Group of CBYX participants in Köln
Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange
Binghamton alumna Ali Cain
The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) is an exchange
program between the United States and Germany, designed to strengthen ties and understanding
between the people of both countries. The fellowship is awarded annually to 75 American
and 75 German young professionals and is funded by the German Bundestag (Parliament)
and the U.S. Congress. CBYX participants act as ambassadors for their home country
and culture while immersing themselves in the academic, professional and everyday
life of their host culture.
This year, Binghamton University alumna Ali Cain is one of 75 Americans participating in the program. Ali graduated from Binghamton in May 2016 with a double-major in history and political science with a concentration in international relations. A native of Mahopac, New York, she is currently living in Cologne, Germany and participating in the intensive language study portion of the fellowship.
As a high school student, Ali studied German as a way to get closer to her grandfather.
“My grandpa is actually from Germany. He was born in Berlin but he is Jewish,” she said. “So during the Holocaust, he fled Germany.”
Even though her family’s past moulded her perception of Germany from a young age, she was determined to not let that history shape how she saw the country. She took five years of German language classes in order to improve her communication with her family and to learn more about German culture.
“I was always brought up with this very negative impression of Germany because of my family history,” she said. “But I knew that there was so much more to the country than what I had learned in the past.”
She applied to six different fellowships and was accepted into three. She said she chose the CBYX program partially because of its unique and comprehensive structure.
During the first two months of CBYX, participants spend eight weeks studying German in an intensive language program designed to prepare them for everyday life in Germany. While no language experience is required, most participants come into the fellowship with at least basic knowledge.
The next four months are spent taking classes, taught in German, at a university. While enrolled in classes, participants are expected to complete a minimum of 40 hours of community service. This is followed by a five month internship, usually in a field related to the participant’s degree.
Once she returns home at the conclusion of the program, Ali intends to pursue a PhD in refugee and migration studies. She plans to take advantage of her time in Germany by interviewing German citizens and refugees about their attitudes of f each other in order to begin her research.
Now is the perfect time for Ali to be in Germany for this research — 442,000 people sought asylum in Germany in 2015, the highest number of applications received by any European country in the last 30 years.
“I expected to see a very visible presence of refugees but it surprisingly hasn’t been that way,” Ali said. “Germany has actually handled the refugee crisis really well. They’ve built massive compounds for refugees and taken care of them very well.”
For the community service portion of her fellowship, Ali plans to volunteer at refugee shelters once she begins studying at the University of Hamburg in October.
Ali described CBYX as a rewarding, but challenging program that requires a large degree of flexibility from the participants.
“This is a program with a lot of uncertainty, where you don’t know where you will be living, don’t know where you’ll be studying,” Ali said. “So it’s important to be OK with not knowing exactly what is going to happen throughout the year and to have a positive attitude.”
She said that among her favorite aspects of CBYX is getting the opportunity to be an American ambassador in another country. Ali and the other 74 Americans studying and working in Germany have the opportunity to represent their country abroad while still receiving a great education and hands-on professional experience.
“It’s been a good challenge and I’m getting better every day which is always nice,” Ali said.
For more information on the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange program - click here. The application deadline for 17-18 is December 1, 2016.
Article Written by: Brendan Zarkower, '17