German exchange student at the University enjoys learning about other cultures

The Honors Program works with Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange to promote intercultural integration


10/1/2015 | By: Matthew Ravaglioli   |

The Honors Program is making good on the efforts of the University of Nevada, Reno to further internationalize the student body by hosting exchange student, 21-year-old Deniz Ay, from Bavaria, Germany.

Ay is participating in Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, founded in 1983 by the legislative bodies of Germany and the United States to annually provide 75 Americans and 75 Germans the opportunity to spend one year in each other's countries. For one semester each fall, German participants of the CBYX program, between the ages of 18-24, study at the colleges to which they are matched. The students are expected to not only participate in schooling and integrate with their host families, but to join internships and other opportunities to become active participants in experiencing American culture, such as joining clubs and organizations.

Ay has already made arrangements with his host family regarding chores; he has to bring out the trash every Tuesday.

"That's my duty," Ay said with a chuckle. "Every Tuesday. But I help out where I can, with cooking, cleaning and feeding the dogs. I am enjoying staying with my host family."

The point of the merit-based scholarship program is to create cultural immersion in each other's countries, which is right up Ay's alley. The young German finds himself drawn to the study of other cultures and said he has greatly enjoyed what he has been able to witness and learn of American culture during his stay thus far.

"I am very interested in different cultures, especially in America," he said. "It took a lot of paperwork and interviews to be here, but I'm glad I did it."

To be accepted into the program, young professionals go through a highly competitive selection process. An average of 1,000 German students apply for the 75 positions each year. According to Ay, there are about 12 initial pages of forms to fill out to apply.

Once his application was accepted, Ay was invited to Berlin where he was tested on his basic knowledge of both Germany and America, including history and significant points of relation between the two countries. After passing, he and other successful candidates were taken to speak with a German member of parliament to be officially accepted into the program.

The German exchange students began the program in New York, staying at a YMCA during a four-day seminar busy with preparation, where students got-in what sightseeing they could. Ay then flew with two other students to Dixon, Ill., to stay with two corn farmers for three days. Ay said that one farmer was also a pastor, and they enjoyed discussing religion. A topic - along with politics - Ay perceives as subjects some Americans tend to avoid.

After visiting Dixon, the young German went to San Francisco, Calif., by himself to stay for four days with a couple who work for Uber, a ride-sharing company he found interesting. Next he arrived in Reno to stay with his host family for a week before going to Lake Tahoe for the weekend with the other students and faculty in the University's Honors Program. He said the getaway in Tahoe was amazing.

"Living and visiting with these different people from across America has been a great experience," Ay said. "I feel like I have learned a lot about the cultures here and different ways of living. There is no way that all Americans are alike, yet people tend to claim that. I can definitely prove them wrong. I look forward to learning much more while here at the University."

The exchange program culminates each year in a conference in Washington, D.C., in which German and American students reflect and share their experiences.

Although the Honors Program has hosted German exchange students through the program, there has yet to be a student from the University to go to Germany.

"We would certainly like to someday send our first University of Nevada, Reno student on this program," Daniel Villanueva, assistant director of the Honors Program, said. "So anyone who has intermediate knowledge of German - who wants to spend a year abroad - I would encourage to apply."

For more information about the University's Honors Program, go to http://www.unr.edu/honors.

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