During a recent AlumniTIES, I learned some interesting statistics. Over 1 million individuals, including 565 heads of state around the world, have participated in international exchange programs supported by the US Department of State. Annually, the number of people participating in these inbound and outbound programs — all funded by American tax payers — averages 55,000.

These government-funded exchange programs are designed for different types of individuals at different points in their career trajectories. Here are some examples. Each have their own specific designs and processes. Not all are currently open, so check back often.

  • American Arts Incubator: This program uses new media and/or mural arts as a means for engaging youth, artists, and underserved community members in overseas communities in Asia.
  • American Film Showcase: This program brings award-winning American documentaries, feature films, and animated shorts to audiences around the world.
  • American Music Abroad: These musical ambassadors reach beyond concert halls to interact with other musicians and citizens around the globe.
  • Arts Envoy: The Arts Envoy Program shares the best of the US arts community with the world to foster cross-cultural understanding and collaboration and to demonstrate shared values and aspirations. Artists should approach the US embassies abroad to explore possibilities. The budgets and foci will differ by mission.
  • Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange For Young Professionals: The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals is a full-year work-study fellowship program.
  • DanceMotion USA: DanceMotion USA sends American dance companies overseas to connect with audiences and communities through dance workshops, lecture demonstrations, public performances and other arts education activities. Artists are selected by DanceMotion USA.
  • Fulbright US Scholar: The Core Fulbright US Scholar Program sends approximately 800 American scholars and professionals per year to approximately 130 countries, where they lecture and/or conduct research in a wide variety of academic and professional fields. I previously wrote a post with advice for applying.
  • Fulbright Specialist Program: The Fulbright Specialist Program, a short-term complement to the Fulbright U.S. Scholar Program, sends US faculty and professionals to serve as expert consultants on curriculum, faculty development, institutional planning and related subjects at overseas academic institutions for a period of 2 to 6 weeks.
  • Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms: The Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Program (TGC) allows U.S. middle and high school teachers to participate in an online professional development course, two Washington, D.C.-based symposiums and a two-week professional development exchange.
  • Next Level: This unique arts-based exchange employs multi-disciplinary hip hop collaborations, and explores and addresses conflict resolution strategies by sending up to 20 American beat makers, DJs, B-Boys/B-Girls (or experts of other types of hip hop dance), or MCs in teams of 5 artists to lead four- to six-week exchange programs in various countries. 
  • Sports Envoy Program: Sports Envoys are athletes and coaches who travel overseas to lead programs that were developed by U.S. embassies and consulates.
  • Venice Architectural Biennale and Venice Art Biennale: These programs ensure that the excellence, vitality, and diversity of American arts are effectively showcased abroad and provides an opportunity to engage foreign audiences to increase mutual understanding.

There are also programs for students, both graduates and undergraduates as well as high school students.

  • Fulbright US Student Program: The Fulbright US Student Program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research or be an English teaching assistant abroad for one academic year.
  • Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship: A component of the Fulbright US Student Program, the Fulbright-mtvU Fellowship is a special opportunity for up to four U.S. students to pursue projects around an aspect of international contemporary or popular music as a cultural force for expression. Preference is given to creative projects that are conveyed in a dynamic fashion and are accompanied by a feasible plan.
  • Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program provides scholarships to U.S. undergraduates with financial need for study abroad, including students from diverse backgrounds and students going to non-traditional study abroad destinations.
  • Fulbright Travel-Only Grants: Grants for international travel are available to Germany, Hungary and Italy to supplement other fellowships that do not include travel costs or to supplement a student’s own funds for study/research.

For a full list of opportunities, I suggest clicking here. Apply. Apply. Apply.

While the programs themselves are transformative for travelers and communities alike, the benefits continue well past the passport stamps. As an alumnus of a US Exchanges program, I have free lifetime access to several extensive databases of journals, research papers, news and periodical articles, and popular magazines and newspapers like the Economist, New York Times, The New Yorker, and Wall Street Journal. This access also includes curated collections such as the Diversity Studies Collection with nearly 5 million articles on cultural differences, influences, and contributions; a Gender Studies Collection; and a Small Business Collection with more than 10 million articles providing tips and strategies for successful entrepreneurship. In addition, the alumni services we have include career support, seminars, networking, and small grant opportunities.

I acknowledge being uneasy about being involved with the US government after 2016. Honestly, I feel a level disdain for the Trump Administration, a disdain that is intensified by policies announced by Trump himself including “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” and reducing the U.S. Department of State educational and cultural exchange programs by 75% in 2019.

The good news is that 64 members of the US Congress participated in these programs; Congress held the Exchanges budget this year. Now the same fight at hand for 2020 with a proposed White House budget less than half of what we have now. It’s a good time to make our voices heard on the Hill.