CENET Partners with University of Tennessee Knoxville and Missouri State University to Provide J-1 Leadership Summits

Equipping Future Leaders | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

This summer, CENET has had the privilege of once again partnering with the University of Tennessee Knoxville and Missouri State University to provide two separate leadership conferences for J-1 participants spending their summers in the surrounding communities. The events provided leadership training for over 50 J-1 Summer Work and Travel participants.

University of Tennessee Knoxville (UTK)

Approximately 15 J-1 Summer Work Travel participants traveled from Gatlinburg, TN and Pigeon Forge, TN to visit UTK in June. The visit included a campus tour; a presentation on American Musical Roots and a tour of the NPR station on campus (WUOT); a presentation on phrasal verbs and informal English; a tour of the Howard Baker Center; and a session on graduate admissions in the U.S.

Highlights included an improvised song written about the J-1 students by Todd Steed, as well as an NPR tour that resulted in two J-1 participants getting to record an interview. Todd Steed has worked, lived, and studied in China, Lithuania, and Indonesia, and his global knowledge and sharp sense of humor helped him connect with the students. The students also enjoyed an engaging presentation on phrasal verbs from Em Chitty, author of “How We Really Talk and Sound.” Em Chitty shared: “It was a pleasure to present on phrasal verb idioms to your CENET attendees. I was happy to give them a key to understanding common idioms that are hard to figure out. They were an attentive and delightful audience.” The students also gained insight into U.S. graduate programs through an informative session given by Dr. Andy Ray; Dr. Ray is a former Peace Corps. volunteer and currently serves as International Student Recruitment Manager.

After the visit, Todd Steed shared, “We loved having the CENET visitors to WUOT.  They were totally tuned in and anything that makes the world a little smaller and warmer these days, we are all for it.”

Thank you to the University of Tennessee Knoxville for hosting CENET & our area participants!

Missouri State University (MSU)

Approximately 41 J-1 participants from 9 countries attended the CENET Leadership Conference at MSU in mid-July. The J-1 students are spending their university breaks in nearby Branson, MO.

The 1-day leadership training included: opening comments and a presentation on “Leadership in an Interdependent World” by Brad Bodenhausen, Director of International Leadership and Training Center; a themed lunch titled “Little Italy”; a panel discussion on leadership led by MUS faculty and staff; a campus tour; and lastly, a closing reception with MSU International student leaders, faculty, staff, and special guests.

Thank you MSU and the International Leadership Training Center for hosting and coordinating this special event! Additional thanks to the office of Senator Claire McCaskill for attending the CENET Leadership Conference at Missouri State University!

 

 

 

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’s First 100 Days

Op-Ed By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

I believe it was the wise words of Alabama that once proclaimed “you can’t keep a good man down.” And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Thanks Randy Owen. I’m not certain the song was written for this moment in time, but it could be. It is, after all, 2017– the year of anything is possible.

Due to events that will not be named in this apolitical post (hint: it started in November), it’s safe to say there’s been some recent challenges presented to the exchange community.

In the midst of adversity, it’s as though Alabama (the band) was singing directly to Missouri (the state), and we got to work. Although it felt like our course became uphill, we continued in forward-movement towards our goals.

Below is a snapshot of CENET’s first 100 Days; 100 days well spent, endeavoring to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


Local:

CENET started the year in our new office, with our new website, with our old staff holding some new titles, and some new staff joining the team. We also welcomed a new J-1 category. It was like we won the lottery. But better because we didn’t get the curse that goes along with all lottery wins (source: the internet).

We also provided Culture in the Classroom sessions for 530 students, impacting 31 classrooms at 3 schools with 9 different presenters sharing their unique cultural backgrounds. A special presentation in Oran attracted media attention from the Southeast Missourian  and KFVS coverage; the session also had support from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith.

CENET hosted a Welcome Reception in our office space, to share our mission with new friends and long-time supporters. Over 150 community members joined us to sample international cuisine and wine & beer selections from around the world.

On April 27, over 40 CENET supporters gathered at Hedman Vineyards for a special culinary and wine event celebrating Swedish culture and raising funds for Culture in the Community. The funds raised at the event will be directed to sending area youth to the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages for 2017 summer programs.

In addition, CENET hosted a local Chamber of Commerce After-Hours event, presented at the women’s Optimist Club in Jackson, sponsored “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio” as part of SEMO of the World, welcomed various visiting partners from around the world, and hosted a Magellan University member from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.

