International Entrepreneurship Program Seeks to Form Connections Between Future World Leaders

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Connecticut will host an international leadership exchange program for North and Sub-Saharan African students, which includes a weekend homestay with an American family; and program coordinators are looking for interested participants.

The Global Training and Development Institute (GTDI) is able to conduct this Summer Institute for Student Leaders in Social Entrepreneurship through U.S. Department of State grant funds. African student leaders from 40 universities are selected by a rigorous application process, and attend the five–week program that consists of classes and workshops centered on entrepreneurship, business, finance and marketing in order to help make a difference in their homeland communities. The international students live in on-campus apartments during the program, with the exception of the weekend homestay, according to UConn’s Daily Digest.

UConn’s weekend homestay program will run from July 24th to July 26th, benefitting both African students and American families due to the exposure of differing cultures. Host families are sought out throughout Connecticut, Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, GTDI Director Roy Pietro, said.

“Over 200 American families have hosted in the past five years, and the consensus opinion is that (it) can be an extremely rewarding cross–cultural experience,” Pietro said.

Interested families are interviewed ahead of time and provide references for the U.S. Department of State. UConn staff also visit their homes to inspect the bedroom and living spaces to ensure that they meet the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) guidelines.

“This experience provides our visiting international students a glimpse into the everyday life of an American family, as they attend community events, meet with other Americans and have meals with family members and friends,” Pietro said.

The two – way cultural connections obtained through this experience also allows Americans to learn about life in Africa, from local policies, to socioeconomic hardship. This learning process builds understanding and relationships between the United States and countries throughout Africa, Pietro said.

In a UConn Today article about the program run in 2014, Pietro said making an impact on African societies starts with just a few people. He stated that even if a portion of the 40 international student leaders take productive measures back home, an impact has been established.

UConn is the only institution in the state that offers this kind of international partnership. Due to the success of the program, the U.S. Department of State recently granted the GTDI the privilege to replicate this program for 40 student leaders from 10 countries in Southeast Asia. The program will aim to enhance future leader relations with the United States and Southeast Asia. UConn will host the program in the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, allowing interested families another opportunity to provide weekend homestays for the visiting students, Pietro said.

To participate or ask questions about becoming a host family for one or two visiting students, contact Program Coordinator Danielle DeRosa at: danielle.derosa@uconn.edu or 860-486-6305.

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