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INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: We define the global citizen as someone who cares about the world. And not only considers themselves as citizens of their country, but of the whole world. And keeping in mind that all of us, we are human and we are just different, but we are equal.
KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, the global leaders of 2025.
JOHANNA: What concerns me most is like, what I’m going to do in seventy years when I’m retired, and will there still be social security, and what will my country be like, and can I deal with all these changes?
KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It’s produced by the Stanley Foundation. I’m Keith Porter.
MCHUGH: And I’m Kristin McHugh. Earlier this year one hundred exchange students from around the world gathered in Des Moines, Iowa, to meet with one hundred of their American counterparts. The purpose was to discuss their vision of the world in 2025.
PORTER: This fifth annual Global Leadership Conference, sponsored by the Iowa Council for International Understanding, included students with diverse backgrounds from over thirty countries.
[sound of people chatting in a large gathering]
CONFERENCE LEADER: We are very happy that you’re here. First of all, I want you to meet all of the countries that are represented here. I think we have thirty-five countries represented. So, will the people from Moldava stand up please?
[sound of applause]
And how about the Dominican Republic? Japan? And let’s look at the Germans again?
[sound of cheering]
Kazakhstan! Brazil. Albania. Switzerland. Hong Kong. Yugoslavia. Russia. Venezuela. Chile. Turkey. Argentina. Finland. Slovenia. Now this is one that I’m not even sure how to pronounce. Is it Abkhazia? And Belgium? Bulgaria. Spain. Armenia. Mongolia. Italy. Thailand. Macedonia. Columbia. Sweden. Denmark. Poland. Mexico.
Hungary. Okay. And last but not least, USA.
Anybody else that we left out? Well, we’re glad that each and everyone of you is here.
MCHUGH: These students, born in the mid-1980s, are among the first generation to grow up in the post-Cold War era. One of the first exercises of the conference forced participants to explore the differences between exchange students and American teenagers. The answers were surprisingly candid.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Okay, I’m from the United States. And we think that foreign exchange students are outgoing. And we also have a question. Why do so many people from different countries want to come here?
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: We are from Russia and Yugoslavia. And, about foreign exchange students, we can say that we all are representatives of our own cultures and countries. That people, like I’m the only one in the school from Russia. And through me they see, like, picture all of Russia and Russian culture. And another one, is kind of not a bad one, but we have to accept it, that they all make fun of our cool accent.
AMERICAN STUDENT: We’re from Iowa. And we think foreign exchange students are adventurous, very smart, and direct.
AMERICAN STUDENT: We’re from the U.S. of A., and we think foreigners have longer attention spans, and they have cool accents.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: I come from Turkey. We are foreign exchange students. We are open-minded, mature, smart, friendly, and… [laughs]. Okay, there are two more. We also said that we have to be great travelers, and most of us miss the freedom of our own countries.
[sound of applause]
AMERICAN STUDENT: We thought that foreigners adapt really well to the situations they’re in, and that they have really good schools and like, better education and that kind of stuff.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Foreign exchange students are bicultural and bilingual. By the end of this year we’ll have a competitive benefit over many people because we’ve lived in two different places. And that gives us an edge in our countries, and obviously here in the US. So we’re one step ahead of the game.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Hi. I’m from Belgium. And I think foreign exchange students are sometimes confused.
AMERICAN STUDENT: My name is Kara and I’m from the United States of America. And, my view of a typical exchange student, I guess I derive from one of my best friends in Yugoslavia. Her name is a Jana Zolec. And I think they are some of the most open-minded, coolest, do-anything, anytime people in the entire world. I love them.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Hi. I’m Oxana, and I’m from Kazakhstan, and I think that, I first have to say, Americans, I love you. You’re so awesome people. But you know what? I’m a foreigner and I have to say something about foreigners. First, I think we’re crazy, aren’t we?
[crowd murmurs agreement]
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: See! See! We, we are crazy, that’s for sure. And another thing is that yeah, they make fun of our accent. That’s like, all the time. But whatever. Whatever makes you happy Americans. And then, a third thing is that we really rock in soccer and you guys suck. Sorry!
[sound of cheering, applause]
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Hi. We’re still from Germany. And we figured that exchange students are different, awesome, and open.
