AFS New Zealand was absolutely delighted to host our first group of Global Prep students in July. 7 students from across the United States came to take part in an action-packed 3 week programme centered around sustainability and youth leadership. Facilitated through a blended-learning program that combined intercultural learning sessions with theme-based activities, participants were activated as global citizens while simultaneously growing their understanding of environmental and business sustainability. Highlights of the program included attending Festival for the Future 2019, spending an afternoon exploring Zealandia and an exciting overnight trip to Nelson.

Carla Rey Vasquez, Global Engagement and Programmes Manager at AFS Intercultural Programmes, has previously presented at NZIEC data-driven research collected by AFS that measures the potential impact of short-term educational exchange programmes. Utilising an educational model that blends intercultural awareness exercises, seminar style sessions and active experiences, Global Prep programmes are designed to activate global citizens while educating participants on salient, contemporary global issues. In the midst of world-wide climate strikes, a movement towards renewable energy and a deeper understanding of human impact on the earth, sustainability is clearly a concept that younger generations are increasingly interested in.

We were delighted to welcome a diverse range of inspiring speakers in to our midst throughout the course of the programme. Recipient of the 2018 Prime Minister’s Science Prize for Communication Prof. James Renwick discussed his experiences with climate change and his experiences with science and academia. General Manager and co-founder of Pomegranate Kitchen Rebecca Stewart talked with the students the importance of creating inclusive and interculturally-aware spaces for those with refugee backgrounds. Mayor Justin Lester reflected on his time as an AFS student and how his experience with global competency has framed his adult life and career within the public sector.

Hands-on activities included an afternoon spent with the Island Bay Marine Center discussing marine conservation, tours of Victoria campuses in Kelburn and Te Aro, and a windy ferry trip to the South Island. Students were actively encouraged throughout the programs to be conscious of their waste-levels, to choose low-carbon transport options and to employ intercultural awareness in their daily interactions. Spending an afternoon volunteering with KaiBosh enabled the students to gain insight into the role of volunteer-run organisations, while learning about the huge amounts of food waste created each day. The students spent two of their final days working with Josh Peauafi from Young Enterprise Scheme, constructing a fictional sustainable business model intended to reduce produce-waste within the agriculture sector.

Our students ended the programme with a comprehensive set of tools that will enable them to navigate intercultural interactions with global competence. During our final reflection, many of the students were pleasantly surprised at just how much impact a 3 week programme could have on their understanding of the world. Students felt as if they had learnt a great deal about their personal environmental impact, an understanding of sustainable business models and beginning their journey to global competence. The students identified intercultural awareness skills and growing their ability to interact with a diverse range of people as an integral part of this experience. AFS is committed to activating global citizens and encouraging intercultural awareness, and we look forward to welcoming more AFS students to Wellington as part of Global Prep in the future!