CENET Volunteers at Community Event in Wisconsin Dells

By Leslie Corn

Community Support Groups | #CENETJ1

CENET recently traveled to Wisconsin Dells to volunteer at a local event for Work and Travel students and to attend The Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.

Prior to the forum, CENET volunteered at a community event that attracted approximately 360 Work and Travel students. The event provided ice skating and dinner, at no charge to the participants. Volunteers from Bridgepoint Church, community members, and several sponsor representatives helped make the event a success.

 

The following day, CENET attended The Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum. The morning began with a welcome address from Mayor Brian Landers, followed by a presentation from Department of State official, Shelia Grant; Grant’s session included a program overview, regulatory updates, and suggested best practices. After the presentation, breakout sessions took place, emphasizing cultural events, safety & transportation, social security, and the community support group.

The local media covered the forum; the piece may be read here.

To learn more about the event, or to inquire about a J-1 community support group in your area, please contact CENET  

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

Alumni Spotlight: Chef Maria Mastrangelo

By Leslie Corn

CENET Alumni | J-1 Success Stories #CENETJ1

Congratulations to CENET alumnus, Chef Mastrangelo, on the opening of her restaurant Ambrosia on April 15!

In 2012, Maria Mastrangelo participated in the J-1 trainee program in New York City. Since her program’s completion, she has returned to Italy, where she is now achieving her dream of opening her own restaurant.

Recently, CENET was able to catch up with Chef Mastrangelo; she shared feedback about her J-1 cultural exchange program and its impact on her career.

I participated in a J-1 program because I already had a Master’s degree in hospitality and coming to the USA gave me an opportunity to grow. The program improved my knowledge and opened my mind more than any book or school. I see cultural exchanges as fundamental for growth. Participating in my program improved my perception of the U.S. and its people. It was a dream and an opportunity to live the U.S. way of life. I had chances to speak to friends and colleagues about my culture and different possibilities in life and career.

I am opening a restaurant in Italy thanks to my CENET J-1 program which improved my skills and now I am called Chef.

– CHEF Mastrangelo, J-1 Program Alumnus  

You can check out the Ambrosia website here.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

CENET Participates in ‘SEMO of the World’ Celebration

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community | #CITC #CENETJ1

Throughout the spring semester, Southeast Missouri State University (SEMO) will provide activities honoring world cultures. Students, faculty, and members of the regional community are invited to participate in “SEMO of the World,” a celebration of cultural diversity in Southeast Missouri.

“This is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the numerous internationally-focused activities happening across campus and in the community during the remainder of the semester.  Not everyone is aware of the deep and meaningful ways Southeast is engaged in international education, and ‘SEMO of the World’ is an opportunity to demonstrate that engagement,” said Kevin Timlin, executive director of Southeast’s International Education and Services, “‘SEMO of the World’ is an opportunity to demonstrate how much we, as a University community, respect and value all that international students and scholars bring to the educational environment here. We hope everyone will take the time to attend some of these events to show that everyone from around the world is welcome here.” (source: Southeast Missourian)

Currently, 883 international students representing 50 countries are enrolled at SEMO. Various student and community organizations are joining forces to provide a calendar of meaningful activities for the “SEMO of the World” series; these activities will provide international students with opportunities to share their cultures and customs with their American counterparts.

CENET joined the festivities by sponsoring “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio,” organized by the Brazilian Student Association and hosted by Centenary United Methodist Church. Per the event description, the evening was a “high-energy night exploring the richness and diversity of Brazil by enjoying traditional Brazilian dishes prepared by Chef Juliana, a live samba performance by renowned Brazilian music and dance group Samba Bom, carnival dancers, samba lessons, bossa nova, capoeira, freestyle soccer and much more.”

The CENET staff especially enjoyed getting to see several Brazilian volunteers from Culture in the Community (CITC) participate in the event; one demonstrated capoeira, a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music, while others performed a Brazilian pop song.

CENET’s contribution was used to hire Samba Bom, a renowned music and dance group, and to provide special lighting for the event.

The evening was a huge success and a true celebration of Brazilian culture.

Check out event photos in the gallery below. Details about other “SEMO of the World” events may be found here.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

Culture in the Classroom Provides Presentations for 200 Local High School Students

By Leslie Corn

Local Impact | #CITC #CENETJ1

SIKESTON, MO– On Wednesday, March 29, Culture in the Classroom visited the Spanish classrooms at Sikeston High School.