AMERICAN STUDENT: We’re from the US, and we think that foreign exchange students are very interesting, and they’re eccentric, and they make bold fashion statements.
AMERICAN STUDENT: My name is Vanessa and we’re from the US. And we think that foreign exchange students are misinformed and they believe stereotypes.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: My name is Ronnie. I’m from Germany. And I think exchange students are curious, and tolerant, and open for any new experience.
AMERICAN STUDENT: My name is Aggie Thompson and we’re from the United States of America. And we think that foreign exchange students are conservative and motivated.
AMERICAN STUDENT: I think about foreign exchange students as, almost every girl I’ve talked to since they came here has complained about gaining weight.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Hey guys, my name is Dennis, and I want to say that we should be more appreciative about Americans because they didn’t say a bad thing about us, so let’s give it up for them.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: And, I just want to say that I’m very proud of all of you guys, because it’s a tough, tough thing to live two different lives. And you seem to be all right. And I think we’re very fortunate that we can be here and we’re very brave people. It’s, it’s a cool thing to be a foreign exchange student. And that we can do this. So, give it up for yourselves.
PORTER: Tell me something about this day-long event here. This day-and-a-half event. What’s the goal here.
BILL FRIEDAU: Well, the goal is to kind of get the foreign exchange students and American students, or students in the United States, together and kind of get on common ground. Kind of let each other know where the other person is coming from.
MCHUGH: Bill Friedau is with the Educational Foundation for Foreign Study and was one of the conference planners.
FRIEDAU: We want them to think of being citizens of the United States also, and citizens of the world, because we have common goals and common objectives. And I think we need to do more of that with American students from the United States and the foreign exchange students.
PORTER: What do you hope kids will come away from here with? How does this enhance the experience that they have in the United States?
FRIEDAU: I think the, for the foreign exchange students, they can see where the kids from the United States are thinking, where they’re coming from. Also, I would like the kids from the United States to go back to their schools and talk to other students. And maybe, teachers in their schools, about this experience. And maybe just become, other students can become more globally aware than just maybe confined to their little communities.
PORTER: Are there any common misconceptions you find? I mean, among foreign students coming here or among the American students you talk to that go overseas? There are sort of common misperceptions that get, that somehow get worked out in the experience?
FRIEDAU: Being that we’re from Iowa, when a foreign exchange student is placed in Iowa, quite often they don’t know where Iowa is. They have to look at the map right away. Unfortunately, maybe through the media, we, the, a lot of the kids just think of Florida, Texas, New York City, California: that’s America. Those are the states they think of. But, you know, we feel that the Midwest is the heartland of Iowa, of the United States. That’s where real America is. If they want to know real American culture, come to the Midwest. So, I think they have kind of a misconception there.
PORTER: What about American students going overseas? Do you see them having, sort of, misconceptions that then get overcome?
FRIEDAU: Oh, I think so. They have, a lot of times unfortunately, and as a teacher I hate to say this too, but our geography is not very good. I’ve had students, American students, ask exchange students, “Where is your country? Is your country in South America? And it’s in Europe. And the foreign exchange students are shocked. They can’t believe it. But I think this is, this is the big thing, that, with American students, is that they—maybe it’s because it is so many countries, they just, you know, for the foreign exchange students they just have to learn about the United States. Whereas American students have to learn about all the countries.
PORTER: Over the course of doing this program, over these five years or so now, have you noticed any change? Is there any differences in the students you see today and the ones you saw several years ago.
FRIEDAU: No, I don’t think so. Unless maybe, maybe our students are becoming little bit more aware of global issues. That’s kind of what we’ve been concentrating on over the five years. And I think maybe the students from our high schools are becoming a little bit more global aware.
[people chatting in a large crowd]
AMERICAN STUDENT: We’re spoiled.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Yeah, we are spoiled.
AMERICAN STUDENT: That’s right. I know there’s a lot of kids that aren’t though. In certain, you know, certain states. A lot of kids are starving, and you know, we see it on TV a lot.
AMERICAN STUDENT: They just want to get bread.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Yeah. I mean, they’re happy….
AMERICAN STUDENT: One day of work, one day of bread….
AMERICAN STUDENT: They’re happy to have shoes on their feet. And you know…
AMERICAN STUDENT: And we’re so…..
