As we begin our celebration of International Education Week, I’m struck by how technology has influenced our core mission here at YFU. A couple of weeks ago, I was honored to participate in a panel sponsored by the Digital Diplomacy Coalition and the United Nations Foundation (recording available at: http://digidiplomats.com/socialgood) on the impact of the digital space and youth.
Certainly digital media has shattered international borders in ways that make the work of those who engage in international education both exciting and challenging. While it has always been the case that students going on exchange represent their nations as diplomats in person, young people are harnessing technology and social media in creative ways, and in so doing, are becoming “digi diplomats.”
At YFU, we’ve seen some great examples this year already. Take a look at a YFU student from Mexico who decided that blogging was too boring and therefore created a video diary of his time in Denmark.
Better yet, YFU Germany student Alina is blogging for Spiegel, sharing in real time her experience of life in the United States as an exchange student.
These stories give us a peek inside the real struggles and triumphs of young people who have made the world their classroom. Through their words and images, we learn as much, if not more, about life in other nations as we could ever hope to learn in our traditional media coverage. It’s amazing to think about how these young people are shaping our world … and their own!
When our founder, Dr. Rachel Andresen, first created this program, students wrote letters home and reflected on their year in paper essays. In today’s exchange universe, students are sharing impressions of other cultures in real time. Their stories enrich us, their courage inspires us, their stories remind us how vital our mission remains to this day.
Happy International Education Week to all who care about this field, and to those young people on exchange: we can’t wait to share in the new stories you’ll create in the days and months to come.