Advocacy Day 2024: Cultural Exchange Impact

Every year, the Alliance gathers members in Washington D.C. to advocate for cultural exchange programs. This year, more than 90 colleagues from 33 organizations divided up to meet with all 50 states and share one key message, “Cultural Exchange has Impact”.

Cultural exchange programs vary–there are outbound study or work abroad options for U.S. citizens and there are inbound study or work programs for international participants. Either way, the goal of cultural exchange is simple: travel and get to know one another. Sounds like pure fun! But did you know that these programs also deliver impact to our economy and national security? Here’s how:

Cultural Exchanges help U.S. businesses

Did you know that international participants visiting the USA contribute more than $40 billion to our economy and support nearly 400,000 jobs in the U.S.?2 All 50 states host international students or professionals and those exchange visitors support the local economy while here. Also consider that businesses who host Work Travel program participants get the seasonal help they desperately need during the busiest time of the year–and bonus!–exchange visitors are a diverse, super-motivated staff who engages with the community and with their fellow American teammates. Small businesses who host international intern-trainees in professions like science, technology, engineering, accounting, and hospitality get helping hands and fresh ideas from around the world. That’s a perfect win-win for the globally-minded company looking to build relationships and a worldwide reputation.

Building people-to-people alliances around the globe supports U.S. foreign policy and security interests

International participants from more than 110 countries visit the USA every year, and many of these countries are critical to U.S. foreign policy, such as Brazil, China, India, and Turkey. Getting to know one another in less formal ways makes lasting connections. Those bonds, forged by building mutual understanding and respect, are a valuable public diplomacy tool. Cultural exchanges are an investment in the future, especially when you consider that 721 current and former heads of foreign governments are exchange alumni. Other notable exchange alumni include 87 Nobel Prize winners and 75 representatives to the United Nations. Certainly, these are relationships we want to nurture.

Showing support for Cultural Exchange

Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. was filled with meetings, to share these stats and stories about the impact of exchange travelers. Daniel Ebert, Greenheart President and Alliance colleagues met with the congressional offices of South Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Oregon. Michelle Riaz (Cultural Homestay International) and I met with the Alaska offices for Senator Sullivan and Congresswoman Peltola. We met a former Greenheart Travel participant, Ashlyn Dorn who studied in Argentina a few years back. Today, she is the Assistant Policy Advisor to Alaska’s Senator Sullivan. We made our requests for the Senator to support a modest increase to the FY24/25 budget for exchange programs and to meet with participants in Alaska later this summer. These are easy requests to fulfill especially since exchange programs historically have bipartisan support. Here’s hoping our Advocacy Day messages were planted in fertile soil.

Daniel Ebert, President of Greenheart International with Alliance colleague at Senator Merkley’s office.

Want to do your part to support Cultural Exchange? Here are just a few ways to get involved in these critical programs:

Thanks to the Alliance for International Exchange for their work in organizing Advocacy Day 2024. In addition to scheduling all the meetings, their team prepared us well! We had fact sheets, talking points, and data about each state. What an extraordinary day to be in Washington D.C.

by Carol Fletcher, Director of Marketing, Greenheart International

2 NAFSA economic Analysis 2022-2023 Academic Year

Michelle Riaz, Ashlyn Dorn, Carol Fletcher at Senator Sullivan’s office.