The following is an interview with Nali Hiwa, a student in the Access Microscholarship Program, and recent participant in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). What made you interested in applying for IYLEP? I heard about IYLEP from my friends who always talked about it. I thought it would be a great opportunity to meet people from different cultures. I also wanted the certificate, which would open doors to a lot of things. I applied to learn things from other people, learn about the culture of the United States, share the culture of my country, and improve my English. I also like to travel. How was the application process? I heard about IYLEP in 2016 and was thinking about it for a while. I started volunteering in 2017 because it’s required to be accepted into the program. I asked some alumni about the application process and they all encouraged me to apply. I thought a lot about what to write in my application. How did the Access Program help you with IYLEP? Access helped with the interview because of the workshops we have had. Meeting the teachers from other countries helped as well. In the interview, if they know that you have socialized with other people and want to meet new people, it will increase your chances of getting accepted. Also, Access has helped with my language skills because of the native speakers who taught us. Are there any similarities between the approach in IYLEP and Access? IYLEP is very practical. We learned about gender studies and visited an organization that works against domestic violence, sexual abuse, and gender inequality in Helena, Montana. In Access it’s more theoretical. I learned about smart goals, which were repeated in IYLEP, but because I learned it in Access I felt that I was one step ahead of everyone. They were talking about it and I knew all the stuff already. How do you see Iraq now as compared to before IYLEP? When I heard the word “Iraq,” I thought Arabs from the south hate [Kurds] and would never want to meet us. But the people were really nice and they even raised the Kurdish flag in front of the White House. Now, it is quite different. We can share the concept of peace. We can live together even though we have been separated, and live as humans and not by our nationality. What did you take away from your IYLEP experience and how are you planning to serve your community? Seeing different cultures opened my eyes to what needs to be changed in my community. Seeing all these organizations and the culture in Helena helped me see what needs to be changed and what I should do. It also showed me that we have things that they do not have. The kids did not care about their parents as much as we do. When a child turns 18, they leave and depend on themselves. Here it is different; until the child gets married they live with their families and when the parents get older they live with the children. The problem is that when it is time to depend on ourselves we cannot do so easily. I think there should be a mix between both cultures. For how to serve our community, we are planning a project, with IYLEP and DYLEP, and have applied to the DYLEP fellowship fund for about $2500 to work on community organization. When someone has an idea to do something and they do not have support, we support them financially or find them funds and help with volunteers. We are planning four projects and if we get the funds. One of the projects is on recycling. We are also trying to increase access to books. We will record audiobooks in Kurdish and spread them via Youtube or Soundcloud. Some people who have sight disability can listen to them. This would also help people who do not have time to read. We will also do a workshop about things we learned in IYLEP, which would be an IYLEP experience without being in IYLEP. Finally, we want to create a Youtube channel, a Facebook page, or a website where we will subtitle documentaries to Kurdish from English.
برنامج (تبادل القادة العراقيين الشباب / IYLEP) هو برنامج تبادل لمدة أربعة أسابيع بتمويل من السفارة الأمريكية في بغداد ، والذي يوفر لطلاب المدارس الثانوية والجامعات الفرصة لقضاء شهر واحد في الولايات المتحدة. يقدم هذا البرنامج فرصة استثنائية للطلاب من مختلف أنحاء العراق ، لتجربة العيش بين المجتمعات الأمريكية والدولية. الهدف من البرنامج هو تقريب المكونات الإجتماعية العراقية المتنوعة من بعضها البعض ، وكسر الأفكار النمطية للشعب الأمريكي حول العراق والعكس بالعكس. لقد خلق برنامج (تبادل القادة العراقيين الشباب / IYLEP) العديد من الأجيال من القادة العراقيين الشباب الملهمين منذ عام 2007 ، الذين يؤثرون بشكل مستمر على مجتمعاتهم ، ويعرضون العراق في المحافل بأفضل طريقة. هذا الصيف ، من بين 84 طالبًا جامعيًا مشاركا من مختلف محافظات العراق ، كان هناك خمسة طلاب من الجامعة الأمريكية في العراق - السليمانية ، وهم كل من : زريان إبراهيم ، تارا برهان ، رند صلاح الدين ، شلوفه جبار ، وإسماعيل جمال ، حيث حظوا بفرصة قضاء الصيف في الولايات المتحدة. بدأ البرنامج في ديربورن - ديترويت ، إذ قضى الطلاب أسبوع التوجيه في جامعة واين ستيت ، وفيما بعد تم تقسيمهم إلى مجموعات لقضاء 18 يوما من البرنامج في الجامعات المضيفة لهم وهي : جامعة أركنساس ، جامعة ولاية كاليفورنيا - سان ماركوس ، جامعة تكساس أوستن ، وجامعة ولاية واشنطن. خرجت كل جامعة ببرنامج يعتمد على موضوع معين بما في ذلك البيئة والصحة العامة والإدارة العامة والشؤون العامة ، وذلك لإعطاء قادة المستقبل في العراق رؤية ثاقبة عن القيادة وخصائصها. تمكن قادة المستقبل العراقيون من رؤية أنفسهم في نطاق اوسع داخل الولايات المتحدة ، حيث تفاعلوا مع الطلاب الدوليين وقاموا بإعادة النظر في ثقافتهم. وبهذا الصدد قالت تارا برهان - وهي إحدى المشاركات : "أستطيع أن أقول بصدق أن برنامج (تبادل القادة العراقيين الشباب / IYLEP) يمثل تجربة فريدة . قبل البرنامج ، تعتقد أنك ذاهب إلى أمريكا وأنك ستتعلم عن الثقافة الأمريكية فقط ، وهذا ليس صحيحا ، فقد تمكنّا من خلال البرنامج من معرفة المزيد عن ثقافتنا العراقية المتنوعة. تعلمنا أن نحب اختلافاتنا وان ندرك بأننا جميعا قادمين من خلفيات متنوعة ومختلفة . أنا شخصياً تعرفت أكثر على نفسي وأدركت أنني قادر على القيام بأشياء كثيرة لم أفكر بها من قبل . هذا البرنامج يظهر لك نقاط ضعفك ويساعدك على التغلب عليها لتصبح قائداً ملهمًا للشباب . يسعدني تكرار هذه التجربة كل عام إذا كان ذلك ممكنا" .
پرۆگرامی (گۆڕینەوەی سەرکردەگەلی عێراقیی گەنج / IYLEP) پڕۆگرامێکی چوار هەفتەییە ، بەکۆمەکی باڵیۆزخانەی ئەمریکا لەبەغدا ، بەڕێوە دەچێت ، فرسەتی بەسەربردنی یەک مانگ کات لەوڵاتە یەکگرتوەکان ، بۆ فێرخوازانی قوتابخانە دواناوەندیەکان و زانکۆکان دەستەبەر دەکات . ئەم پرۆگرامە ، فرسەتێکی دەگمەن بۆ فێرخوازانی ناوچە جۆراوجۆرەکانی عێراق دەڕەخسێنێت ، بۆ ئەوەی بیانخاتە بەردەم تاقیکردنەوەی ژیان لەناوجەرگەی کۆمەڵگە ئەمریکی و نێودەوڵەتیەکاندا . ئامانج لەپرۆگرامەکە بریتییە لە : کۆکردنەوەو لێکنزیکخستنەوەی پێکهاتە کۆمەڵایەتییە عێراقییە جۆراوجۆرەکان ، هەروەها تێکشکاندنی بیروڕا باوەکەی خەڵکی ئەمریکا دەربارەی عێراق و بەپێچەوانەوەش . پرۆگرامی (گۆڕینەوەی سەرکردەگەلی عێراقیی گەنج / IYLEP) ، لەساڵی ٢٠٠٧ ەوە تا ئێستا ، چەندین نەوەی لەسەرکردەی عێراقیی هەڵکەوتو پێگەیاندوە ، کە بەردەوام کاریگەرییان لەسەر کۆمەڵگەکانیان هەیەو بەباشترین شێوە عێراق لەمەحفەلەکاندا دەناسێنن. ئەم هاوینە ، لەکۆی ٨٤ فێرخوازی زانکۆیی بەشداربو لەپارێزگا جۆراوجۆرەکانی عێراقەوە ، پێنج دانەیان فێرخوازی زانکۆی ئەمریکیی سلێمانی بون کە بریتی بون لە : زریان ئیبراهیم ، تارا بورهان ، رەند سەڵاحەدین ، شلۆڤە جەبار ، هەروەها ئیسماعیل جەمال ، کە بەخت یاوەریان بو و پشوی هاوینیان لەوڵاتە یەکگرتوەکان بەسەر برد . پرۆگرامەکە لەدیربورن – دیترویت دەستی پێ کرد ، فێرخوازان هەفتەی رێنماییان لەزانکۆی واین ستیت بەسەر برد ، پاش ئەوە دابەش کران بۆ گروپی جۆراوجۆر بەمەبەستی بەسەربردنی ١٨ رۆژ لەماوەی پرۆگرامەکە لەزانکۆ خانەخوێکان کە بریتی بون لە : زانکۆی ئەرکنساس ، زانکۆی ویلایەتی کالیفۆرنیا – سان مارکۆس ، زانکۆی تەکساس ئوستن ، هەروەها زانکۆی ویلایەتی واشنتن . هەر زانکۆیەو بەرنامەیەکی تایبەت بەخۆیی رێکخستبو کە پشتی دەبەست بەبابەتێکی دیاریکراو لەجۆری : ژینگە ، تەندروستیی گشتی ، کارگێڕیی گشتی ، هەروەها کاروباری گشتی ، بۆ ئەوەی روانگەیەکی قوڵ و تیژبینانە دەربارەی سەرکردایەتیکردن و تایبەتمەندیەکانی سەرکردایەتیکردن ببەخشرێتە سەرکردەگەلی داهاتوی عێراق . سەرکردەگەلی داهاتوی عێراق ، توانییان خۆیان لەچوارچێوەیەکی فراواندا ببیننەوە لەناو وڵاتە یەکگرتوەکان ، ئەوەبو تێکەڵاوی فێرخوازانی نێودەوڵەتی بون و فرسەتیان بۆ رەخسا بەڕۆشنبیریی خۆیاندا بچنەوە . لەم روەوە ، تارا بورهان – کە یەکێک بو لەبەشداربوان ، وتی : "دەتوانم راستگۆیانە ئەوە بڵێم کە پرۆگرامی (گۆڕینەوەی سەرکردەگەلی عێراقیی گەنج / IYLEP) ئەزمونێکی دەگمەن پێک دەهێنێت . پێش پرۆگرامەکە ، پێتوایە تۆ دەچیت بۆ ئەمریکاو تەنها لەبارەی کەلتوری ئەمریکییەوە شت فێردەبیت ، بەڵام وا نییە ، ئێمە لەڕێی ئەم پرۆگرامەوە توانیمان شتی زیاتر لەبارەی کەلتورە جۆراوجۆرەکەی عێراقیشەوە فێرببین . فێربوین جیاوازیەکانی نێوان خۆمانمان خۆشبوێت و پەی بەوە ببەین کە هەریەکە لەئێمە لەباکگراوندگەلی جیاوازو جۆراوجۆرەوە هاتوین . من خۆم زیاتر خۆمم ناسی و تێگەیشتم توانای ئەنجامدانی شتی زۆرم هەیە کە لەوەوبەر هەر بیریشم لێ نەکردونەتەوە . ئەم پرۆگرامە ، خاڵی لاوازی خۆتت پیشان دەدات و یارمەتیت دەدات زاڵ ببیت بەسەریدا بۆ ئەوەی ببیتە سەرکردەیەکی ئومێدبەخش بۆ گەنجان . خۆشحاڵ دەبم بەدوبارەبونەوەی ئەم ئەزمونە هەمو ساڵیک ، ئەگەر شتی وا مومکین بێت" .
