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