CEW: Highlight of My Year
Exchange student from Tunisia poses with friend in Washington, D.C.

Tunisian invited to Civic Education Workshop

I felt ecstatic about my D.C. trip, but I didn't know it would be the highlight of my exchange year! As a PAX student coming through the YES program, I got the opportunity to attend a weeklong event hosted in Washington D.C. and funded by the U.S. Department of State called the Civic Education Workshop (CEW). It was created to increase students' knowledge about the U.S government and teach them how to create change when they go back to their home countries.

During CEW, we visited many magnificent historical sites to learn more about American history and culture. We went to the: Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorials, the National Museum of African American History, the National Gallery of Art, the National Museum of Natural History, Capitol Hill, the Department of State, the Black Lives Matter Plaza, and the White House. We also ate in D.C.’s neighborhood restaurants and watched a play on the night before we went back to our host communities.

One of my favorite days was Capitol Hill day. I had three scheduled meetings with senators and representatives from Arkansas. I enjoyed sharing my exchange experience with them, and I asked a lot of questions about the American government and my host state that they wholeheartedly answered.

CEW stood out to me from other workshops for being more than a confined conference. We learned everywhere: on our tour buses, D.C.’s streets, museums, and memorials.

Between meetings, I tried to explore the famous Capitol Hill that I had only seen on TV. I went on a tour with my friend, and we were stunned by the beauty of the statues and the paintings. Capitol Hill combined function with aesthetics. I also visited the Library of Congress and made a reader card, so I could enter the main reading room with its general collections of books and bound periodicals. I was very impressed by the architecture of the library and the history it holds.

What made my experience in D.C. even better was getting to meet exchange students from over 30 countries and creating everlasting friendships. We shared our cultures and made many joyful memories that will always remain close to my heart. That diversity made me realize that love is not bound to a country or a culture and having one language in common is enough to bring us all together.

CEW stood out to me from other workshops for being more than a confined conference. We learned everywhere: on our tour buses, D.C.’s streets, museums, and memorials. We also had indoor presentations about leadership, women’s rights, disability rights, social media literacy, and grassroots advocacy. I'm happy that I represented Tunisia and am very thankful for getting to experience CEW. I'm ready to take all the lessons I learned back to my home country as an alumna.

—Feryel (YES, Tunisia), hosted by the Heckman family (AR)