Soliya’s Connect Program is designed to bring together post-secondary students from the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) through a semester long, face-to-face dialogue program that fosters understanding and builds critical skills to communicate across difference. The Connect Program is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the US Department of State and administered by the Aspen Institute. The Initiative is an international effort to build global competence and career readiness skills for young people in the United States, the Middle East and North Africa.
Hana Chabir is a second year Master’s student studying English education, specializing in art in Gabes, a region in southern Tunisia. Hana credits her current success as an educator and her career trajectory with her formative experience participating and facilitating virtual exchange through a unique program: the Connect Program implemented by Soliya.
"The Soliya Connect Program has changed my perception towards people and the whole world. Through maintaining a fruitful communication with the whole group, I got the profound meaning of tolerance and acceptance of others despite their differences.”Hana Chabir, Participant and Facilitator, Soliya
Hana participated in the Connect program in the Fall of 2016 and is one of more than 3,000 participants in the Soliya program and one of more than 500 young people who went on to learn how to facilitate these exchanges through a training program run by Soliya. She states that her experience with her virtual exchange was profound. “The Soliya Connect Program has changed my perception towards people and the whole world,” she said. “Through maintaining a fruitful communication with the whole group, I got the profound meaning of tolerance and acceptance of others despite their differences.”
Not only did Hana participate in Soliya’s facilitation training to bring this experience to other young people, she gained valuable skills necessary for her success as an educator. These skills included effective communication, discussion facilitation, and improved confidence. “The role that I assumed as a facilitator in this program will help me a lot in the teaching field as I have acquired the basic strategies and ways on how to generate discussions among various people having disparate abilities and how to manage group dynamics and maintain successful lessons based on effective participation and motivation,” she said. “[It] will have positive impact on my future career and will help me in my future job as an English teacher at university.”
The experience Hana describes is at the heart of Soliya’s approach to virtual exchange and goal to connect young people from different backgrounds in the US and MENA to engage constructively across their cultures.