 


Regional:

In Branson, CENET cohosted the J-1 Community Forum, and the Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association’s monthly meeting. CENET was also selected to present at the County Partnership’s Workforce Summit. Community members in Branson are highly supportive, with the Branson Mayor and the office of Representative Billy Long regularly attending J-1 related events. CENET’s Regional Director, support staff, fellow sponsors, and community members continue to prepare for another successful summer season in Branson.


National:

We began the year with a visit to our west coast partners to provide J-1 education and training on our new website.

To connect within the exchange community and to gain valuable insight into the Camp Counselor program, CENET attended the American Camp Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Once again, CENET participated in Advocacy Day. CENET and fellow Alliance members visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of J-1 exchanges.

Recently, CENET had the privilege of participating in a volunteer project in Wisconsin Dells, which attracted approximately 360 winter work and travel exchange participants; the following day, CENET attended the Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.


International:

CENET staff members have visited international partners in the United Kingdom, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw, while also attended hiring fairs throughout Europe and the Dominican Republic. In addition, an alumni gathering was held in the Dominican Republic.

Magellan member universities, Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, also received CENET visits.

CENET attended the WETM conference in Munich, Germany.


Looking Ahead: 

As we move forward, CENET will continue to dedicate ourselves to programs that inspire a safer, more prosperous, and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. We will also continue to advocate for exchange programs and initiatives that promote global knowledge, cultural sensitivity, peaceful solutions. Should you be interested in learning more about CENET programs or how to get involved, please contact CENET.

And if you aren’t sure what CENET is or how you got on this page, you should probably go watch the Alabama Can’t Keep a Good Man Down video. You earned it.

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 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.

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.

CENET Staff Member Shares Peace Corps Journey

By Leslie Corn

Global Citizen | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

CENET staff member, Shay Priester, recently returned from 27 months of Peace Corps service across various remote regions of Ecuador. In the interview below, Shay shares her passion for international exchange programs and the positive global impact of exchanges.

You grew up a small, rural town in Missouri. For readers unfamiliar with Jackson, MO, could you describe the community?

Jackson is located west of the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Memphis and is treasured for its rolling hills and vast farmland. For me, Jackson epitomizes “small town America” in the sense of being a civic-minded, hardworking people committed to a strong sense of community.

Who or what inspired you to experience new cultures?

My sense of curiosity, and also getting to know the world through National Geographic magazines and stories from family members. My maternal grandmother is French and emigrated to the U.S. after World War II. My paternal grandmother spent time carrying out medical missions in Bolivia as a nurse. When I was 17 I convinced her to let me tag along and help with triage and translation. I accompanied her through the Andean highlands and Amazon. Shortly after during my senior year of high school I became close friends with a Peruvian exchange student who lived in Bolivia when I had visited the country. It made the world feel like such a small place. I related to her closely when at first she had seemed so foreign. I could speak with her in Spanish and share experiences only known to those who had been where we both had been. I was motivated to study anthropology, continue traveling, and ultimately join the Peace Corps.

Can you describe a few of your exchange experiences?

My travels have seen me primarily through Central and South America, as well as Spain and Canada. I have participated internationally in educational and volunteer exchanges, and have also worked in the U.S. with youth exchange camps, English language programs, as well as for the Cultural Exchange Network helping administer the J-1 programs. Most recently I lived in Ecuador for about two and a half years for Peace Corps.

Please describe your motivations, core beliefs, and personal successes to date?

I’m motivated by the human spirit’s will to overcome the human condition. I’ve been called naive, but within that label find myself in the ranks of those who serve others in a way that allows people to help themselves. I continue to believe that the biggest changes must begin first within ourselves, and in that regard we as individuals can change the world. My biggest personal success is helping others find and accomplish theirs. Professionally speaking to date, it was carrying out that same idea through service in the Peace Corps.

Who or what made the biggest impact on you during your Peace Corps service?

During Peace Corps service I lived with a few different families and made close friendships. These Ecuadorians became my support network and gave me a sense of home. I lived with them, and in two years time lived so much life with them. They saw me through sickness, asked me to be godmother to their children, and welcomed my brother as family when he visited from the states. In the same way that my biological family has an indelible mark on me, so does my Ecuadorian family. Their impact is impossible to quantify and difficult to describe.

Did you experience culture shock?

Uncommonly, I didn’t experience much culture shock upon arrival to Ecuador, but in my return to the U.S. have experienced “reverse culture shock.” I’ve been patient with myself to overcome it, and have listened to advice given to J-1 participants and international exchange visitors to the U.S. I’ve maintained contact with my family in Ecuador, reached out to the Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) community in the U.S., and have gotten involved in different social activities since returning home.

