youth ambassadors

Youth Ambassadors in the Muslim World

in Student Activism by

The U-32 and YES Abroad Connection

By Karen Liebermann

One student at at time, one year at a time, U-32 has been cultivating youth ambassadors in countries with significant Muslim populations.  This is made possible by the Kennedy-Lugar YES Abroad Program, an exchange program sponsored by the US Department of State.  YES was started in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, as an effort to increase dialogue and mutual understanding between people of the US and people of countries with significant Muslim populations. Initially, it was a way for students from abroad to live and study in the US, but in 2007, it was expanded to include US students.  Each year, 65 American students win this scholarship to study abroad in a country that has a significant Muslim population, and U-32 students have a great record of being selected for this fully funded school year exchange program.  Students can spend their junior, senior or gap years immersed in another culture.

In 2013-14, Quinn McVeigh (class of 2015) travelled to Oman, making lasting connections with her host family.  In 2014-15, Katie Ware spent her junior year in the  Philippines and Rachael Phillips (class of 2015) spent her senior year in Sarajevo,  Bosnia.  Last year, Kanwara “Pui” Limakara from Thailand, came to U-32 on a YES exchange (the program that brings students from countries with significant Muslim populations here to the US).

On exchange currently, in Dakar, Senegal, is Cricket Liebermann. Cricket has been in Senegal since September 1st and will return in June of 2017.  She’s in school at the Senegalese American Bilingual School in Dakar, and is getting involved in the community, playing softball on the school team and taking dance classes.  Of this experience so far, Cricket says:

“Having the chance to study abroad in Senegal has made me grow in so many ways.  Just over two months ago, I arrived in Dakar and everyday since then I have been learning, exploring, meeting new people, immersing myself in the culture.  I can say for sure that exchange has changed the way I see and interpret so many things. It is truly a life changing experience.”

Cricket is blogging about her experience this year through vttodakar.wordpress.com and is happy to answer any questions about what it is like to apply, and to be on exchange through this program.

Think you might be the next U-32 ambassador or know of a young person who could be?  Check out the YES Abroad website  for application information.  The deadline for applying for the 2017-18 year was December 1st, 2016, but it’s not too early to be dreaming and planning for 2018-19.  This year’s students are abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Jordan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, the Philippines, Senegal, and Thailand.

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