This summer, five students from American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) were among 84 undergraduate students from different provinces of Iraq who spent their summer in the US as part of the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP). IYLEP is a four-week exchange program funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that provides both high-school and university students with the opportunity to spend one month in the United States. As an exchange program, IYLEP presents an opportunity for students from all over Iraq to experience living and learning in American communities. The program also aims to bring diverse Iraqi communities together, and to break stereotypical ideas of American people about Iraq and vice versa. Since 2007, IYLEP has created a generation of young Iraqi leaders who have taken their experiences back to their communities. AUIS students Zryan Ibrahim, Tara Burhan, Rand Salahuddin, Shlova Jabar, and Ismael Jamal began their summer program in Dearborn, Detroit, where they, along with other participants, spent their orientation week at Wayne State University. The students were then divided into groups and spent 18 days at host universities, which included the University of Arkansas, California State University - San Marcos, the University of Texas - Austin, and Washington State University. Each university hosted leadership workshops on particular themes including the environment and cultural preservation, public health, public administration, and public affairs. Tara Burhan: “I can honestly say that IYLEP is a once in a lifetime experience. Before the program, you think that you are going to America and you are going to learn about American culture only, but we finished the program knowing more about our own diverse Iraqi culture. We learned to love our differences and the fact that we all come from diverse and different backgrounds, and we embraced them with love. I personally got to know myself more and I ended up realizing that I’m capable of doing many things I never thought of. IYLEP shows you your weaknesses and it helps you overcome them to become a young, inspirational leader to yourself before others. I would happily repeat this experience every year if I could!” Zryan Ibrahim: “IYLEP is an amazing program, and I was lucky enough to be a part of the journey. Throughout the program, I was able to build many connections and deal with people that I have not met or worked with, and most importantly, I was able to enhance my knowledge and improve my skills including, in leadership and critical thinking.The program brings future leaders of Iraq together, and almost everyone has the same potential for leadership and making changes in their community.” Ismael Jamal: “It was the first time for me to do something outside of my comfort zone. Before participating in IYLEP, I was only able to work with the people with whom I was comfortable; however, during the program, I got to work, share a room, eat, have conversations, do team work, and exchange resources with many different kinds of people. Indeed, I was not comfortable with many of them, but I had to do it no matter what. At the end of the program, I learned that I am capable of working and doing something even if I am not comfortable with it. That was the best lesson I learned in the program.” Rand Salahuddin: “Before IYLEP, I knew I would come back with greater knowledge and skills. But, what I didn’t expect was learning about myself! I realized that I’m capable of many things that I didn’t know and at the same time that I have negative sides too that I wasn’t aware of. Knowing your weakness and strengths is very important when you want to build your personality. I’ve always wanted to be independent and couldn’t be more independent than when I was in the US because I was on my own without my family for the first time! Living for a month abroad with people from different backgrounds is greater than one thinks.” Shlova Jabbar: “I would say that IYLEP was a very different experience in the sense that we had to adapt to new places and new people in a very short time, it was not easy but we tried to make the best out of it and thus it was a very beautiful journey.”
Nine AUIS students participated in Iraqi Yong Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP) this June for six weeks. Before I start talking about our time in the program, let me give you the basics. IYLEP is a leadership, educational, and cultural program funded by the US Embassy in Baghdad. There are two IYLEP institutes administrated by FHI 360: Social Media and Public Policy. There are two others implemented by World Learning: Environment and Social Awareness and Public Health and Community Development. There is also IYLEP for high school students, which is also administrated by World Learning. Now let’s get a little deeper. Randi Barznji and I participated in IYLEP Social Media Institute at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond; four AUIS students participated in IYLEP Public Policy Institute at University of Massachusetts – Amherst; and three others participated