Monday, August 5 was an important day of celebration within the international exchange community. It marked the sixth annual Exchange Day (previously known as J-Day), which is an opportunity to spread the word about exchange programs, and specifically highlight the importance of the Exchange Visitor Program (EVP). The celebration originated as a grassroots level initiative piloted by sponsors Greenheart International, Spirit Cultural Exchange, and Cenet in the summer of 2014.
The event is now endorsed by many notable leaders within EVP, including Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs Marie Royce. “Exchange Day encourages and inspires our alumni and participants to take action and practice the lessons of cultural appreciation and understanding,” says Royce. “These actions strengthen their own communities and share what they have learned through Exchange Programs.”
35 organizations took part in the festivities this year, providing over 60 events for participants, alumni, sponsors, and allies of EVP. The motto of Exchange Day is “eat, play, give,” and participants are encouraged to share cultural cuisine, volunteer, and have some fun celebrating through the shared bond of cultural exchange.
Keep reading to learn how Cenet celebrated a successful Exchange Day comprised of local events, a national leadership assembly, and international gatherings!
International Exchange Day
In 2018, Cenet and Smaller Earth partnered to host the first-ever international Exchange Day in Liverpool, UK. After a successful pilot year, the two organizations once again collaborated to organize international Exchange Day celebrations in Liverpool, UK and Budapest, Hungary.
In Liverpool, Camp Counselor alumni celebrated together and discussed how cultural exchange has impacted their lives. John Hallard, an alumni of YMCA Camp Whittle, is one example of an attendee who shared his exchange story. “I’ve met friends from all over the world and really learned to appreciate others’ beliefs, values and lifestyles,” explained Hallard. “It has really opened up my eyes to traveling and now I love meeting people from all walks of life.”
The Smaller Earth office in Budapest provided an opportunity for alumni to share their experiences, as well. A main feature of the event was a display wall of notes with the theme “Because of cultural exchange…,” displaying the impact of exchanges among alumni who attended. Donations were also collected at the event for a special needs camp in Hungary. Special thanks to the team Smaller Earth team for hosting these events and helping make Exchange Day a worldwide phenomenon.
Exchange Day in Missouri
Our staff in Missouri participated in the festivities as well, with the Cape Girardeau office holding an international-themed event with donations going to the local Safe House for Women. In Branson, Cenet participated in and sponsored an Exchange Day celebration at Moonshine Beach Park attended by over 60 Cenet participants. Activities included a photo booth, live DJ, beach volleyball, and volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club of Branson. Thank you to the Branson Chamber of Commerce for providing this event for Summer Work Travel participants in the area.
Assembly on International Exchange (Washington, D.C.)
As an opportunity to promote Exchange Day and highlight exceptional leaders within our programs, Cenet also hosted the first Assembly on International Exchange in Washington, D.C. A group of 10 representatives—both current and alumni—from the Trainee, Intern, Camp Counselor, Summer Work Travel, and Magellan exchange programs were selected to attend the three-day event.
The Assembly was created with the goal of encouraging a deeper understanding of the impact of international exchange among leaders in the exchange community, right in the heart of national and international diplomacy: our nation’s capital. Participants were given the opportunity to visit monuments and explore the capital, as well as partake in intensive leadership programming throughout the conference. Notable speakers included Michael McCarry, former Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange; and Lynette Evans-Tiernan, ECA Public Affairs Specialist.
Hosteling International DC (HI) assisted with programming for the event, with a presentation from Community Engagement Coordinator Rachel Martin. The “give” component of Exchange Day was also organized by HI, which provided representatives the opportunity to volunteer at the DC Central Kitchen.
One of the highlights of the Assembly was an afternoon dedicated to congressional visits on Capitol Hill. Participants visited the offices of Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Josh Hawley, as well as Representatives Jason Smith and Billy Long. Participants shared their experiences with EVP as a way to promote the programs to Cenet’s local and state representatives.
The Assembly ended with a visit to American University, which included a university tour and presentation on public diplomacy from Drs. Sherry Mueller and Juliana Geran Pilon. Mueller is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence at the School of International Service (SIS), and Geran Pilon serves as a Senior Fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. With their extensive background in leadership, research, and publication within the field of international exchange, both provided an enriching discussion on shaping foreign relations “one handshake at a time.”
One participant described the event as “very informative, and not only because I could meet other participants from over the world—it also gave me an opportunity to look back what I have done so far and also newly set my path for the other half of my internship period by sharing me and other pals’ thoughts about our careers. From this assembly I could realize international exchange is much more important than I thought, which is beyond the personal benefits. It was an inspiring and motivating moment.”
We would like to thank the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, HI, and American University for providing their time and invaluable contributions to the event.
Overall, 2019 saw another successful Exchange Day thanks to attendees and volunteers across the globe. Cenet is fortunate to have a foundation of dedicated staff, inspiring participants, and a supportive community that continue to spread the positivity of cultural exchange and live out the message of Exchange Day year-round. We look forward to seeing what’s in store for 2020!
For more information on advocacy efforts to promote international exchange programs, please visit the Alliance for International Exchange website: https://www.alliance-exchange.org/about/