Successful Refugee Integration Begins at the Local Level

The civil war in Syria and the continued turmoil in the Middle East has resulted in millions of people – families, men, women and children – fleeing their homes. With communities torn apart by war and violence, refugees hope to find a better future in places where they can lead their lives in peace, security and stability.

At the recent Leaders’ Summit on Refugees, hosted by President Obama in partnership with six countries, including Germany, there was a shared understanding that the refugee response must be as global in nature as the crisis itself is. This will support policies, resources and funding for millions of displaced people worldwide.

Many refugees will resettle in both Germany and the United States. Though our national response is important, the ultimate success of the refugee crisis will depend on the integration that takes places in hundreds, if not thousands of local communities throughout the two countries. Once again, we must think globally and act locally to properly address this challenge.

Display boards at Symposium on refugee intergraion

Nine U.S. and German communities took part in the inaugural year of the Welcoming Communities Transatlantic Exchange, which culminated at a September symposium in Berlin. 📷: Constanze Flamme

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Exchange Tips

Cachai? (Did you catch that?): A primer on Chilean slang

You’ve taken years of Spanish. Maybe you even studied in a Spanish-speaking country. You feel prepared to take on the challenge of interning in a second language. And then you arrive in Chile and suddenly you’re not so sure that what you’re hearing can be described as español – especially since they seem to be calling it castellano!

With its slang and strongly accented speakers, Chilean Spanish can be difficult to understand at first. Once you get used to it though, you’ll realize how fun it is to say things the Chilean way.

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile, Patagonia.

Photo Credit: Douglas Scorteganga

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Alumni Spotlight

Making New Friends in Unexpected Places

The people you meet and the relationships you form are often the most lasting and rewarding parts of traveling.

And sometimes, those special bonds and friendships can come from the most unexpected of places.

That’s exactly the takeaway that Ben, one of our Train USA J-1 alumni and a winner of our 2015 contest, learned during his U.S. exchange experience.

ben schindler photo contest

New York City Slow Down, Merit Winner of the 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest

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Exchange Tips

How to Adjust to a New Semester After Going Abroad

After spending an incredible summer in Beijing, nothing seemed as daunting as a 7,000-mile journey, 40 hours of traveling, 2 flight delays, and a 1:30 AM arrival time.

Except starting a new semester the very next day.

More than a bit frazzled, a million questions buzzed through my head. How could I make sense of my time abroad and express it to my friends and family? How could I cope with this “reverse culture shock” they told me about? And how could I leverage my international experience to become a stronger student, now that I was back on campus?

If, like me, you’re starting to feel anxious about returning to reality, fret not! I’m here to share some tips on how not to feel out of place after going back to school.

University Library and Study Hall

Time to hit the books. Photo Credit: Thomas Rousing

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Alumni Spotlight

Exploring the Outdoors with Your Camera

At the end of his internship in Texas, Valentin, a Train USA J-1 alumnus and current Ph.D. student at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, decided to explore the canyons and the southwestern United States. He planned a 14-day road trip through southern Utah and northern Arizona, including five national parks.

Most nights were spent camping, often in the back country. On one night, in particular, he set up camp in the back country of Arches National Park and was fortunate enough to witness our very bright galaxy from within. He used his headlamp to light up the inside of his tent as he captured the Milky Way and other stars in the night sky.

Capturing this moment allowed Valentin to net the top prize in our 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest. We recently caught up with him to learn about his U.S. experience and see what advice he could offer this year’s crop of budding photographers.


Desert Milky Way, First Place Winner of the 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest

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Alumni Spotlight

Gianluca and Deniz on their CBYX Experience in the United States

You can’t always plan for life’s most meaningful moments.

As Gianluca, a German alumnus of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, puts it: “Don’t forget about the small things in life, like a great sunset. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle of life and forget about the important things. Live in the moment! Put your phone down, leave it at home and go live a little.”

We tend to agree. Recently, we caught up with him and Deniz, a fellow CBYX alum, two of our 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest prize winners, to learn about their U.S. experience and see what advice they could offer this year’s contestants.

gianluca deniz CBYX photo contest

Two CBYX alumni that participated in the Congressional Internship Program were finalists in our 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest.

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5 Lessons Our J-1 Participants Learned During Their U.S. Stay

Interning and living in a new country will give you a new perspective. It’s a chance to explore and immerse yourself in a new culture.

We love hearing how our international exchange programs change perspectives and build connections. Recently, we asked our participants how their perceptions of America have changed after their U.S. exchange programs. In light of recent global and domestic affairs, their reflections leave us inspired and hopeful for positive change.

UK Community Leaders

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Alumni Spotlight

How to Get to Know the World through Photography

Our Transformed by Travel Photo Contest is open to all our current and former exchange participants and alumni. And this year, the stakes are high. The grand prize winner will receive a trip to Washington, D.C. (yes, that includes airfare ✈️) this November to attend FotoWeek, a citywide celebration of photography.

Knowing that this year’s contest will be extra competitive, we recently caught up with Victor, one of our winners from last year’s contest and a 2011-12 alumnus of our Train USA J-1 programs, to get to know him some more and learn the secret behind his prize-winning entry.

2015 Transformed by Travel photo contest Victor Westerwoudt

Mountain Village, Third Place Winner of the 2015 Transformed by Travel Photo Contest. Credit: Victor Westerwoudt

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Family, Food, and Fighting for Justice: Reflections on the 2016 Cultural Vistas Fellowship

This summer, Alexis, Cynthia, and Cruz opened their eyes to new horizons, new cultures, and new experiences as part of the Cultural Vistas Fellowship, a fully funded eight-week internship opportunity for U.S. students in Bangalore, Buenos Aires, and Berlin.

Here’s a little of what they learned, living abroad for the very first time.

Cruz, Alexis, and Cynthia - Cultural Vistas Fellows

Cruz, Alexis, and Cynthia (pictured from L to R) just wrapped up an unforgettable summer living and interning overseas as members of our fourth class of Cultural Vistas Fellows. Now, we need your help to add three more fellowships in 2017 to support more students like them.

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