Hosts needed for Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program students in July

Imagine turning a simple trip to the mall or the movies into an opportunity to create long-lasting memories with a visiting college student from Iraq, engaging in a little soft diplomacy and having a good time in the process. The Office of International Programs (OIP) can make that happen!

Since 2017, Wayne State has hosted the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), which brings 100 Iraqi college students to the U.S. for a month to learn about leadership, civic engagement and peacebuilding. A key component of the program, which is sponsored and funded by the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and U.S. Department of State and implemented by World Learning, is providing weekend homestays to introduce students to real life in America. OIP is looking for host families to house, feed and provide a uniquely American experience for IYLEP students for either one or two weekends in July.

“We are really looking for families who are open-minded, adventurous and looking for a new experience,” says Fareed Y.

                     IYLEP Students at Eastern Market

Shalhout, associate director for student programs in OIP. “This is a great chance for willing hosts to broaden their view of the world and foster the development of someone who is going on to great and impactful things.”

IYLEP students are selected from thousands of applicants in Iraq and complete a rigorous interview process. They are passionate, knowledgeable and want to know more about America.

Host families are needed for at least one weekend in July, two if they can. Hosts will pick the students up from campus between 5-6 p.m. on Friday July 17 and/or 24, and bring them back around 5 p.m. Sunday July 19 and/or 26. Families can take more than one student, and they can share a room but must each student must have their own bed. An orientation covering general expectations and procedures, dietary needs and other topics will be held in advance on campus.

While hosts are expected to provide an authentic American experience, this doesn’t equate with “expensive.”

“One of the things IYLEP students asked us to do the most was go to a movie theater,” says Shalhout. “That’s how different things are here compared to Iraq; something as simple as going to the movies can be a lasting memory for these students. It doesn’t have to be a dramatic expenditure to show them what living in America is like.

“I would love to see host families invite family and friends over for dinner, then take them out to their favorite place where they can try new and different types of food. We want them to be able to immerse themselves in the culture and have conversations about differences and similarities in the U.S. and Iraq.”

Shalhout emphasized that he still communicates regularly with students he met during IYLEP. “I keep in contact with them still,” he says. “Those who have graduated are already doing a lot to make a difference. These are great kids that will go on to do great things in their communities and abroad. This is a great opportunity to form lasting bonds with them. If you have a child too, they have a chance to make friends and build connections with someone overseas. You can’t put a price on this kind of experience.”

Those interested in hosting can apply online. The application deadline is April 30, so don’t miss your chance for a life changing experience.

By Jacob Stocking, OIP communications associate.

The Office of International Programs leads Wayne State’s global engagement by creating opportunities that foster international education and research, facilitate the exchange of individuals and ideas that promote global competencies and citizenship, and provide resources that support the expansion of the university’s global agenda. Follow us @WayneOIP.

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