Technology Just One of the Many Tools for Bringing Countries Closer Together
March 28, 2012
The U.S. and Russia have a complex history together, particularly over the past half-century. As the two countries continue to improve relations, both Americans and Russians are building more personal connections by using new technologies and partnering with cultural exchange organizations.
The North County Times reports that several schools in southern California have collaborated with cultural exchange organizations in the hopes of bringing students from the U.S. and Russia together.
Global SchoolNet, based out of Encinitas, California, north of San Diego, has created a network of schools from around the U.S. and Russia by using a variety of new technologies. Tools like Skype can help bring Russian and American students face-to-face, giving them the chance to gain a better understanding of each other and dispel some of the common misperceptions and stereotypes about their countries.
"Our number one priority is to improve cultural understanding between U.S. and Russian youth," Yvonne Marie Andres, president of Global SchoolNet Foundation and chairwoman US-Russia Civil Society Education Youth Group, told the Times.
Dennis Rogatkin, Andres' counterpart as the Russian chairman of the US-Russia Civil Society Education Youth Group, explained that many in the U.S. still see Russia as "one of the far-away countries." The 12-hour time difference that separates parts of the two countries may often make direct communication more difficult, but Global SchoolNet is finding that educators have still been able to make real connections even across those distances. By spanning these obstacles and continuing to work on the technology to connect them, schools should be able to start getting more students involved in the program soon. Thus far, Global SchoolNet already operates cultural exchange programs with China and Vietnam.
Beyond virtual environments, there are, of course, other opportunities to experience other countries in person. Many Russian students have participated in the work and travel program supported by the U.S. Department of State. As part of this program, students are hosted by U.S. employers in short-stay jobs that allow them to earn money to pay for their trip and learn about the U.S. Similarly, several U.S.-based organizations also provide the opportunity for citizens to work overseas in a wide range of industries.
The U.S. government has taken an active interest in encouraging better relations with Russia as well. Just last year, the U.S. State Department organized the first hockey exchange with the country, bringing 18 Russian hockey players to Washington, D.C., and New York.
Andres describes the efforts of Global SchoolNet as just a small step in these improved relations, "This is the beginning of a very large initiative to increase relationships between Russia and the United States on many different levels of society."