Approximately 200 students were provided authentic, international education, with a focus on Costa Rican culture. CENET staff member and native of Costa Rica, Brayan Rueda, shared about the geography, language, and customs of his home culture. A highlight of the visit included a sampling of gallo pinto, a Costa Rican cuisine, paired with fresh limeade; the culinary addition fit into the classroom’s recent unit on foods.

The students were attentive and energetic, and the hosting teachers expressed gratitude to CENET. One teacher shared, “My students loved it…thank you so much! I definitely hope we can continue to do more presentations in the future.”

Culture in the Classroom is part of CENET’s local program, Culture in the Community. The programs utilize Southeast Missouri State University’s exchange students, local residents from other countries, and CENET staff to provide authentic, interactive education about world cultures. Each Culture in the Classroom program offers tailored curriculum to match the needs of the specific school or group. If you are interested in booking a session or learning more about the program, please email cenet@cenet.org or call 573-335-7111 during regular business hours.

CENET will also be hosting an upcoming culinary and wine event, “Taste of Sweden,” an authentic Swedish experience. All proceeds will benefit Culture in Community. For more details or to purchase tickets, please visit: https://tasteofsweden.eventbrite.com

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

Does ‘America First’ Mean ‘America Alone’? 

By Michael McCarry

Op-Ed | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

We are still in the first months of the Trump Administration.  Early indicators suggest that our new President is not yet a supporter of international exchange programs.

While detail is scant concerning Trump’s first proposed budget, press reports indicate he proposes deep cuts in funding for the State Department’s exchange programs.

And during his campaign, Trump indicated that he would eliminate a variety of unfunded State Department programs that reach large numbers of international students and young professionals.  These inbound programs comprise a creative range of activities for young adults that include internships, professional training, camp counseling, and casual work at summer resorts.  These are programs administered by Cultural Exchange Network (CENET) and other nongovernmental organizations in partnership with the State Department.

This apparent disregard for exchanges puts Trump outside a 65-year bipartisan political consensus that these programs are an important component of our national security.

Ronald Reagan, the ultimate Cold Warrior, was a believer.  After his election in 1980, Reagan wanted to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles in Germany to counter a Soviet deployment.  The German public resisted.

The White House concluded that part of its public opinion problem in Germany was demographic. Germans who remembered the defeat of Hitler, the Berlin airlift, and the Marshall Plan were passing from the scene, along with their personal sense of gratitude toward the U.S.  Rising generations of Germans did not have a similar emotional connection to America.

The Reagan solution?  One element was The President’s Youth Exchange Initiative, designed to greatly expand high school exchanges between the U.S. and other nations, including Western Europe.  The idea was to foster what President Reagan called ‘a language of understanding’ between nations, powered by a cohort of citizens who had lived in each other’s homes, attended each other’s schools, and understood each other’s values.

Since the success of Reagan’s youth exchange initiative, American leaders from both parties have turned repeatedly to exchange programs in times of major international events, whether crisis or opportunity.  People-to-people programs were close to the heart of the American response to the 9/11 attacks, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and China’s Tiananmen Square violence.

Republicans and Democrats have always supported exchange programs for a reason: these programs make a positive difference to our national security.  Exchange experiences build a web of understanding and relationships that lasts a lifetime.  They make us safer.

Think about how much harder it is to demonize an entire nationality – ‘all Americans are this way’ or ‘all Germans are that way’ – if you’ve actually met an American or a German, had a meal with them, worked or studied beside them.  That’s an equation that applies to international students who come here, and to Americans who study abroad.  We all win.

And think, too, how an American exchange experience affects the lives of those who come here.   Those participants return to their home countries with improved English and with new knowledge and self-confidence gained from successfully navigating American culture.  These qualities equip them for future success, and many exchange alumni around the world have gone on to careers as diplomats, cabinet ministers, parliamentarians, or even heads of state.  And although if these alumni don’t pursue careers in politics or policy, their influence in business, academia, journalism, or other fields can be significant.

Simply put, these programs make friends, often influential friends, for America.

Our new Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, made the point well in Congressional testimony in 2013, when he was Commander of the U.S. Central Command:  “…if you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition…

“… it’s a cost-benefit ratio. The more we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget as we deal with the outcome of apparent American withdrawal from the international scene.”

For nearly 40 years, Republicans and Democrats have agreed that President Reagan had it right:  we need to keep working on his “language of understanding”, a language that connects Americans to the world, and by doing so, makes us all safer.


Michael McCarry

Michael McCarry is a Senior Advisor at CENET. With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.