From all corners of the world, 182 promising young leaders from more than 50 countries were exposed to new cultures and ideas during the 2016 TFAS International Programs in Hong Kong and Prague. These bright, eager-minded students spent their summers navigating new and exciting places, while studying the founding and practice of freedom around the globe.
ASIA INSTITUTE FOR POLITICAL ECONOMY (AIPE)
With 77 students from 23 countries participating, the Asia Institute For Political Economy (AIPE)celebrated its largest class yet in Hong Kong this summer.
Through historical examples and current events, the students dove deep into discussions on trade policy and international markets, and studied the variations of government structures around the world. Over the course of three weeks, AIPE students attended more than 30 class sessions and guest lectures focused on these important topics.
“The political philosophy course gave us the framework and tools to discuss big ideas meaningfully,” Jacob Altholz (AIPE 16), a Colorado University, Denver student said. “It was a really good way to think about the American political discourse, but also extended internationally. When we compared ideas to other countries’ governments, we could have meaningful conversations about the effect governments have on people’s lives.”
This summer, returning AIPE instructors, Dr. Nikolai Wenzel and Dr. Brandon Turner, associate professor at Clemson University, taught political philosophy and political economy courses at the University of Hong Kong.
Referring to Professor Wenzel’s popular “trade game,” student Labisha Upretty (AIPE 16) of Nepal, said she learned the importance of trade in a new, concrete way in her AIPE courses. “I really enjoyed Professor Wenzel’s classes, in terms of how he used practical ideas to help us understand complex concepts,” Upretty said. “He transformed the classroom into a market to show us how trade really works.”
During AIPE, students also heard from outstanding guest lecturers who gave firsthand accounts of the relationship between government and economics in the real world. Students learned new ideas and engaged in discussions with successful business leaders, journalists, economists and professors.
A special treat for current students is hearing directly from former TFAS participants. This summer, AIPE was lucky to welcome two TFAS alumni turned university professors, Paul Glader (IPJ 99, AIPES 00) and Mark Grabowski (IPJ 97), who shared their alumni success stories and advice with the class.
Outside the classroom, AIPE students took every opportunity to explore the diversity and magnificence of Hong Kong. Students toured historical attractions like the Legislative Council, the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery, museums and spent afternoons hiking through the mountains and discovering the beautiful scenery of Hong Kong.
Students also got a taste of each other’s vibrant cultures while participating in the annual Cultural Presentation Night at AIPE. During the evening, students put on song and dance routines to showcase and learn what it means to study and appreciate all cultures and customs.
Upretty said the Cultural Presentation Night was one of her favorite memories from the program. “I really enjoyed the cultural presentations because everyone was doing something different to show our cultural interactions around the world,” Upretty said.
As a scholarship recipient, Upretty was especially thankful to TFAS supporters for providing her with such a unique and unforgettable experience.
“The entire program was made available to us by generous donors, and I wouldn’t have been able to attend without their support,” she said. “I think the people who are investing in this experience for us are doing us a huge favor, and that sort of generosity can’t be put into words.”
AMERICAN INSTITUTE ON POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC SYSTEMS (AIPES)
Happening simultaneously with AIPE, 105 students, representing 36 countries, lived and learned at Charles University in Prague and participated in the 2016 American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES).
“The Fund for American Studies has arranged a program in such a way that far exceeded my expectations for an international exchange program,” said Raina Iqbal (AIPES 16), a Pakistani student studying in Los Angeles.
This summer, AIPES students were exposed to lessons on civil societies, historical figures, democracy and market economies in the international community from a collaborative team of professors. Dr. Adam Martin, assistant professor at Texas Tech University; Dr. Joshua Mitchell of Georgetown University; Dr. Michael J. Collins of Georgetown University; and Dr. Ibrahim Al-Marashi (IIPES 01), assistant professor at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), guided the academic discussions in the classroom at AIPES 2016.
“All of the AIPES professors were very experienced and engaging with each of us, but the Conflict Management class was the one I loved the most,” Iqbal said. “I could take a Conflict Management course anywhere, but learning it in a setting with representatives from the countries that you’re discussing gives you much more insight than just studying it in your home country.”
While studying in the beautiful, historic city of Prague, Czech Republic, AIPES students also spent time outside of the classroom touring the city’s renowned architecture and visiting historic sites. Students took in the magnificent views of Prague like the Old Town Square and Charles Bridge, located just steps from the university.
“I enjoyed living in Prague while learning important concepts and gaining invaluable information about the world we live in, it’s history and it’s people,” said Samuel Nagy (AIPES 16), a student at the University of Virginia.
In addition to discovering the city and learning in the TFAS classroom, AIPES students were treated to guest lectures, panels and activities to complement their coursework.
Some of these impactful speakers were Barbora Maronkova of the NATO Press Office, David Jackson, formerly with Time Magazine and the U.S. government and Eliska Coolidge, a former White House official.
“The NATO panel was the most engaging for me because the topics they discussed were the very political, current events,” Iqbal said. “The panel was not only very experienced, but they were open to all sorts of questions and gave us a more realistic outlook on what is actually happening in the world.”
During the final week of AIPES, students put their new skills and knowledge to the test during the Conflict Management Simulation held at the Czech Parliament. At the simulation, students acted as nations that must come together to peaceably solve a problem, while understanding political, social and cultural differences.
To better understand these differences and further learn from one another, students also participated in an annual Cultural Presentation Night. Grouped together by home countries, students shared the unique traditions of their own cultures with their classmates.
Today, this tight-knit group of young leaders from around the world has found a way to continue their AIPES 2016 bond beyond their three weeks in Prague – each Sunday evening since the program, the students tune into online video chats that focus on further discussing one of the many lessons they were introduced to at AIPES.
“All in all, the academic lessons at AIPES were much more than what I had imagined, and they were very enlightening,” Iqbal said. “I’ve been in college for two years and I’ve never come across such an extensive and comprehensive program that could be done in three weeks.”
The 2016 Asia Institute For Political Economy (AIPE) and American Institute on Political and Economic Systems (AIPES) TFAS programs fostered cross-cultural dialogues and created a global network of responsible future leaders.
Both TFAS International summer programs concluded on July 30 with closing ceremony celebrations in Hong Kong and Prague to officially welcome the students in the TFAS Alumni Network. True to the TFAS alumni spirit, both AIPE and AIPES students are already reconnecting and creating “mini TFAS reunions” in whatever way they can around the globe.
Next summer, AIPES and AIPE will celebrate the 25th and 15th anniversaries of TFAS International programs in Prague and Hong Kong, to learn more about these programs, please visit www.TFASinternational.org.
To view photos of the 2016 TFAS International Programs, please visit www.TFAS.org/photos.