Through connections with international peers, high school student Mohamed H. forged new friendships, exchanged experiences, gained new insights and skills, and even developed a new online platform. This was made possible through his participation in The Experiment Digital, a virtual exchange program implemented by World Learning and supported by the Stevens Initiative. Participating in his first virtual exchange helped Mohamed move beyond stereotypes and work with peers across differences. “Every day I got a new life lesson from the program. In each family [small group] dialogue, I learned something new. I learned to respect cultures more and to be more open minded. The more open minded you are the more open hearted you are towards others,” Mohamed said. “I got to share who I am and connect with others without barriers.”
The Experiment Digital is a two-month summer virtual exchange program where high school-aged youth learn to be more civically engaged, which includes providing them with the tools to plan and execute a service project in their community. As a participant in summer 2020, Mohamed took part in interactive modules on leadership and community issues as well as engage in synchronous virtual exchange with peers in the U.S. and Iraq from his home in Algeria.
Mohamed now spends his time researching astrophysics and space sciences. He credits The Experiment Digital for helping him change his whole approach to life by inspiring him to merge his two passions – scientific research and business – while also giving back to his community. Mohamed found that opportunities to fund scientific research were rare in his community, but thanks to The Experiment Digital, he came up with a solution: WeFund Support Scientific Research (SSR).
WeFund SSR is an online platform that connects researchers and innovators with investors to fund their projects. His time spent collaborating with his international peers during The Experiment Digital strengthened his online communication skills, which now allows him to effectively lead a team of seven entirely online. He also learned the importance of teamwork during his virtual exchange. “Two or three minds thinking together is better than one mind,” said Mohamed. The Experiment Digital strengthened Mohamed’s belief that he could achieve his goals, even at his young age. He is confident in his project and its ability to impact the science community and related fields. Currently, they are building out the platform and they hope to start facilitating direct investments by 2022.
Mohamed is grateful he had the opportunity to meet such wonderful people through virtual exchange – he and the peers he met through The Experiment Digital are unified in their hopes to serve their own communities in the best way they can. To those considering virtual exchange, Mohamed has the following advice: “If you want to build skills, networks, gain opportunities... virtual exchange programs are the place for that. They create opportunities to improve our communities.”
The Experiment Digital is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. The
Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.