An exchange may be for a finite period of time, but the resulting friendships last forever. Daniel Voda of Moldova is a 2010 alumnus of the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellows Summer Institute, more simply known as BFTF. Daniel has another moniker for the acronym: Best Friends Together Forever. Hosted at Wake Forest University in 2010, BFTF engaged students on a variety of topics, from diplomacy and media literacy to economic globalization and community advocacy. Daniel gained a great deal from his exchange, saying, “I became more sensitive to other cultures, traditions and views. … ‘We the People’ were three words without a meaning before the trip.”
Daniel’s positive exchange experience drives him to find ways to connect people around the world. He wants “a community of people all around the globe, sharing the same understanding of the world.” Motivated to build meaningful connections within the exchange alumni community, Daniel served on the Alumni Advisory Board in Moldova for two years. During his time on the board, he took charge in organizing the 2011 and 2012 Alumni Congress.
Following his exchange, Daniel helped found the Youth Ambassadors Summer Institute (YASI), a week-long program that brings together young adults and trains them to become politically active citizens and build relationships among European countries. Approximately 30 students come together every year to participate in YASI, fulfilling Daniel’s hope that “knowledge is meant to move across the world to engage more and more people.” As a youth expert, Daniel is often seen on Moldovan television, providing valuable insight on various social and political events from the point of view of Moldova’s youth. He also moderates weekly meetings of the English Debate Club at the U.S. Embassy’s American Resource Center.
While Daniel is always extremely active in Moldovan society, and in the exchange alumni community, April 2014 proved to be a particularly special month. On April 27, Daniel and 25 other socially engaged Moldovan students joined the Prime Minister of Moldova, Iurie Leancă, on a trip to Athens, Greece on the “Visa-Free Airplane.” This trip marked the official celebration of visa-free travel within the European Union for citizens of Moldova. Also in mid-April, during the official U.S. Congressional Delegation’s visit to Moldova, led by U.S. Senator John McCain, Daniel moderated the senators’ meetings with more than 500 Moldovan students and dozens of local and international journalists. Daniel instantly built bridges between American senators and Moldovan students, ensuring that interactions were dynamic and productive. Daniel’s schedule has been hectic since his exchange program, but if given a choice, he would not change anything. In Daniel’s words, “I can’t imagine my life without this exchange.”
Each month, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports program alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Daniel Voda is this month’s outstanding alumnus, and his work will be recognized throughout August on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official alumni website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.