Jun 4, 2021

An Update from Soliya | Spring 2021

"I loved this program. The best thing about the Connect Program was being able to be myself." 
– Male, 21, Portuguese, Stockton University, USA

"The best thing about the Connect Program was that it took me out of my comfort zone, and it made me more confident about how I speak or how I look." 
– Female, 21, Palestinian, Islamic University in Gaza, Palestinian Territories

We're so grateful to our facilitators and supporters who made our Spring 2021 semester an enriching and brave space for 4,000 young adults across the world. Though seemingly simple, being able to be yourself in a group of diverse perspectives and identities takes courage and openness, as does challenging yourself to think critically and grow outside of your typical environment. We congratulate all of our alumni on a transformative semester, and we thank YOU for your unfailing support. 

A few facts from our latest virtual exchange semester:

  • 92% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that participating in the Connect Program helped them improve their cross-cultural communication skills, 91% for knowledge and/or interest in global events, and 88% for teamwork and collaborative problem-solving skills.
  • 82% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they built meaningful relationships through their participation in the Connect Program.

We are so grateful that you continue to follow, trust, and support our work -- thank you!

All the best, 

Erkinaz Shuminov

Feb 4, 2021

Empowering Rising Generations through Virtual Exchange

“Between the insurrection in the Capitol, the rising COVID-19 death toll, and Inauguration Day, there were plenty of reasons for our participants to be divided. But then they began to dialogue, and it was like watching a sunrise. Students from all walks of life learned how to talk about divisive topics, how to ask each other thoughtful questions, and how to listen in ways that opened deep avenues for empathy and real paths for connection.” – A facilitator for First Year Connect, Soliya’s domestic virtual exchange program.

With your support, in the winter of 2021 Soliya ran another round of First Year Connect, engaging 165 first-year students at SUNY Potsdam in intra-campus dialogue to improve social cohesion. Across 18 groups, 30 facilitators led dialogue sessions on issues that impact on-campus relations across lines of difference.

In the fall of 2020, we ran another semester of the Connect Program, our flagship global virtual exchange program. We partnered with 67 colleges, across 21 countries [1], to connect 2,104 young adults in international dialogue on today’s most pressing issues. 93% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they improved their cross-cultural communication skills; 91% for active listening skills; and 85% for critical thinking skills. A professor we partnered with from JCI Damascus in Syria highlighted the impact of the exchange on the participants:

“The students really found their Connect Program experience inspiring; they all shared that they felt heard and especially noted that there was a safe environment which gave them the confidence and motivation to speak their mind.”

As we continue to both expand First Year Connect, piloted just last summer, and enter into our 18th year of global virtual exchange programming, we thank you, again, for trusting in and following our work.

All the best, 

[1] Afghanistan, Egypt, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Italy, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, UAE, United Kingdom, and United States.


Oct 7, 2020

Dialogue Across Difference for College-aged Youth

In summer 2020, Soliya launched First Year Connect, our pilot program bringing incoming first-year college students in the US together across silos and differences to build dialogue skills and relationships before the start of classes. Guided by trained facilitators, students discussed the impact of the pandemic on their lives, as well as issues related to identity, community, and current events. At a time when college students were instructed to physically isolate, we provided them with a virtual space for human connection and to engage over their lived experiences. We ran two rounds of the program between July and August, with each round including four two-hour sessions. 

We partnered with two colleges to engage a total of 371 students in First Year Connect. 84% of students who attended the full program said that they were glad to have participated. Close to 90% of students resided in the United States at the time of participation, with others residing in China, Chile, Egypt, Japan, El Salvador, Nepal, the Netherlands, Brazil, Iran, Mexico, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Russia, Kenya, Vietnam, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Indonesia, New Zealand, India, Honduras, and Gibraltar. Soliya will launch another round of the program in January 2021 with 600 students.

Thank you for your support! 


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