Thursday, 19 May 2011

Public and Cultural Diplomacy through Student Exchanges

      Change does not happen overnight, it happens through changing the minds of young people and having them impact the people around them. There is no better example of this a student exchanges. Perhaps the greatest tool in the shed for public and cultural diplomacy is student exchange. By granting students the ability to study in foreign countries, learn the language and the culture, they get a first hang knowledge for how other people live besides what is told to them in movies or on the news. It is though programs like this that barriers can be broken down and relationships can be built that last a life time.
      Being a student in a foreign country is an experience that changes you and breaks down the preconceived notions you had about the culture you are now submerged in. Public and Cultural Diplomacy is all about changing the way that foreign people see your home country and what better way than through the eyes of someone who lives there. The relationships that are built during times abroad are ones that can greatly contribute to the works of officials in the diplomacy field. Whether or not a student is on an exchange through the government or not, and even if no follow up is done once the student returns home, that person’s life has been changed and the people they encountered have been changed. However, this amazing experience should come with some lessons before the student leaves. The student needs to be educated in aspects of the culture before being placed into it in order to have a positive impact. Nicholas Cull listed student exchanges as one of his five dimensions of public diplomacy. This shows that academics do realize that these programs work. Governments need to realize that this is a tool and use it to better develop public and cultural diplomacy. If treated as citizen diplomacy, exchanges can be used to further policy and explain culture in a way that officials cannot. Students can ask each other questions and spend time with them, getting to know who they are versus listening to a paid official promote his or her country. Every student promotes an image of their home country and therefore can play a role in public and cultural diplomacy as well.

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