Building Bridges from Cleveland to Taiwan

The On-Demand Youth Leadership Program (YLP) is a unique program created to serve the emerging needs of U.S. embassies by bringing high school youth and adult educators from around the world to the United States for intensive, substantive three-week exchanges. The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding from the U.S. government and implemented by World Learning in partnership with organizations located across the country.

This piece was originally written and published by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs.

On October 19, Kjell Aspelin, Amanda Bendis, and Sydney Heckeler disembarked from a 12-hour flight. The three Cleveland high school students had just landed in Taiwan for a two-week trip to discover the country, its culture, and its music. For all of the students, it was their first time in Asia; for one of them, it was her first time outside of the United States.

This two-week exchange was part of the On-Demand Youth Leadership Program. It was organized by the Cleveland Council on World Affairs, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State through the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and coordinated in partnership with the American Institute in Taiwan and World Learning in Washington, DC.

The trip was the reciprocal component of the AIT@40 Youth Leadership Exchange Program, which had welcomed 16 music students from the four top high schools in Taiwan to Cleveland in May, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the American Institute in Taiwan. AIT is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering Taiwan-U.S. relations and to advancing the interests of the U.S. within Taiwan.

Showcasing the Best of Cleveland to Exchange Participants from Taiwan

Kjell, Sydney, and Amanda had participated in the May exchange by helping welcome the Taiwanese cohort, introducing them to U.S. culture, and joining them during various segments of their program. Over three weeks, students from Taiwan toured three world-renowned music conservatories in Northeast Ohio, joined a Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra practice, learned about music therapy, and engaged in volunteering activities and leadership-building sessions, among other activities related to music and youth leadership.

Youth Leaders from Cleveland Explore Taiwan

For the first time in the history of the U.S. Department of State’s On-Demand Youth Leadership Program, an outbound component was included to provide an opportunity for U.S. students to travel abroad. Six months after making friends with the Taiwanese students in Cleveland, Kjell, Sydney, and Amanda reconnected with students in all four Taiwanese cities represented in the program: Hsinchu, Taichung, Koahsiung, and Taoyuan.

During the program, the U.S. students stayed in the Taiwanese students’ homes, visited their schools, and participated in music-related service learning projects. The students from Cleveland also learned how to make dumplings, visited local temples, and tried their hand at indigo dyeing. They participated in music-themed activities and practiced with a Taiwanese school orchestra, learned to play the Chinese zither, and performed in a Taiwanese opera.

At the end of the program, the Taiwanese and U.S. students came together to perform a joint concert, ending with a choral rendition of the song “A Whole New World,” from the Disney movie Aladdin. As all 19 exchange program students congregated on stage for their last song, the audience was touched by the underlying message about the power of global connections to change the world and broaden perspectives. The students picked the song as a representation of their exchange program experience together.

Global Connections, Local Impact

The program had an impact on both sides. Taiwanese students who had previously not held much interest in the U.S. were now preparing for the English language exams needed to attend U.S. universities. In recent years, interest in the U.S. has waned among Taiwanese youth. Renewed interest in the U.S. among the next generation of Taiwanese leaders can be a critical relationship-builder in a region where this is particularly important for U.S. interests.

The students from Cleveland were similarly impacted. Sydney said that the trip inspired her to pursue a career in international relations, and in fact she wishes to apply to the National Security Language Initiative for Youth study abroad program to return to Taiwan. She also plans to stay connected with who she now sees as lifelong friends in Taiwan.

“Taiwan was a life changing experience for me,” Sydney said. “I had such an amazing, unbelievable, wonderful time getting the opportunity to do things I’ve never done or seen before, and being able to make really close friends. I think that Taiwan is a place I would love to return to very soon, either for my future career or to visit my friends!”

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Examples of Past Digital Communication Network Projects

  • Internet vs. Democracy Forum
  • Roaring 20s #Digital Forum
  • Combatting Disinformation Training Program
  • Digital and Media Literacy for NGOs Training Program
  • Tolerance and Coexistence 2.0 Forum
  • Montenegro Digital Influencers Hub
  • Humor and Games for Social Good Forum

Fulbright Specialist Program


Link U.S. Experts and International Institutions

A program of the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the Fulbright Specialist Program is a unique opportunity for U.S. academics and established professionals to engage in two- to six-week consultancies at host institutions across the globe. Host institutions, including universities, non-profits, and other organizations, develop and submit projects for approval by the U.S. Embassy or Fulbright Commission in their country in wide-ranging academic and professional fields that build capacity and promote long-lasting linkages between individuals and institutions in the U.S. and abroad.


Address Priorities and Build Institutional Capacity at Institutions Around the World

An important companion to the traditional Fulbright Scholar Program, the Fulbright Specialist Program differs by providing short-term exchange experiences that tackle discrete, sometimes rapid response, projects. The Fulbright Specialist Program encourages participation of both university faculty and highly experienced non-academics, including legal experts, business professionals, public health practitioners, scientists, IT professionals, artists, and journalists. The program is a mutually beneficial opportunity for the Specialist who may not be available to leave their position for an extended period of time and the host institution which needs an experienced partner to jointly tackle a problem or examine an issue on a short-term basis.


