Monday, January 19, 2015

Exchange Programs and Transatlantic Relations

Where They Stand and Why They’re Essential

21/11/2014 | by Christina Tsafoulias  DGAP Transatlantic Paper, November 2014, 17 pp.

Category: Transatlantic Relations, Education

Programs promoting educational and cultural exchange between Germany and North America are important building blocks in the transatlantic relationship and should continue to serve this purpose in the future. Preparing the next generation of transatlanticists depends on them. Without appropriate support and recognition, however, such transatlantic exchange programs risk falling prey to budget cuts and being overshadowed by other strategic national priorities.

Transatlantic exchange programs may not be in vogue, but they have a long and important history dating back over six decades. Much like the transatlantic relationship itself, however, these tried-and-true elements of global educational and cultural training are mostly taken for granted. Exchanges between Europe and North America are often seen as standard fare – a nice experience for an individual to have at some point but not one that will necessarily influence international political discourse or the course of world affairs. As such, they have long since ceased to be considered a priority. Now, however, as governments reconfigure funding to align more closely with strategic goals, transatlantic exchange programs must demonstrate their worth. If they fail, they risk neglect, irrelevance and possibly even extinction.

The chief value of exchange programs continues to be the horizon-broadening effect they have on individual participants. Transatlantic programs specifically can help transform a general interest in Europe and its culture (or, in the United States and its culture, respectively) into a lasting interest in transatlantic relations. There is no doubt that over the past sixty years the personal intercultural experiences offered by US-European exchanges forged generations of transatlanticists, offering important precursors to dynamic, cooperative transatlantic relations at higher levels. Such programs need to stay robust – and robustly funded – if future generations of policy experts, diplomats, and business, media, and cultural leaders are to value the transatlantic relationship as much as their predecessors. Otherwise these specialists could well become an endangered species.

This paper takes US-German programs as a case study.

The US and Germany are arguably the two most important individual actors in the transatlantic relationship today. Germany and the US have long cooperated on a wide spectrum of policies and programming. Twenty years after the departure of the last American soldiers from Berlin, the dynamic is still evolving, but connections between the two countries remain of critical importance.

With an appendix listing current US-German Exchange Programs.
Siting recent developments in Europe, including in the Ukraine, as well as our co-observations of each others' reactions on topics from the environment to terrorism, as enormously valuable breeding grounds for testing policies in both Germany as well as in the USA, Ms Tsafoulias concludes: 

The long history of US - European (German) exchange has been central to the transatlantic relationship, and it should continue to serve this purpose in the future. Without appropriate support and recognition from both sides of the Atlantic, however, transatlantic exchange risks falling prey to budget cuts and being overshadowed by other strategic national priorities. While priorities necessarily develop and shift over time, we should not lose sight of the overwhelmingly positive impact of transatlantic exchange programs. Programs will have to prove their worth and build innovative approaches in the future, but the fact remains that preparing the next generation of transatlanticists depends on them.

1 comment:

  1. This is why it is so important for the German program at our high school to continue, and for the GAPP program to remain at our school. It is a shame our program was cut and I hope we can succeed in getting it back.