youth and adults of all ages by highlighting cultures, customs, and values through user-generated content and multimedia tools (forums, photos, video, podcasting, etc). We welcomed our 10,000th member this month, and this thriving community continues to grow!
Members from more than 180 countries are initiating and engaging in educational, entertaining, and thought-provoking conversations. Members share their personal experiences, views and cultures, sometimes centered on particular themes. They counter stereotypes and open minds.
And, where else can you gain a firsthand account of a young woman’s experience voting for the first time in local elections in Iraq, converse with a young Palestinian living in Gaza, or learn about all the great Global Youth Service Day projects classrooms in which Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan are engaged?
As an open, inclusive social networking site, Connect.state.gov gives people around the world a voice and a connection to the world around them. Rather than my singing the praises of this global online community, read what some of the members have to say:
“I would like to say hi and thank to ExchangesConnect that enables everyone from around the globe to have a space to exchange their culture, traditions and so forth. It is also fascinated to have a say with everyone from different cultures so that we can avoid culture misunderstanding. Hope all enjoy as I do.”
“ExchangesConnect is a great place to share your experiences that I had in U.S.A. being an exchange student. It's safe as it is administered by U.S. Department of State. It is also beneficial for students that are not on exchange programs but they can read the experiences of the exchange members and learn from it. I would say I am having a wonderful time so far with ExchangesConnect and I will keep in touch with it.”
“I am a middle school teacher in a small rural town in Oregon, U.S.A. ...We are in the beginning stages of exploring other cultures. I am interested in schools/individual students both in North America and throughout the world!”
“I thought I'd join this forum since my 17 y/o son has applied to NSLI-Y. I hope I might learn something more about the program from other parents and learners who have experienced the program.”
“My two top reasons for participating in ExchangesConnect are: (1) to share and to get information with others and from others about my own country that how I can reconstruct it. (2) To practice the English language and to interact with new people and create a sound friendship with them.”
“I am international student from Egypt. I have been in the United States of America for seven months. I am interested in exchange culture because I think that it is very important to know about the others and let the other to know about you. I have had a great time in the U.S.A. I like communicate with the other nationalities. I have loved the American culture. People attitudes, respect each other, the education system, and a lot of other points. I am so glad for Obama. My favorite times when I watch his speech. He is very nice and smart president.”
“I really want to have this experience ... and to feel what it's like to be an American teen-age .... I really want to learn about the new world culture ... and teach them mine, because just in this way we can make peace, by creating some kind of understanding.”
At this writing, 10,287 ExchangesConnect members from over 180 countries are sharing 5,168 photos, 378 blogs, 329 discussion forums, and learning more about the people from around the world.
ExchangesConnect is also on Twitter, which was launched January 15th with bloggers from around the world covering the U.S. Presidential Inauguration. We now have over 500 followers and counting. Twitter extends the ExchangesConnect mission by connecting with exchange participants and contributing to the general online conversation about international exchange.
Join ExchangesConnect and become part of a growing global community of people interested in cross-cultural dialogue and international exchange. Also, check out the “Mascot Challenge”...just announced!