The Virtual Exchange Edition

Few experiences rival the power of truly entering another culture—feeling the emotions others experience; thinking with a mentality that was not your own; dreaming in another language; viewing the world through another’s eyes. This is an important part of each PAX student's experience—one that makes sharing their stories with you so much fun.

Of course, not everyone can be an exchange student. Luckily, we live in an age in which technology allows for other opportunities to connect across cultures—even to poke our heads inside Fathoyya from Indonesia's classroom back home (cover photo below). This past spring, we asked our Future Leaders Exchange (FLEX) and Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program students what virtual ways they could think of to connect youth around the world—especially friends and classmates back home with their American counterparts. What they’ve come up with is presented in this very special “virtual exchange” edition of PAX Press!

From a typical day in the life of a Filipino student to fun and interactive questions directed at stereotypes of each other’s culture, students responded just as impressively as we knew they would. Some even tackled weighty topics like human trafficking.

More than anything else, the projects left us profoundly inspired and hopeful for the future. We hope they do the same for you.

Happy reading/watching!

—The PAX Press team

P.S. For a real tearjerker check out the end of Anete from Latvia’s video for a spliced together, international teen rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”

 July 2018 Cover Color

Many PAX students' virtual exchange projects provided a peek inside faraway classrooms—like this one courtesy of Fathoyya (YES, Indonesia).


Anete (FLEX, Latvia), hosted by the Kordus family (WI)

Together with Palestinian exchange student Abd (PAX/YES, Arab Communities of Israel), we made a project which shows how big an effect social media can have. We focused on art, exploring how through technology, people can unite in their talents, teach each other, spread ideas, and most importantly share an important message with the rest of the world.

In our project we both had unique ideas, and we tried to divide the work equally between the two of us in a manner that best utilized our skills. Abd came up with the drawing experiment about how people from different countries can break down the stereotypes people tend to have just by explaining how it is in real life, and why the stereotypes often are wrong.

I came up with the idea of bringing people together from different countries to sing one song. I chose the song "Imagine" by John Lennon, because I think it has an important message of bringing people together and treating everybody equally.

Together we split the editing work and made our project complete. I hope you like it!


Muhammad (YES, Indonesia), hosted by the Nelson family (MO)

My virtual exchange project is basically answering some questions from people in my country (Indonesia) and my host country (USA). I am just so happy to know that people, especially the youth, are interested to learn about the other side of their world. As the youth, we know that we play an important role in addressing global challenges. One of the challenges is to gain a better understanding of each country by knowing its real life.

I am glad to feel real diversity by experiencing communities in two different countries. Other people may want to know, but they do not have the same opportunity as me. They throw me questions including some major topics: school, culture, religion, geography, environment, daily life, traditions, etc. These questions help compare situations in different parts of the world and are highly beneficial in building mutual understanding.

Today, we no longer have to feel so far away from each other. Technology is really helpful in connecting people all over the world. I used technology to answer questions and share my thoughts, using Blogger and YouTube.

In my project, I made some videos and a blog. They contain some interesting information about my life in Indonesia (mostly about my life in my school), experiences in the USA (personally about my experience throughout the year), and a question and answer session with Americans (talking about critical questions in Indonesia). This will help those who wonder how life is in a different part of the world. Thereby, no matter where we are, we get to understand diversity and aim for unity.

All Virtual Exchange Winners

While this special issue of PAX Press has featured a handful of standout virtual exchange projects, we received scores of impressive submissions. In the end, there were 21 FLEX and YES students representing PAX at the Better Understanding for a Better World Conference (BUBW)—the prize awarded to students with the top projects. Click here for a full list of participants.

While their virtual exchange projects employed communication technologies to connect communities and classrooms of young people, the BUBW conference itself was a powerful, in-person experience. Starting from the viewpoint that the most pressing issue facing youth today is how they view the “other,” BUBW aims to transcend boundaries of fear through collaborative interactions and multicultural dialogue with students from various faith traditions and cultures.

Between this conference, virtual exchange, volunteerism, enhancement activities, extracurriculars, school, and a full academic year living with an American family, it's pretty impressive just how many people's lives these teens have positively impacted in a short amount of time. It really is a testament to just how driven and dedicated PAX students are. We fully expect to hear great things from these admirable alumni in the future.

In the meantime, we can hardly wait to meet the new class! The first PAX arrival orientation begins August 1, and we'll be back with a special issue focusing on all the excitement soon thereafter...

BUBW April20181



Other Notable Projects