When German student Žaklina Simić was 7-years-old, she always dreamed of traveling to America. She would hear about the different happenings and always wanted to go there to experience it for herself. As she got older, Simić’s dream stayed somewhat alive as she was taught English in school along with her classmates, but the dream of America didn’t seem attainable. After completing primary and secondary school she entered into the German equivalent of real estate managing through an apprenticeship. Although Simić worked hard with three weeks of work and one week of school, still she dreamed of America.
That was when she heard about the Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program. Every year 75 young professional students from Germany get to go to the United States and stay with a host family and vice versa for Americans. There they will spend five months taking classes at a college fitting their major before going to do work in their field in January. Simić was ecstatic. She said “in Germany real estate is much broader and has a lot more to do with politics which is why I wanted this program.” She originally applied in 2019 and got accepted for the 2020 year, but it was eventually canceled due to the global pandemic. Still, the 25-year-old tried again and again until she was accepted.
The program, which is in its 38th year, focuses on cultural exchange mainly through the exposure of cultures with a deeper meaning of participating in strengthening Germany and the United States connection. Simić said of the program, “you apply online and sign some forms and answer questions on motivation. You have to be motivated, or else you won’t get in,” Simić continued, “the real special part is the Bundestag chooses one out of the three students in their district to complete the program and you get to have a mentor from the Bundestag for it.”
After acceptance, she said that “normally you meet up at a convention center and do tasks and tests. The German students have to have English language knowledge, but the Americans do not.” When asked how she felt about learning the language, Simić replied, “I have been taught English since I was a little kid. It was not hard.”
A trip to D.C.
The program, Cultural Vistas, has been running the CBYX student exchange for quite some time, but it is their first year being responsible for both the German and United States sides. Lorain County Community College has had students through the program in the past and is currently in its eighth year of the partnership. The internship is also fully funded besides everyday luxuries such as food and shopping.
Besides the CBYX, Simić also applied for the Congressional Internship Program (CIP) as a way to continue her studies. She said, “five out of 75 students applied for CIP and I was one of the ones that got it.” Because of this, she will be heading to Washington D.C. in January to study under a congress member for six weeks before returning to Germany.
A fun challenge
When discussing the opportunity, Simić was elated, “For Europeans, America is huge! This is my dream to be here and I’m more than happy and thankful to be here and able to do this with the program,” she continued, “the meaning behind it is so much bigger with this program and I am so grateful to be a part of it.” For Simić, America has been everything she’s dreamed of. “It’s so different and huge here. Distance is a whole other understanding now and time goes very fast because it’s all so exciting and new.”
Back in her hometown in Germany, she mentioned that people tend to keep to themselves but the Midwest is very different. She said “I feel like people in the Midwest are very helpful and talkative, but it is a fun challenge.” Simić hopes to continue to enjoy America as much as she can before she heads back to Germany in August and she said she will definitely try to come back soon.