Samuel at the American University of Beirut.
Samuel Owusu, Chicago native and current Davidson College junior, had never been anywhere beyond Chicago and Springfield before his senior year at Lindblom Math & Science Academy. Participating in a virtual exchange during that year inspired him to change that. When a teacher asked Samuel if he would be interested in a virtual exchange program, he decided that it would be a good way to practice Arabic with native speakers and engage with people from another part of the world. Samuel and his classmates took part in the STEAMuseum, a virtual exchange program implemented by Chicago Sister Cities International and their partner Neighborhoods Association – IDMAJ in Casablanca. Students from each community worked together to research and curate artifacts to include in this innovative, online museum while also learning about each other and their respective cultures. “I attribute a lot of my interest in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) to the weekly exchanges I was able to have with those students in Morocco…and we became friends. I understood that although they are a world away they are our neighbors,” Samuel said.
Samuel walked away from his virtual exchange with a growing interest in cultural exchange and international languages. While at Davidson College, where he studies International Relations, Arabic & Education, Samuel has participated in three in-person exchange experiences in Northern Ireland, Jordan, and Lebanon. He is currently studying at the American University of Beirut for the fall semester. Alongside the Arabic language and the cultures of the MENA region, he has developed an academic interest in comparative education systems and the unique challenges that refugees present to education policy makers globally. He attributes the international direction of his studies to his virtual exchange. “Every experience I have had since my virtual exchange has been influenced by my gains in global competency during my virtual exchange,” he said. “This changed my trajectory in college and in life.”
He also shared that the virtual exchange not only prepared him for study abroad, but also for his transition from his community in Chicago to Davidson’s campus. “I was better able to handle my regional culture shock in the US because of my virtual exchange and I could better connect to my diverse campus. There was a great human aspect to my virtual exchange program. Respectfully communicating with those students in Morocco has had a positive impact on how I connect with people on my campus now.”