Empowering Young Global Citizens through Virtual Exchange

A new program is giving university students in Yemen and the United States a unique opportunity to join forces as active global citizens. Called Qisasna (which means “Our Stories” in Arabic), it is virtually connecting the students to develop podcasts on their shared challenges and opportunities.
Yemeni student virtually meets with his peers in the United States.

Launched in April 2021, Qisasna is Amideast’s first program to receive funding from the Stevens Initiative, an international effort that aims to build global competence and career readiness skills for youth in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa. Funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the initiative focuses on growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange.

Through Qisasna, students develop the skills needed to produce podcast episodes. They also learn how to work across cultures to create a shared product that engages audiences in global issues including climate change, perceptions of cultures and others, career opportunities for young people, and women and youth’s roles in communities.

By the fall semester, a dedicated Microsoft Teams channel was set up at Amideast/Yemen to connect 160 American and Yemeni students, organized into 16 teams of five American and five Yemeni students each. After learning how to produce podcast episodes, the teams used their new skills to create 16 different episodes on wide-ranging topics, from broadband access, water resources, and migration, to entrepreneurship, employment, and women’s rights. Their podcasts were then published on popular podcasting platforms such as Google Podcasts and Anghami.

This spring semester, 16 new teams are working on podcast episodes that focus on the environment, gun control, social media use, and other topics of shared concern. As Yemeni participant Ahmed Abdullah notes, “Qisasna is a unique program that gives students the space to express their ideas and discuss global challenges in an international environment.”

Qisasna is proving its ability to create a meaningful cultural exchange between the Yemeni students and their American peers in Michigan, New Jersey, Utah, and Virginia. While working with her team on an episode on water issues, Anastasia, an American student, commented, “My first impression of my Yemeni peers was that they were enthusiastic and creative people. What I found most surprising was how much we had in common when it came to movies and music interests, etc.”

Amideast is proud to implement the Qisasna Project in partnership with the International Center of Religion and Democracy (ICRD), Kerning Cultures, and the Yemen Family Care Association (YFCA).