in IYLEP World Learning. During that time, we had an impressive, fantastic, and unforgettable experience. This program basically consists of two parts: academic and cultural, which we called “the fun part.” As the only AUIS students in Social Media Institute, Randi and I each got three certificates: one from the Embassy of the United States in Baghdad & FHI 360, the another from the School of Mass Communications and the Global Education Office at VCU, and the third for first and second place award by Social Media Institute at VCU. We spent 5 days in Washington, D.C. for the opening conference. We participated in various activities, visited popular tourist attractions, and attended lectures. For example, we went to a lecture about American Government and the Presidential Election of 2012 by Philip Patlan, who worked for the White House during Obama and Bush administrations. He talked about life in the U.S briefly, and then discussed public life as well. In the very beginning of his speech, he said that individuality is very important in the U.S. After his lecture, I had a chance to talk to him. I told him that on the one hand, individuality is not something unique about the U.S. It is important almost everywhere in the world, including Iraq, because everyone is motivated by self-interest. This is the nature of human beings, as Machiavelli discusses in The Prince. But that does not mean that family or other things such as power, money, and religion, are not important. They also play a very important role, especially in Iraqi society. On the other hand, yes, Patlan was right because individuality is more important in the U.S than in Iraq, where family is usually more in charge of society than individuals. Then, he talked about public life which is very different from public life in Iraq, because we do not have a strong government, and a large number of associations, nonprofit organizations and NGOs, as they do in the U.S. Another interesting thing that I happened upon in D.C was seeing AUIS President Dr. Athanasios Moulakis on the street. One day, in the evening, we went to see the White House and the Capitol Hill and some other popular places in D.C. After that, we took a taxi to go back to our hotel. On the way, we stopped at a red traffic light, and suddenly I saw Dr. Moulakis. He was walking on the street. I called him and he turned around to me, and said hello, but unfortunately, I did not have a chance to talk to him because the cab driver pulled away. I told him to stop for a few minutes, but he could not because it was too crowded. After the opening conference in D.C., IYLEP participants from Public Policy headed to Amherst in Massachusetts, while the Social Media participants headed to Virginia Beach on the Atlantic Ocean. We spent the weekend swimming during daytime and attending concerts at night. After that, we went to Richmond, VA. Richmond, which is the capital city of Virginia, is only 2 hours away from Washington D.C., but it is totally different. When we first arrived in Richmond, I felt like I was visiting another country! We had Social Media class for one month with VCU students in Richmond. During every class, experts on social media lectured us. We had midterm and final exams, assignments on Twitter and Delicious.com, and presentations on social media tools and Iraq. After the class, we also did some other activities. For example, we visited CBS6, a local TV station, and Randi and I were selected by our professor and IYLEP staff for an interview about social media, Virginia, and Iraq. The anchor of CBS6 asked me a question about one thing that I would like to tell the Americans, and my response was that I hope that more Americans will take interest in what is currently happening in Iraq. Iraq has been developed since the liberation of Iraq in 2003. There has been a lot of construction and investment. Our education is getting better. Our economy is growing every day. I would like to tell the Americans that what you see in the news about Iraq is not always correct. If Americans want to get a better understating about Iraq, they should visit Iraq to see the progress. We also wrote blog posts for Richmond.com. My article was about politics and equality in my hometown, Rania, and Sulaimani in particular. The most important part of the academic side of this program were our projects for nonprofit organizations. We worked for non-profit organizations with VCU students in Richmond. Our class was divided into 10 teams. There were IYLEP students and VCU students in every team. Our client was Fan Free Clinic, which was the first free clinic in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We