Although you were a visitor in another country, were able to share U.S. culture?

Sharing U.S. culture is one of Peace Corps’ three goals of service. As a longer-term resident of Ecuador I was able to share many aspects of U.S. culture including culinary creations, major holidays and customs, and the diversity of U.S. history and values. I broke down stereotypes that Ecuadorians have of U.S. Americans, but managed to uphold some with my love of Michael Jackson, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and baseball.

Did you make lasting connections with the people in your host community in Ecuador?

Absolutely. I still speak weekly with my host family, friends, and coworkers in Ecuador and am guiding a young man through applying for a passport. It’s his dream to visit the United States, and hopefully I’ll have the opportunity to repay the hospitality he showed me. Every week I get messages from friends talking about what we were doing together last year at this time, and how I’m surviving in the U.S. without my favorite Ecuadorian foods. My Ecuadorian friends are just as meaningful to me as the relationships I have in the U.S.

Why is it important for people to experience other cultures?

Experiencing other cultures provides us the opportunity to see our own values and realities through a different lens, and to appreciate the differences that make the world an interesting place. Cultural exchange gives us the gift of understanding things from multiple perspectives, and considering those realities in our decision making.

What are ways a person can become a global citizen in his/her local community?

One doesn’t need to leave the U.S. or likely even their hometown in order to be a global citizen. It’s easy to connect with the international community on many levels. If you live near a university it’s probable that there are international students who would love to share customs from their home country. There are also opportunities for exchange visitors to temporarily live in the U.S. like the J-1 visa program. You could invite them to speak at your school or business. You can become pen pals with someone in another country, or even Skype into a classroom for a live discussion. You might try some international cuisine. The possibilities are endless and simply depend on your curiosity and engagement.

Cultural exchanges have been cited as top catalysts for long-term political change. Why do you think that is?

Catalysts for political changes are often born from the negative: famine, war, violence. On the other hand, cultural exchanges are positive experiences that participants enjoy sharing. Cultural exchange requires people to look beyond themselves and work for a greater good, while at the same time depending on many people and systems (often foreign) to assist in a positive experience. That experience inspires involvement. Leaving one’s own country encourages a heightened commitment to service and participation upon return. With cultural exchange comes an exchange of ideas, a broader understanding of what are commonly seen as differences, and multicultural perspectives on issues that encourage active engagement with those in public service. It often inspires participants to run for office, lobby on behalf of other causes, or provide a voice to those who might otherwise not be heard. All from simply living in another place and understanding a different way of life.

Given your professional experience with the J-1 visa, why is it an important program for U.S. public diplomacy objectives?

Programs like the J-1 visa exchange give participants an opportunity for a deeper understanding of American culture and values while simultaneously providing us an understanding of their culture. They also gain valuable experience in the professional sector. Participants eventually return to their home countries as ambassadors and experts of ours, and hopefully more informed citizens aimed at contributing to the betterment of society. The effects of this type of soft diplomacy can be likened to planting the seed of a tree under whose shade we will likely never sit.

What is the single greatest lesson you learned from your exchange experiences?

I find we’re all more alike than different. There is much more that unites us in the human experience than divides us.

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.

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Budapest Reunion Draws Over 1100 J-1 Alumni

By Leslie Corn

Resort Leaders | #CENETJ1 #J1Alumni

BUDAPEST– On October 7, 1100+ J-1 Alumni gathered at the Bálna event center in Budapest to celebrate the close of another successful summer. Decked out in a prom-themed dress code, the attendees ranged from first-year alumni to those who completed programs over a decade ago. 

In addition to Hungarian alumni, four other countries were represented at the celebration: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Approximately 100 program staff attended the reunion, including representatives from Smaller Earth USA and CENET.

Live music & a DJ kept the dance floor packed throughout the evening; a photo booth and raffles were also crowd favorites. An event highlight occurred when Smaller Earth CEO, Bastian Weinberger, addressed the crowd before a video played showcasing summer highlights from the newest alumni, freshly returned from their J-1 exchange programs in America.

Special thanks to our partners at Smaller Earth & their Hungarian office (Camp Leaders/Resort Leaders) for coordinating the reunion, as they have done for over 11 years. CENET served as a first-time event sponsor. Several event photos courtesy of Smaller Earth. Thank you for including CENET in such an amazing event! 

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.

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