Become a Fulbright Specialist: Apply to Join the Roster

Fulbright Specialists are a diverse group of highly experienced, well-established faculty members and professionals who represent a wide variety of academic disciplines and professions.  In order to be eligible to serve as a Fulbright Specialist, candidates must have significant experience in their respective professional field and be a U.S. citizen at time of application. Eligible disciplines and professional fields supported by the Fulbright Specialist Program are listed below.

  • Agriculture
  • American Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Archeology
  • Biology Education
  • Business Administration
  • Chemistry Education
  • Communications and Journalism
  • Computer Science and Information Technology
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Engineering Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Law
  • Library Science
  • Math Education
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution Studies
  • Physics Education
  • Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Public/Global Health
  • Social Work
  • Sociology
  • Urban Planning

Interested candidates can find more information about the Fulbright Specialist Program and apply to serve as a Specialist at Candidates who meet all eligibility requirements will have their full applications reviewed by a panel of their professional peers. Candidates who are approved by the peer review panels will then join the Fulbright Specialist Roster. Individuals remain on the Specialist Roster for a three-year term and are eligible to be matched with a host institution’s project abroad during that tenure.

The following costs are covered for those Fulbright Specialists who are matched to a project: international and domestic airfare, ground transportation, visa fees, lodging, meals, and incidentals. A daily honorarium is also provided.

Become a Host: Bring a Fulbright Specialist to Your Institution

The Fulbright Specialist Program allows universities, cultural centers, non-governmental organizations, and other institutions abroad to host a leading U.S. academic or professional to work on diverse, short-term collaborative projects where the Specialist conducts activities which may include, but are not limited to:

  • Delivering a seminar or workshop
  • Consulting on faculty or workforce development
  • Developing academic or training curricula and materials
  • Lecturing at the graduate or undergraduate level
  • Conducting needs assessments or evaluations for a program or institution

Institutions interested in hosting a Fulbright Specialist should contact their local Fulbright Commission or U.S. Embassy for country-specific requirements and deadlines.

Contact information for all participating countries is available on the website.

For more information or questions about the Fulbright Specialist Program, please email [email protected].

The Fulbright Specialist Program is a program of the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. government and administered by World Learning.

EducationUSA Academy

For further information: [email protected]

“Through EducationUSA Academy, I made new friends from all over the world, I learned about the American education system and requirements for getting accepted to an American university, and I visited one of the most interesting places in the United States in a friendly and helpful group.” -2017 EducationUSA Academy participant

Student Eligibility

Participants must:

  • Be students (currently enrolled or recently graduated), ages 15-18 at the time of the summer program;
  • Have at least three years of middle to high school English language study (language requirements may vary slightly by institution);
  • Be mature and self-disciplined, with a commitment to active participation in the Academy and its programming;
  • Aspire to pursue a portion of their higher education in the U.S.; and
  • Have sufficient personal funds to cover program fees and international airfare.

More information is available from your local EducationUSA adviser. To find your local EducationUSA advising center, please visit the EducationUSA website.

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EducationUSA Academy is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.

International Visitor Leadership Program

End of Year Report

Chosen by U.S. embassies worldwide to participate, distinguished professionals include:

  • parliamentarians
  • government officials
  • entrepreneurs
  • NGO leaders
  • journalists
  • academics
  • arts administrators
  • mid-career professionals

Programs focus on policy issues in areas such as:

  • government
  • international security
  • foreign policy
  • entrepreneurship
  • economics and trade
  • media
  • women’s leadership
  • education
  • public health
  • arts
  • agriculture
  • disability rights and inclusion

World Learning staff members design national itineraries, arrange logistics, set up meetings in Washington, DC, and coordinate the collaboration of U.S. Department of State program officers, interpreters and International Visitor Liaisons, and more than 85 community-based member organizations from the Global Ties U.S. Network who arrange local programs nationwide.


Most participants are mid-career professionals and emerging leaders, and for many, this is their first visit to the U.S. Groups are of varying sizes, from single visitors to groups of 25 or more. World Learning program staff work closely with their State Department counterparts to design a program customized to the project objectives and the visitors’ interests.


Participant Selection

IVLP candidates are selected solely by U.S. embassy personnel in each country. There is no application form. World Learning is a private sector partner of the U.S. Department of State; our role is limited to designing programs for participants once they arrive in the U.S. For further information regarding the program, please consult the U.S. Department of State’s website.

Program Design

A typical project includes up to a week of meetings in Washington, DC, to provide an orientation and overview of the theme and to introduce visitors to federal officials and agencies, national organizations, academics and think tanks, nonprofits and NGOs, and professionals in their specific field of interest. All projects include a briefing on the US federal system of government. Meetings may include panel discussions, site visits, workshops, individual interlocutors, job shadowing, or service opportunities. Visitors typically travel to an additional three or four cities in geographically diverse regions of the country; the itinerary may include a state capital and a small town to provide first-hand exposure to the great diversity that exists in the U.S. Also included in the program design are hospitality dinners, school visits, community service activities, and cultural events such as rodeos, state fairs, festivals, visits to national parks, or events that highlight some unique aspect of the region visited.

Participant Experience

“My recent experience in the IVLP program is so far the deepest ever for me to see and understand the full picture of what America as a country is like. I strongly believe this program will have a very long-term impact on my views about America and the world and to some extent it has already helped me to understand many long-time questions.” – Journalist from China

The International Visitor Leadership Program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by World Learning.