created YouTube video, Tumblr, social media strategy and manual, and other social media platforms for our client. By the end of the course, each team presented their projects, which were judged by 3 experts on social media. Randi’s team won first place in the final project by voting from the audience and the judges, and my team was placed second. In short, the most important part of working for nonprofit organizations was the combination of VCU and IYLEP students in each team. We learned a lot from each other. They learned a lot about Iraq and our culture, and we learned many things from VCU students about American culture, American history, American Government, even American music and food. This experience proved to me that it is absolutely correct when they say students can learn not only from their professors, but also from other students as well, especially if the students have different backgrounds. I think this is why or it may be one of the reasons that the universities in the U.S attempt to diversify their student body populations by accepting international students. Finally, we returned to Iraq on August 6. Since I returned, I have been asked by a number of people about the main purpose of the program. I am sure some of you who read this blog post have the same question. The main purpose of this program is not to get a certificate. It is not only about social media or public policy. It is about life in general. We experienced many different things. We compared life and culture in the U.S and life in Iraq. There are a lot of similarities and differences. For example, one of the differences that I observed was that dreams and goals differ between Iraqis and Americans. In the US, everyone can have a long term goal and achieve that goal if they want, and they make a lot of effort to pursue that goal. However, in Iraq, people have a lot of short term goals, but it is not easy to accomplish short term goals because of the political instability and some other problems that we have faced. One of the similarities is diversity. The U.S is also very diverse like Iraq.
Close to 40 select undergraduates participated in a number of prestigious leadership conferences, exchange programs, and seminars during the summer break. Heman Khalaf, Randi Rahbar, Ammar Haider, Mohammed Raja, Dashne Abdul-Kareem, Nergis Ismet, Salman Ahmed and Dina Dara were invited to participate in the Iraqi Young Leadership Exchange Program (IYLEP). The program provided six weeks of fully-funded leadership training and classroom instruction at Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst. In addition to classroom work, these students traveled to numerous US cities and spent time volunteering and developing strong friendships with fellow participants. “I learned a lot and met with different people that each taught me something special and new,” said Dina Dara. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.” Mahdi Murad traveled to Greece for the International Institute for Political and Economic Studies (IIPES), a two-week academic program that allowed students from 23 different countries to explore major political, economic and cultural issues important to the Eastern Mediterranean region. “My life dramatically changed through IIPES,” said Murad. “I learned a lot about various cultures, values and institutions.” Hersh Seidgul participated in the Middle East Partnewship Initiative (MEPI), a program operated by the US State Department that offers assistance, training, and support to individuals striving to bring change to the Middle East and North Africa. Tara Raad, Decan Dana, Sherihan Mudhafer and Muhammed Nabeel took part in the Study of United States Institutes (SUSI) for Student Leaders, a five-week academic program for foreign undergraduate leaders hosted by academic institutions throughout the United States. Mudhafer participated in an institute focused on religious pluralism at Temple University, where she attended lectures about differences between religions and the role pluralism plays in American Democracy. Raad, on the other hand, participated in the New Media in Journalism Institute at Washington State University, where she examined major topics in journalism, learned about new technologies in media, and interacted daily with American students. “[SUSI] opened my mind and gave me the opportunity to see the world,” said Raad. Rawaz Omeed and Saz Aso Jaefar attended the Women2Women conference in Massachusets, international leadership program to brings together promising young women, aged 15 - 19, from the United States and Arab and Muslim world. Jaefar called the conference “a life changing experience”.