AMERICAN STUDENT: I know a lot of people in the United States, they, I don’t know. They see stuff on TV and they just, you know, turn the channel. Even if you’re talking about people in other countries starving and freezing to death and…
AMERICAN STUDENT: We don’t’ really pay attention to what’s going on.
AMERICAN STUDENT: And I know a lot of kids don’t watch the news anymore. And there’s a lot of people that aren’t aware of what’s going on in other countries. Everything is like, what’s going on in the United States, and they only see what’s going on around here and don’t really look at the rest of the world.
AMERICAN STUDENT: That’s what they were told when they came over here, that they’re supposed to start shaving every day, and they’re supposed to be careful about like, exposing themselves because we’re not used to that kind of stuff. Yeah.
AMERICAN STUDENT: They don’t use as much transportation as we do. They like, walk a lot of places.
AMERICAN STUDENT: They use a lot of cream.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Can you put it there?
AMERICAN STUDENT: Yeah.
[sounds of people talking fade out]
PORTER: Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details. Or visit our Web site at commongroundradio.org. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: My name is Neema Minasyan, and I’m sixteen and I’m from Abkazha, the Republic of Abkazha, that was part of Georgia seven years ago and declared it’s independence in 1993. It was also part of the Soviet Union, like ten years ago.
AMERICAN STUDENT: My name is Bryan Balduf, and I’m sixteen and from the United States of America, which used to be part of Britain, two hundred years ago.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Okay, my name is Johanna Wiese, and I’m seventeen and I’m from Germany. We are united Germany now. And I’m very proud of that.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: I’m Olmo, and I’m eighteen and I’m from Spain.
AMERICAN STUDENT: I’m Chris. I’m sixteen and I’m from the USA.
AMERICAN STUDENT: I’m Sarah, I’m seventeen, and I’m from the USA.
MCHUGH: Bryan, now that you’ve been exposed to having foreign exchange students, has your perception of foreign exchange students changed?
BRYAN: Well, yeah, well, I just thought they were people coming to America with thick, weird accents. Which of course is, you know, weird to some people but I don’t mind it. But, yeah, of course I’ve, my perception of them has changed a lot, yeah.
MCHUGH: In what ways?
BRYAN: Well, I think they’re very smart first of all. It takes a lot of qualifying to get over here, I think. And we take for granted these kinds of things that they don’t, or that they think about lot. Like freedom of speech and stuff like that, in some countries. But we Americans are very open about ourselves. And they don’t really, aren’t exposed to that back in their home countries.
MCHUGH: Olmo, since you’ve been in the United States, has your image of America changed?
OLMO: I think like, as you don’t grow up your parents and everything. Like, I think you grow up by, more by yourself. You, and I think I learned more to work together. And more to, like, to say that we are not better or worse than anybody, we are just different.
MCHUGH: And Sarah?
SARAH: Well, I kind of had a prefabricated idea of what, well our foreign exchange student is from Russia. And so I thought I had an idea of what Russian people are like. And she totally changed my mind. And so it kind of taught me that what we learn in school about other people in different countries isn’t always true.
MCHUGH: Well, in what way did she change your mind? I mean, what was that preconceived notion?
SARAH: Well, I thought Russian people were kind of chubby. And that they were kind of stuck up and, you know, they weren’t all for democracy and everything, you know, like in America. And she’s not chubby.
She’s very tiny actually. And she’s really loud and crazy.
MCHUGH: For each one of you, what is the biggest issue concerning you as you continue to grow in the world?
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: I guess, I have like two of them. I guess it’s like environment, as we were discussing with our groups, so people must do something real quickly so stop the pollution and everything.
Or the destruction of the environment. And the peace.
BRYAN: My number one issue is probably health and medical issues. And all over the world, there’s problems in the third world countries and basically the wealth isn’t being distributed. And the health and medical supplies are needed all over the place. There’s a hunger problem as well, which goes along with the health thing.
MCHUGH: And Johanna?
JOHANNA: What concerns me most is like, what I’m going to do in seventy years when I’m retired, and will there still be social security, and what will my country be like, and can I deal with all these changes? I mean, I don’t know, in Germany a lot has changed in the last one hundred years. And I don’t know what could change in the next hundred.
OLMO: I think the most important in my group, I think was world peace.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Or the biggest problem that we had probably, we thought, was the drug problem. We spent a lot of time talking about that. We thought it was spreading to younger ages and spreading throughout.
