Furthering international understanding and cultural awareness
The InterExchange Foundation provides grants to young Americans with a passion for improving the world. Established in 2007, the Foundation’s Christianson Fellowship provides awards to U.S. citizens and permanent U.S. residents between 18 and 28 who wish to participate in meaningful service projects abroad and to share their experiences in order to further international understanding and promote cultural awareness.
Travelers. Adventurers. Lovers of good food and drink. Quirky and funny. Entertaining and great company. Collaborators. Leaders. Fabulous humans.
All of these words and phrases (and many more) have been used to describe our founders, Uta and Paul Christianson.
In 1968, Uta and Paul met in New York City. Uta came to the U.S. from her native Germany to run the flight department of a student travel association. And Paul, a first generation Swedish-American, ventured from his home state of Connecticut to join the Navy before finding his way into the international exchange field.
Both Uta and Paul were profoundly changed by their international travel experiences. They based their lives and careers around the idea that every young person – no matter their background – should have the opportunity to go abroad. They believed an experience living and working abroad should be part of everyone’s personal education.
This conviction became their professional mantra. They believed that InterExchange’s role should be to spark an interest in a global experience in as many young people as possible, and then ensure that spark is turned into reality.
Uta felt that a living and working abroad experience was life changing and crucial for a more peaceful world. Her mantra was “Go abroad now. Make a difference!”
While Uta and Paul are no longer with us, we are reminded every day at InterExchange of their passion and our shared mission of helping young people find their adventures abroad, and making a difference in the world.
Message from Uta Christianson
A working abroad experience is one of the most worthwhile experiences to make before starting with your chosen career. But many young people never even contemplate it and those who do may have very little idea about what to expect from an encounter with a different country: its people, culture and language. Working overseas, whether it’s a job that will help to defray your expenses or an internship to broaden your knowledge in your field of endeavor, either way, it will likely be a life-changing experience.
Over the years, InterExchange has helped many thousands of people from all over the world to obtain visas with permission to work legally in the US for varying periods. However successful we are at welcoming international participants to our shores, sending young Americans on similar exchange programs overseas has largely escaped us except for a few popular programs. It has become my mantra to try and change that. To this end we have established the InterExchange Foundation as a division of InterExchange, Inc., a not-for-profit organization under Sec. 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. By funding grants for eligible young Americans interested in exploring the world around them, we hope to increase the number of Americans involved in international work exchanges.
Whatever you hope to achieve, spend some time abroad and work in order to get a better feeling for the people and their culture. Along the way, pick up a foreign language or two. You’ll also learn to adapt to all the "strange" customs you will encounter. You may, for example, have to get used to the newspaper being different, the bread to being just about awful (and forget the coffee!) and other cultural differences you may encounter such as manners, behaviors and habits.
My own working abroad experience, though not always a "piece of cake," was the start of a very rewarding encounter with the New World. I am totally convinced that such endeavors as exposure to living and working abroad should be part of everyone’s personal education.
Go abroad now. Make a difference!
Founder, InterExchange Foundation