By Deba Uwadiae
The Ohio Senate welcomed six international visitors from three Asian countries – India, Pakistan and Nepal – on Wednesday, May 15, 2019. They came to Columbus, Ohio as part of an international exchange on the platform of World Learning Inc., a program that was founded in 1932, when Dr. Donald Watt launched the organization’s flagship program, The Experiment in International Living. Inspired by the belief that sending Americans abroad would expand their worldview and cultivate cross-cultural understanding and respect, Watt and 23 young men — the first Experiment group — sailed for Europe to attend a summer camp with Swiss and German teenagers.
The visitors from government and civil society groups include Prem Ojha, Pradeep K Singh, Chet N Rasaili, Shahid Rehman, Khursheed A Khuhro and Neeraj Kumar had their first stop in Washington DC and expected to head back on May 24.
In an interview, the spokesperson for the group,, Prem Ojha told me that “We are developing our individual action plans in which we will develop and implement projects in our home countries that promote good governance, strengthen civil society, and/or support democratic institutions.”
The Professional Fellows for Governance and Society, South and Central Asia program brought us from India, Pakistan, and Nepal to the U.S. to exchange ideas, strategies, and best practices in legislative process and policy-making. This program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning Incorporated. Through this two-way exchange for youth leaders ages 25-40 from India, Pakistan, Nepal, and the United States, participants will exchange ideas and best practices, while also improving leadership skills and developing sustainable and enduring linkages with professional counterparts.
The program aims to build mutual understanding; establish networks among mid-level professionals in the U.S., India, Pakistan, and Nepal; and encourage increased knowledge of the legislative process and principles of good governance. This fellowship also expected to enhance our cross-cultural understanding in a globalized world and promote respect towards other cultures. Further, this helps us to experience another culture by living and learning about languages, customs, traditions, lifestyles, food, social norms and values so that we understand the beauty of diversity and debunk the misconceptions and stereotypes about other communities and nations.
We arrived at Washington, DC on April 27, 2019 and stayed until May 1, 2019. We had an orientation in Washington, DC that focused on the structure of the US government, the legislative process, and the role of civil society. We got to Columbus, Ohio on May 2, 2019 to take part in a fellowship with state and local Government offices and civil society organizations to understand the legislative process, civic engagement practices and role of civil society. We will go back to Washington, DC on May 24 to participate in Professional Fellows Congress in Washington, DC with around 300 fellows from more than 50 countries.
We have gained a deeper understanding of the U.S. Legislative process, deeper understanding of the societies, cultures, and people and created linkages and networks between and among fellows. This has also created linkages and networks between and among us; and promoted the understanding for cooperation between the government and civil society. We are developing our individual action plans in which we will develop and implement projects in our home countries that promote good governance, strengthen civil society, and/or support democratic institutions.
Meanwhile, the World Learning Inc. has continued to build on its decades of success. The Experiment sends more than 600 American teenagers abroad each summer for life-changing experiences. School for International Training, SIT Graduate Institute offers internationally focused master’s degrees in eight areas of study as well as certificate and professional development programs. SIT Study Abroad offers 82 undergraduate study abroad programs across all seven continents, including multi-country comparative programs through the International Honors Program (IHP). And World Learning oversees 92 programs with participants from 162 countries, including the 2,000 emerging leaders that are brought to the U.S. every year on international professional, academic, and youth exchanges.