MCHUGH: And Sarah?
SARAH: Our group thought that mixing of cultures was the most important; that we learn about other cultures and learn about their holidays and their meanings of things, and that’s what we thought was the most important.
MCHUGH: Okay, the final question is kind of tough. I want to know what you think your vision is going to be of the world in 2025. So twenty-five years from now, what do you think the world is going to be like? Olmo?
OLMO: I don’t think it’s going to be much different than now. I don’t think we’re gonna have peace. I think we’re gonna have more wars. I think capitalism and nationalism is going to grow up a lot.
CHRIS: I think a lot of the Third World countries will probably, will be a lot more developed. And our health technology, or medical technology will probably be spread out a lot more. I think there’ll be a lot of advances and discoveries in that field.
MCHUGH: And Sarah?
SARAH: I don’t think it’ll be that much different than it is now. But I do think that technology will have increased beyond our expectations. And I think that we’ll probably get to, hopefully there’ll be more interaction between different nations and different people.
MCHUGH: How do you envision the world in 2025? So twenty-five years from now, what do you think the world is going to be like?
NINA: Oh, it will be excellent. Absolutely. We just have to do something right now, so we can change it. It will be a little bit different, the technology will be more advanced and we will have more computers. We are going to see each other so often ’cause we can communicate through Internet and everything. We’re gonna have new cars and everything.
BRYAN: I think the ’70s are coming back. No, I was just kidding. But
BRYAN: But in 2025 I think, yeah, there’s going to be a completely different way of dressing and maybe we’ll go to space. I don’t know. Or, in my little group there was a debate about colonizing Mars and this and that. And of course, those are all big aspirations, but I think where we really got to get down to the human frame of mind. What we think about what’s going to be in 2025 is really what’s going to be in 2025. So, if we have good outlook now, of course we’ll end up pretty good when 2025 rolls around.
JOHANNA: I don’t have a positive view of the world in about twenty-five years. Because I think there’s so many new problems that we have to face. I mean, the technology of course it is good that we can do so many things with computers and with the health thing, I mean, like gene technology. But, I mean, the other things, like we have to regulate the cloning problem. I mean, what if there’s like, people really try to clone human beings? And then the other things. I think when people are sitting on the computers the whole time then there isn’t enough social contact. And people don’t really communicate with each other. And I don’t know if it’s—like the environment, I don’t think it will be good either. I mean, we will destroy most of it. And I mean, I just don’t see any solution for this problem in the next twenty-five years. Maybe we will be able to find a solution, but it will take much longer.
[sound of people chatting in a crowd]
AMERICAN STUDENT: A lot of people, like I mean the older generation, just don’t like change. I mean, and so they like their old stuff that they finally learned how to, you know, use. And so that’s why I’ve found that a lot of older people won’t even try to use the new technology.
AMERICAN STUDENT: World peace and equality.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Mine are a united planet, computerized world, live like the Jetsons.
AMERICAN STUDENT: I put down, “I would like to have more peace among everyone and women that are accepted more.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: I put down peace and more unions between the countries. I mean, like Europe is pretty unified, but like, all over the world the continents. And then, enough food supply, that have still enough food.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Well, I’m seeing right now that the world will start to fight each other. And like, the major leagues are starting to fight each other. What I will not see is an international peace and no borders and no different governments anymore. That’s what I want to see. And what I want to see is like, birth control or we have a big, big world hunger problem.
PORTER: Have you noticed any particular change in the students over the number of these years? Anything different that you’ve picked up on as you’ve gone through this process a few times now?
ANN SCHODDE: I don’t see dramatic changes. What I see is a continued level of curiosity and real interest on the part of the international high school students that come to an event like this. Which is something that most of them, in their own countries, would not get engaged in.
MCHUGH: The fifth annual Global Leadership Conference was organized by the Iowa Council for International Understanding. Ann Schodde is Executive Director.
SCHODDE: The Iowa students, of course, have very little opportunity to be engaged with a large group of international students at one time. Whereas, in their school they may have one or two, but to be placed in the middle of a hundred plus of them, from thirty-four countries, is a unique thing for them. I think there’s always a degree of shyness on the first night, of course. People getting to know one another and that dispels very quickly. I mean, that’s a similarity I’ve seen every year. It takes no more than three hours and a pizza and a dance, and you have all these young people from all around the world forming friendships, to the point where when you see them going home, 3:30, 4 o’clock, there’s going to be tears and hugs and lots of exchanging of pictures and addresses and phone numbers and e-mails, of course, today. So we know that it accomplishes a lot of friendship making in a really very short period of time.
