Franziska Strauss spent a whole year in the United States. A public administrator, she took part in the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Programme (CBYX), which enables German students and young professionals to spend 12 months in the United States while their US American counterparts come over to Germany. What did she gain from that year? ‘Friendships, cultural understanding, language skills and a great deal of life experience,’ says Franziska. According to a survey of CBYX alumni, most former participants feel exactly the same way.
CBYX is open to students from all school types, but also to young professionals, especially from technical, crafts or commercial occupations, who are allotted 75 places on the programme each year. The scholarship covers their travel and programme costs as well as the cost of insurance and is funded jointly by the German Bundestag and the American Congress.
Initially applicants go through an Assessment Centre, which the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH organises on behalf of the German Bundestag. Candidates should have an interest in social and political topics, because it is members of the Bundestag, as the programme’s sponsors, who ultimately decide which applicants get to cross the Atlantic. GIZ puts forward suitable applicants and the federal German MP responsible for the electoral district selects the candidate he or she deems best suited to represent Germany as a junior ambassador in the USA. Every year around three to four hundred young professionals apply in Germany – the number of American applicants is even higher.
The CBYX programme has been one of the top exchange programmes for more than 30 years thanks to the unrivalled opportunities it offers participants, such as the chance to live with a host family, attend a university or college, do some volunteering and – a highlight and challenge at the same time – organise and complete a work placement on their own initiative. This wide range of activities ensures the young visitors fully immerse themselves in the day-to-day reality, culture, mentality and working life of their host country. This allows them to move beyond the clichés and gain a multifaceted impression of the United States while also reflecting on their own nationality and their role as ‘ambassadors’ of Germany.
Since CBYX was launched in 1983, more than 30,000 young Germans and Americans have taken part, some 6,000 of them young professionals. More than 90 per cent of CBYX participants state that the time they spent in the USA was amongst the best and most important experiences in their lives. Many are incentivised to continue learning and pursue ambitious career goals. Indeed, a high percentage of former CBYX participants today hold an executive position or manage a company.
Wanting to give something back, a lot of them also join the GIZ-backed alumni society whose work includes giving advice to potential applicants or supporting mentoring programmes for young alumni. Most of the former CBYX participants maintain their private and professional contacts with the USA, which means their CBYX experience stays with them throughout their entire lives.
Last updated: May 2019