Each year, thousands of citizens from countries around the word take part in exchange programs – U.S. government sponsored as well as privately funded. For many of these exchange program alumni, having American Spaces in their areas helps maintain a connection with the United States and gives them opportunities to share with the local community the insights and experiences they acquired during their exchange in the U.S. As a valuable resource for programming, alumni speak with local, credible voices:
- They have an understanding of both American and local cultures that enables them to present American perspectives in a way that resonates with local audiences.
- They speak local languages, enabling them to participate in programs and reach broader audiences through American Spaces.
- Because alumni are experienced professionals and often experts in their fields, they can be resources in support of American Spaces programming.
Alumni as a Resource
Working with alumni can significantly help American Spaces staff effectively address the five core programs of American Spaces. Alumni can highlight their cultural experiences, organize events and programs, discuss the benefits of exchange programs or share other knowledge and insights acquired during their exchange experience.
English Language Learning – Because many alumni have spent considerable time in the United States, they have excellent English language skills. Moreover, many welcome opportunities to teach English or lead conversation clubs as a means of keeping up their own English proficiency.
EducationUSA Advising – Thanks to their past experience with exchange programs, alumni can play an important role in EducationUSA advising. Their firsthand accounts can give students real examples of what to expect from living in the United States, studying at a U.S. academic institution and the value of these experiences.
Cultural Programs – Alumni can help create programs to spread knowledge and understanding of American culture. They can use local language and customs to create connections between the cultures.
Information About the United States – Alumni can provide information about the United States to increase understanding and strengthen relationships. They can serve as a bridge between their nation and the United States due to their experience in both countries.
Alumni Activities – American Spaces can also host alumni events that bring a wide range of activities and audiences together.
Alumni as an Audience
An alumni engagement strategy provides opportunities for alumni to network and connect with each other, with other members of society and with the embassy/consulate. This, in turn, encourages alumni to support the activities offered by American Spaces. Examples of programming drawing on alumni are:
- Alumni were able to interact virtually with Salman Khan, founder of the Khan Academy, during a webchat in which he discussed his online library of free educational videos, the shift the academy was making in the paradigm of education and ways to increase access to education. Though anyone could view the chat, Mr. Khan took questions exclusively from alumni of U.S. government exchange programs, many of whom were participating in the discussion from American Spaces.
- The American Corner at the Nizhny Novgorod State Linguistic University in Russia engaged in culinary diplomacy by celebrating a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner that brought together 25 students, their Russian host families and other exchange program alumni. The group watched the Live! From America: A Taste of Thanksgiving program featuring award-winning American chefs preparing classic American dishes for Thanksgiving.
- The American Center in Kolkata, India, hosted a two-day event called “Experience America Blitz.” The event in Kolkata brought the ambassador together with alumni from the northeast to discuss their work in fields including anti-trafficking, AIDS prevention and youth volunteerism.
The International Exchange Alumni website is available to all former and current participants of U.S. government-sponsored exchange programs. The offices that administer each exchange program (e.g. Fulbright, SUSI, UGRAD, IVLP, etc.) register those who have participated in their program for the website to provide them with access to the global US government alumni community and resources.
American Space Coordinators are eligible for guest accounts on the International Exchange Alumni website. To sign up for a guest account, please email the following to firstname.lastname@example.org:
- Full name
- Official title and name of American Space
- Email address
- Name and contact information for the Public Affairs Officer at the embassy
Upon submitting the information, registrants will receive an email stating that their registration has been received. However, applicants will not have full access to the website until the information they have submitted has been verified. You also can contact the public affairs section at the embassy/consulate to identify alumni near your American Space.
American Spaces as Partners on Alumni Proposals
The State Department sponsors an annual Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) competition to support alumni initiatives that promote shared values and innovative solutions to global challenges. The competition provides small grants to teams of former and current participants of U.S. government-funded exchange programs to carry out public service projects that utilize experience and knowledge they have gained through their exchange experiences. American Spaces may want to consider supporting AEIF grant applications by alumni or alumni groups in the following ways:
- Offer free use of space, access to a computer or a telephone for the duration of the project.
- Write a letter showing the American Space’s commitment of support for the grant or proposal.