PORTER: From your experience both with this event and all these other events, what are the common sort of misconceptions or preconceptions you find from people, not necessarily coming to America, but coming to Iowa? What are their, what are they thinking about when they come to Iowa? And what do they have right and what do they have wrong?
SHODDE: [laughing] Well, we’ve done some studies of that. Of course, working with over four hundred people from eighty countries every year. And I’m giving you not so much the student perspective, but rather adults that are coming here. I would have to tell you that, by and large, what you were experiencing is they don’t have a particularly negative image, nor do they have a positive image. They just don’t have an image. That Iowa’s image—or I should even extend that really more to the Midwest, you know, the heartland of our country—still remains something of an unknown to most people around the world. I do have a quick story to tell you. There was the Assistant to the Economic Minister of the Czech Republic who came here a couple of years ago and he said, “You know, when I told people that I was coming to Iowa for an internship, they said, ‘Oh my god, why are you going there? There are only villages there.'” And of course we chuckled about that. And of course he quickly realized that there aren’t exactly villages in Iowa. But there is an impression still, of ruralness, if you will. And villages. And we, we, by the work that we’re doing, I think, all hopefully will contribute to changing that image. Obviously, Iowa is much more than villages.
PORTER: The Global Leadership Conference included small group discussion that asked students to focus on the question, “What do I need to do in order to become a global citizen in 2025?” For most, trying to envision the kind of world they wanted to live in when their children are teenagers, was a challenging, yet exciting, task.
AMERICAN STUDENT: To be a global citizen is that you need the proper social skills, which would be respectful of other people’s differences, a good decision maker, tolerant. And then you need the proper education, good communication skills, the ability to share knowledge, technology, understand culture and languages.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: We need to increase our awareness about global situations and the problems. And it’s our responsibility to do. We need to learn a second or a third language. And the last thing, but probably the most important one, is that we need to try to understand each other’s cultures better.
AMERICAN STUDENT: We have a little list of qualities that we think a global citizen should possess. They should be knowledgeable and have a willingness to learn. They need to respect themselves and others. And be honest with themselves and other people. They need to have dreams and a goal in mind. And they also have to have a positive outlook.
AMERICAN STUDENT: Try not to believe the stereotypes that everybody is talking about.
AMERICAN STUDENT: People should understand diversity, have an open mind, have global literacy, know as much as you can about the world around you. Education. Be responsible and constructive citizens.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: We have to be people who are ready to share with other people. And also, we should not be like, too materialistic, maybe. That money shouldn’t be like the important measurement in the future.
AMERICAN STUDENT: We also need to take care of our environment, because it’s not up to the generations above us or below us, it’s also up to us. It’s our world and if we don’t take care of it, nobody will. And we also need to stay informed of everything that’s going on in the world because it’s not just our countries that are having problems, it’s everybody around this world, and we all need to work together to get that fixed.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: We define the global citizen as someone who cares about the world. And not only considers themselves as citizens of their country, but of the whole world. Also, accepting of other traditions, cultures, and lifestyles. A global citizen should be less materialistic, flexible, tolerant, and open-minded, while presenting, preserving individual rights and keeping in mind that all of us, we are human and we are just different, but we are equal.
INTERNATIONAL STUDENT: Well, I just wanted to say that one of the things I have learned in the last two days is that once you get to know people from other countries, even if they are on the complete other end of the earth, once you get to know them and you are able to look above all the cultural differences, you notice that they’re pretty much all the same. Teenagers just want to have fun.
AMERICAN STUDENT: I have a couple of quotes that I’d like to share with you all. This one comes from Germany. “A lot of little people that do a lot of little steps can change the face of the world.” And from Ghandi, “An eye for an eye could make the world blind.” And so if you can’t pay attention to people around you, then you can’t really see what’s coming towards you. And one thing that we wanted to tell you all before you left today, is that, don’t leave here and forget everything that you’ve heard, from anyone else in this room. Cause everything that you have learned today you should just keep alive.
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