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“Educational exchanges more than earn their investment,” Sonenshine says in Iowa

In today’s globalized world the U.S. “cannot afford not to be connected” and exchanges are not only “one of the best ways” to become and remain connected, but “more than earn their investment,” Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine noted at Drake University earlier this week.

Connecting people worldwide and building positive relationships with young and diverse populations who “are the future leaders and citizens of the global community” are “the essence of people to people diplomacy,” and are “not just the right thing to do [but] the smart thing to do,” Sonenshine said:

“Study abroad for American students puts our own young people into direct and meaningful contact with those populations. It allows them to form lifelong ties and form enduring networks. That vibrant flow of exchange students creates a bridge – between our country and other nations.”

Exchanges help Americans acquire vital 21st century skills allowing them, and the United States, to become more competitive, Sonenshine explained. She added that having international students on campuses across the U.S. provides enriching experience for those American students who cannot go abroad themselves. In addition, exchanges “have national security implications too – in a holistic, preventive way,” because they empower international students “to lead positive, productive lives” and to form future partnerships with the U.S.

Sonenshine cited specific examples of successful exchanges, including the Tunisian Fulbright program, the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program, and U.S. exchanges with Japan. Sonenshine also talked specifically about the impact of exchanges in Iowa, noting that former Governor Chet Culver participated in a Department of State exchange program, and pointing out Iowans’ involvement in hosting international students and visitors. She further reminded her audience of the significant economic impact international students have in the state.

Sonenshine ended her speech by encouraging the audience to participate in exchange programs:

“We are all connected. Educational – and other – exchanges bring benefits in all directions. Not just for the students but the communities and economies around them. That’s why I encourage you not only to participate in educational programs abroad, but to find out more about what’s happening around the world.”