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.

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.

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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J-1 Journey | Future Leaders Experience U.S. Culture

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | Participant Experience | J-1 Trainee

CENET recently interviewed Joel Lundblad, a trainee from Sweden, to gain insight into his J-1 training program.  During his time in the U.S., Joel has gained professional experience that will advance his future career, while also cultivating a nuanced understanding of American culture.

How has your J-1 cultural exchange program changed you?

I’ve reached a new high in my career. I’ve held workshops for major global clients, won advertising awards. I’ve been mentioned in the biggest industry press, including Advertising Age’s Creativity Online where I received Editor’s pick for a campaign I did for MasterCard at NYC Pride. With the recognition I have received from peers in the industry, I am confident that I have a bright future ahead. 

What have been the highlights of your time in the United States?

Training in the creative industry at an Ad Age’s Agency A-List and Creativity Innovator Standout company is a highlight in itself. I have spearheaded film projects, digital campaigns and innovation projects for Fortune 500 companies, which is something only a selected few will get the opportunity to do. I feel honored to have been able to use my international experience to create impactful marketing and advertising for U.S companies.

What is different about the U.S. and your home country? How is the U.S. similar to your home country?

The biggest difference that I experience with the industry in Europe compared to the U.S is probably the way to provide feedback when working with partners, co-workers and vendors. The rhetoric is less straight-forward and far more friendly in the U.S. “Awesome! I have some notes” rather than “I don’t like it, can we change xyz”

In Sweden there is a phenomena called “The Jante Law”,  which can be described as a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.

“The Jante Law” is the complete opposite of “The American Dream” which I feel is a very inspiring mindset shared amongst New Yorkers. Everyday in New York, I encounter someone who truly believes they can and will achieve greatness. 

There are good and bad things about both phenomenas, but having the understanding and knowledge of both gives me an incredibly useful perspective in my continued career in the creative industry.

Has your perception of the United States changed? If so, how?

2016 has been an interesting year on many levels. Not least due to the fact that it’s election year. I’ve followed the developments closely and it is very interesting to me how diverse this country is, on every level. The diverse nature of the U.S didn’t come as news to me, but during 2016 I have experienced it closely which has given me a deeper understanding of the U.S.

What has been the most surprising aspect of U.S. Culture?

Living in Brooklyn has been an amazing experience. Go a couple of subway stops in any direction and you’re in a completely different culture and atmosphere. It’s almost like traveling to another country, each area with a strong and inviting community. It’s easy to understand why New York is often called “The Melting pot of the world.”

Do you think people in the world have misconceptions about U.S. culture?

Like anywhere in the world and with any culture, people make generalizations.

The U.S has 319 million people, there’s bound to be a whole lot of different people. The perception that the people have is driven in large by what the media conveys, and for the U.S, Hollywood and TV Series also largely influence the perception.

Rather than misconceptions, I believe that it’s generalization that’s the issue. And the only way to defeat generalizations is to come here, meet people from different places and different socioeconomic situations. Like anywhere, Americans are not all the same.

Why is it important for young people to experience new cultures? 

It’s simple really. The world is bigger than what you know and what you’ve seen. It can’t be explained, it has to be experienced. Immerse yourself and don’t hold yourself back from experiencing what other countries/cultures have to offer. You don’t have to like everything, but you’ll come out richer from having had the experience.

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Joel Lundblad, J-1 Trainee in New York City

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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I-LEAD Seattle Engages 61 Changemakers from J-1 Visa Program

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | #ILEAD | #ExchangesImpact

The second I-LEAD session took place in Seattle, Washington from August 21-26. The program attracted 61 delegates, representing 27 countries and 18 sponsors. I-LEAD, a U.S. Department of State program, is facilitated by the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE).

The first I-LEAD was at the American University in Washington, D.C.; the second took place at the University of Washington in Seattle. The I-LEAD experience is a 6-day, all-expenses paid program; this includes travel to and from the I-LEAD host city.

Per the CIEE selection process, applicants to I-LEAD were selected based on their interests in – and commitment to – making a professional and societal impact in their home countries following their internships.

The I-LEAD curriculum focuses on leadership, entrepreneurship, and community development. Delegates participated in workshops, attended meetings with entrepreneurs, and enjoyed cultural tours and other learning opportunities during their week-long I-LEAD session.

CENET participant, Heejae Yang, served as an I-LEAD delegate in Seattle. Heejae, a Business Administration intern in New Jersey, was able to travel across the United States in order to participate in I-LEAD. Comments about his experience may be found below:

When it comes to my thoughts or experiences, I cannot explain every single thing because every single happening was so impressive to me. Simply, I can say this experience in the United States, including I-LEAD, changed my whole life. It changed my thoughts, especially about my life. I was so impressed by every person I met. I got to know about U.S. culture and life, and I may get a Master’s degree in the U.S. one day. When I first came to the USA, I thought I would always prefer England, but by the end of the period, I was wanting to spend my winter in New York one more time! From A to Z, my attitude and thoughts were changed to the American way– whether it was acting free, struggling but enjoying life,  or meeting new people in the melting pot. Thanks a lot– I cannot say it enough.

Heejae Yang, I-LEAD Delegate

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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J-1 Interns & Trainees Tour the United Nations

By Leslie Corn

Cultural Component | #CENETJ1 | NYC

In late August, four CENET staff members visited New York City to meet with J-1 host employers and participants. During the visit, J-1 interns and trainees took part in a special cultural component activity that included a tour of the United Nations headquarters, followed by a networking reception.

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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