Perspectives

Through other eyes

A German-American exchange programme provides professionals with insights into the mentality of their host country.

 

Linda Krafft from Lower Saxony, 22 years old, office manager

‘I knew I wanted to experience life in another country and improve my English. After reading about the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Programme in a newspaper, I applied. I am now living in a small town in Iowa with lovely host parents. I do a lot with them – including going to my first-ever American football game.

‘Young people here find it hard to believe that studying for a degree in Germany costs less than in the USA.’

Through my host parents, I have also gained an insight into the problems of the middle classes – for example, the exorbitant cost of medical care if someone gets ill. I’m now working in the library of the local college, where I also get to talk to the students. They are really interested in the German education system and are full of questions. They find it hard to believe that studying for a degree in Germany costs less than in the USA. When I get back, I want to study English and become a teacher. My time here has strengthened my conviction.’ —

‘In America, it’s not certificates or diplomas that count. You have to actually show what you’re capable of.’

 

Fabian Rockel from North Rhine-Westphalia, 24 years old, automotive mechatronics technician

‘When I was looking for a job in Cincinnati, Ohio, I had to start by explaining the German education system to the businesses there. Americans don’t know about the dual system as such. In America, it’s not certificates or diplomas that count. You have to actually show what you’re capable of. But with my knowledge and ability, I had no problem finding a job after the language course and my time at college. I’m now working at a car dealership in Cincinnati.

The people here are very open and friendly. But I was surprised by the working hours. Many of my American colleagues work 50 to 60 hours in a typical week. And if you miss work because you’re ill, the time is deducted from your wages. Everyone talks about the American dream, but I’ve learned that you have to work very hard to achieve that. I see it through different eyes now and have come to appreciate life in Germany much more than I did before my time in the USA.’ —

‘Germans are role models in the field of renewable energy and environmental awareness.’

 

Kait Kinsey from Maine, 25 years old, radiology assistant

‘I was given the opportunity to represent my host country, Germany, in a role-play at the International Model United Nations conference in Bonn. We had to manage a fictitious food crisis, and my role was not straightforward. Germany is a leading Western power. I was therefore expected to remain neutral and be considerate of other nations, while at the same time considering what is right for Germany. During my time here, I’ve got to know how the Germans tick.

When it comes to food, for example, I know how important good quality is to them. They value organic produce and want to know where everything comes from. They are also role models in the field of renewable energy and environmental awareness. I therefore set out to be a good problem solver in the role-play – because that’s how I see the Germans. I’m also fascinated by the German culture. And food is part of that, of course. It’s important here. I was talking to my work colleagues at the Waldkrankenhaus Protestant Hospital in Spandau recently about all the different things people say before a meal here: “Mahlzeit!”, “Lass es dir schmecken!”, “Guten Appetit!” We don’t have that in America.’ —

‘I was moved to see so many people taking to the streets for what they believe in.’

 

Daniela Vogel from Bavaria, 23 years old, industrial mechanic

‘The highlight of my time in the USA? I got to experience US President Donald Trump’s inauguration live in Washington, D.C. I had been interning for a Congressman who got me a ticket for the ceremony. Then, the next day, I took part in the Million Women March against President Trump – quite the contrast. I was moved to see so many people taking to the streets for what they believe in. I had never witnessed an important political movement before.

So seeing something like that was amazing. Before that, I got the chance to experience everyday American life on the west coast of America, in Washington State. I worked for a construction company near Seattle and lived with my host mother and a Chinese student in a multicultural house share. I was particularly impressed by the friendliness of the American people, their hands-on approach and, of course, the amazing landscape. I climbed high mountains for the first time – something I would never have done before. But now I know that if I really want something, I can achieve it.’ —

‘Even if the USA has set out on an isolationist course, most Americans feel very close to Germany.’

 

Drake Jamali from Illinois, 23 years old, degree in public administration

‘I was surprised by how international Germany is. I live near Frankfurt am Main with a host family of Ethiopian heritage. We share the house with Indian exchange students. We all celebrated Christmas together and were quite the colourful team. In the USA, Germany is not really known as a country of immigrants, which is why this was such an interesting experience. In Radolfzell am Bodensee on Lake Constance, where I did my language course at the start of my stay, my host mother had also taken in refugees.

She taught me everything I need to know about waste separation – typically German. I now know what goes in the compost and what goes in the paper bin. During my time at Lake Constance, I experienced the elections in Germany. The events were much more serious than they are in the USA. Politics is quite a common topic of conversation here. It’s not always easy to explain why people elect a particular politician or a party. Even if the USA has set
out on an isolationist course, most Americans feel very close to Germany.’  —

THE CONGRESS-BUNDESTAG
YOUTH EXCHANGE PROGRAMME

 

Beyond the surface – providing insights into real life in another country. The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Programme (CBYX) offers young people from the USA and Germany the opportunity to get to grips with the mentality and culture of their host country for one year, thereby strengthening transatlantic relations through personal exchange. Many trainees and young professionals have taken part in the programme in recent years – with support from GIZ, which organises the intercultural programme in Germany on behalf of the German Bundestag. In the USA, the partner organisation Cultural Vistas runs the programme on behalf of the US Congress.

What makes the programme unique is that members of both parliaments get personally involved as a kind of ‘sponsor’ and support their scholarship holders on a one-to-one basis through, for example, meetings or internships. Another special feature is that CBYX is geared towards young women and men who have already completed vocational training. They are given the opportunity to travel abroad with a scholarship. This closes a gap in exchange programmes, the majority of which are aimed at school pupils and students.

 

www.usappp.de
Contact: Theo Fuß, theo.fuss@giz.de

THE PROJECT IN FIGURES

25,000 participants
have already travelled abroad through CBYX.

 

5,300 young professionals
have worked in their host country for a year.

 

34 years
of sponsored exchanges so far.

published in akzente 2/18