An Update from our President & CEO
Like many people and institutions throughout the world, InterExchange experienced a year very different from the one we had hoped for. As an organization whose mission and purpose depends on open borders and reliable access to international travel, we were greatly tested by the many restrictions and impediments that our participants had to overcome in order to have a fulfilling international cultural exchange experience.
We are grateful for each participant and host who have helped us achieve our mission despite the many obstacles. We admire their tenacity, resilience, and willingness to adhere to responsible safety protocols. Most of all, we admire the bravery and optimism that kept them working to achieve their dreams. As you’ll learn from this 2021 recap, those fortunate to participate got so much out of their experience that it will forever be a defining moment of accomplishment in their lives.
We also have an amazing staff and a Board of Directors at InterExchange who approach adversity as an opportunity to shine. Without them, the challenges of the past two years would have been insurmountable. Our teams went above and beyond to provide every participant with enriching cultural opportunities. Our staff-led DEI Committee raised us to a higher state of awareness and commitment to do more. Our Board of Directors’ support for management’s efforts to retain staff shows that they are focused on the future and optimistic about what InterExchange will achieve in the coming years.
The Board and Senior Leadership met together in the summer of 2021 to chart a course that combines greater efficiencies across our BridgeUSA programs, a broader commitment to philanthropic activities, and investment in business innovation and diversification in the advancement of our mission. As the new normal becomes more stable and predictable, we look forward to refocusing on these efforts.
InterExchange believes that public diplomacy programs like ours help young people and their hosts become better global citizens. In alignment with our mission, we have invested additional effort and resources to advocate for this point of view. By working with notable associations, and supporting the U.S. Department of State’s efforts to achieve its goals and objectives, InterExchange has helped the entire exchange community remain vibrant and visible.
Throughout the pandemic, we have all come to better understand the true value of our relationships and the ways we communicate with one another. This new appreciation for social connection ultimately reinforces our belief that in-person international cultural exchange programs are a unique and irreplaceable way of connecting with others around the world in substantial and immersive ways.
We thank you for being part of our programs, for your interest in what we do, and your support of the value of people-to-people diplomacy.
Christine La Monica-Lunn, President & CEO
Celebrating our Participants
While 2021 continued to be an unusual year for international and cultural exchange programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our participants had rewarding experiences in the United States and reported having highly satisfying and successful programs. In 2021, our program participants came from 79 countries. We are honored to share some of their stories.
Super Au Pair 2021
Meet Lavinia “Lavi” Steffens Ferst from Curitiba, Brazil. Lavi has helped her host family, the Buchanan’s of Rockwall, Texas survive and thrive during host dad’s year-long military deployment in Somalia.
Meet our 6 Super Au Pair finalists from Japan, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador and South Africa!
2021 Program Reflections
Many brave, adventurous young individuals were, unfortunately, not able to join their exchange programs because of the challenges related to COVID-19. Those who did take a leap into uncertainty were eager to travel and participate in cultural exchange, sharing their stories and home traditions with new friends and colleagues in the United States.
My future career goal is to apply to a Master or a PhD program in the U.S. or in Europe. The Work & Travel USA program will help me get the experience universities normally look for and also improve my level of English which is important no matter what field I decide to get into.
Camila from Paraguay
Work & Travel USA
Working at a camp with people who have disabilities and knowing that I can be a part of helping people to carry out their daily activities and making people happy is a really rewarding experience.
Christine from Jamaica
Besides improving my English skills, I gained an insight into how a fashion company works in a fast-changing environment. I learned negotiation skills with big chain stores, ecommerce, and how the supply chain operated during the pandemic.
Kevin from Argentina
Career Training USA
Meet our Winter Work & Travel USA program participants Camila, Agustina and Paulie from Paraguay!
Cultural Exchange: In-person and Online Adventures
Volunteering at the 2021 TCS NYC Marathon
InterExchange program participants come to the United States for a variety of reasons: learning about U.S. culture, making an impact on the communities in which they live, and making memories they’ll remember forever. A few of our Au Pair USA program participants were able to do all three in a single day, by volunteering at the 2021 New York City Marathon!
Meet Tais from Brazil, Alejandra from Mexico, Nancy from the United States, and Estrella from the Netherlands, reflecting on their experience being fluid station volunteers and cheering on the runners at the 2021 TCS NYC Marathon.
Culture Buzz: Taking Digital Cultural Actions
- 2,700+ participants engaged
- 220+ digital cultural actions taken
Facilitating a cultural learning process for participants during their programs is our top priority. Our ongoing series of Culture Buzz communications featured diverse topics, provided specific learning resources, and calls for digital cultural actions. These actions included exploring topics about American holidays, ways to engage in noteworthy causes locally and globally, and reflecting on the professional skills gained as a result of the exchange experience.
Celebrating our Hosts
In 2021, American host families and host organizations in 39 states and the District of Columbia welcomed international exchange participants with InterExchange. Here are some of the reflections on their hosting experience.
As part-time Mayor for a resort town, the international exchange students I employ through my “day job” are given the opportunities to experience many aspects of a small-town American life. As a result of the interactions with a large number of locals, the bonds formed and bridges crossed reach nearly every socio-economic and political level in the community. This two-way exposure has changed many hearts and minds with respect to diversity and helped to open eyes and eliminate stereotypes.
