The United States of America is an exceptional country for its size alone, with its population of just under 330 million and a land area 27 times larger than Germany. Approx. 87 million young people aged between 10 and 29 are growing up in this land of superlatives, a country of progress and diversity.
Germany and the United States of America have been bound by a close friendship for many decades. Common roots, the same democratic values and a shared (youth) culture form an invisible bond across the Atlantic. Virtually no other country appears in our news, on our smartphones, in our living or kids’ rooms as consistently as the US. It comes as no surprise, then, that the country continues to be one of the most popular exchange destinations for school children and students.
Young people in Germany are fascinated by the culture of the United States. Social media creates a new kind of closeness and offers insights into the lives and interests of young US-Americans, unfiltered and in real time. The young generations’ interest in each other has long since transcended music, movies and the latest TikTok challenges. Young people also share their concerns and question values, societal norms and social constructs online. Within seconds, hashtags and entire social movements can spill over to Germany from the US (#metoo, #blm are just two examples). All the more reason to draw on this reciprocal interest and give young people the opportunity to meet in person, learn from each other and make plans together in the context of international projects.
Compared with school or academic exchanges, international youth work exchanges with the US are rarer. That said, projects that venture across the Atlantic do exist. These are exchanges that have developed out of long-standing friendships, a shared passion for music, or a tireless commitment to participation and civic education. They are projects that go beyond the Statue of Liberty and fast food to delve deeply into all aspects of US-American life, and help participants explore a country that is so similar to Germany and yet so different.
The USA Special authors and interview partners prove that an exchange with the US is worthwhile for all participants, especially young people, regardless of where they come from, what skills they have or what they are interested in. They demonstrate the great diversity of German-US-American youth exchanges, with their different formats and subjects, which connect with the realities of young people on both sides of the Atlantic.
We hope this USA Special will be an inspiring read. Be bold and organize your own transatlantic exchange activities to give young people from Germany and the US the opportunity to get to know each other and fill the German-US-American friendship with life. After all, there is so much to discover in a country whose 50 federal states between Hollywood and the White House could not be more diverse.
The Editorial Team
Elena Neu, Natali Petala-Weber and Cathrin Piesche