Mike S., Owner at Lake Erie Vacation Rentals in Port Clinton, OH
Work and Travel USA host employer
As a foreign policy think tank that regularly deals with foreign governments, businesses, and stakeholders, building and developing relationships between the United States and our allies and partners is viewed as integral to our mission. By hosting international interns/trainees we not only build our own intercultural understanding but help to develop the skills and intercultural understanding with our allies and partners on an interpersonal, people-to-people basis.
Lauren G., Program Assistant at Atlantic Council in Washington, DC
Career Training USA host organization
Our Super Au Pair Lavi would have been a lifesaver for our family simply by being there. But she was not satisfied with that. Lavi was dedicated to transforming this past year from one of trial and tribulation to one of adventure, learning, and excitement.
Blake B., United States Navy Lieutenant
Au Pair USA program host family in Texas
Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
We believe that international exchange has an important role to play in contributing to broader awareness and successful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategies. At InterExchange, the programs we facilitate support our mission of promoting intercultural awareness, empowering participants with intercultural connections, and providing them a lifelong connection to the international community.
In 2021, DEI was central to our mission and we were committed to educating ourselves and our community with the goal of being more empathetic and compassionate global citizens.
20+ groundbreaking Courageous Conversations and Open Forums facilitated by the InterExchange DEI Committee allowed our team to innovate and have challenging and important discussions while working 100% remotely during the pandemic.
DEI Resource Guide
The brand new Explore Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Guide complete with comprehensive readings, tools and other relevant resources serves as a valuable toolkit to guide all members of the InterExchange community on their paths toward allyship and understanding.
Read more about our Key Takeaways from 2021: Awareness, Assessment, Action, Accountability.
Supporting Christianson Fellows
The InterExchange Christianson Fellowship supports candidates who have independently arranged their own international volunteer, intern, or work programs. Recipients of this highly competitive fellowship are motivated to pursue international work experiences that directly relate to their field of study, and will provide them with a global perspective for their future careers. Former Fellows have gone on to receive Fulbright awards and start nonprofits and NGOS that make a real difference in local communities abroad.
Throughout the pandemic, grant making activities were severely impacted by far fewer applications due to continued postponement of plans to volunteer abroad caused by border closures and COVID-related health concerns. In 2021, InterExchange provided only one new Christianson Fellow award totaling $9,000 to a U.S. citizen who pursued a volunteer opportunity in Panama.
In September 2021, Caleigh De Caprio from New York State began her nine month program in Panama mentoring young people in a volunteer Program Director position with Lacrosse the Nations. Caleigh, a 2020 Bard College graduate, is fully committed to the concept of sports diplomacy and would one day like to work for UNICEF.
To increase interest in pursuing an international service project and Christianson Fellowship, InterExchange hosted two informative webinars featuring four former grantees. The topics covered an ethical approach to volunteering abroad and meaningful community development projects.
Pursuing New Initiatives
Applying for an internship or training opportunities with an organization in the United States can be intimidating: resume and cover letter standards, online presence norms and the interviewing process can be very different from one’s home country. Our new Cultural Career Coaching program, launched in late 2021, aims to ease this process for international applicants eager to further develop their educational and professional skills with American host organizations. We look forward to expanding this pilot program to a larger audience in 2022.
Prioritizing Support for Cultural Exchange
International cultural exchange programs are vital for U.S. public diplomacy. They support U.S. national security, strengthen the economy, and increase mutual understanding. Because of international exchange programs young people from around the world have a unique chance to experience American culture first-hand, and act as cultural ambassadors of their own countries.
In 2021, we strived to engage with our partners in American host communities, to educate political leaders on the value of exchange programs, and to provide our American hosts and InterExchange staff with opportunities to take part in our efforts.
Virtual Congressional Meetings
9 InterExchange team members and representatives from 45 host organizations met virtually with 26 Congressional offices from 15 states.
Community Support Group Summit
400+ community representatives, program Sponsors, and government officials joined the national 2021 Community Support Group Summit. For the first time ever, it was held virtually and we were proud to chair the event and welcome representatives from over 180 host towns and cities in 38 states.
Economic Impact Survey
665 Work and Travel USA and Camp USA host employers participated in the 2021 Economic Impact Survey conducted by InterExchange in partnership with the Alliance for International Educational Exchange.
We look forward to continuing engaging with our elected officials, collaborating with the State Department, and strengthening our partnerships with our stakeholders in local host communities nationwide.
As a peninsula tourism destination where many local students living in modest means never leave our county, the BridgeUSA Summer Work Travel (SWT) program enriches the local community by introducing different cultures and languages. There are few programs that I can think of that are as mutually beneficial as the SWT, bringing international students to an area in desperate need of supplemental, seasonal staff, benefiting the community both economically and culturally.
President at Cape May County Chamber of Commerce in Cape May, NJ.
A lot of excitement surrounds the return of the Summer Work Travel program participants each year. Not only do they help us meet the seasonal needs of our destination, their infusion of cultural diversity expands the world view of visitors and residents alike, and forge friendships that are destined to last a lifetime!