My sophomore year of high school I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship through the U.S. and German governments that allowed me to travel to Germany and stay as a foreign exchange student for an entire year. The program is called Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (or CBYX for short). The program was started in 1983 and is funded by both American and German governments and awards 700 scholarships to American and German students annually.
The program suffered budget cuts that will reduce the funding by 50% and could even jeopardize the future of it. There are over 23,000 alumni of the program, all of which would be sad to see the funding cut in half.
My year I spent in Germany was one of the best years of my life. I spent my time going to a German Gymnasium which is the American equivalent to a college prep school. I was placed right outside of Frankfurt in a small town called Usingen. During my time there I created many lasting friendships, I was able to travel all around Europe, and I became almost fluent in German. The trip meant a lot to me and I’m sure to all the other alumni as well.
Congress appropriates the budget which therein includes money for the state department to function. However, the state department uses that money how they deem fit. There should be more oversight by the public to ensure money is being spent appropriately and efficiently. I am surprised that the state department would find it necessary to cut the budget for the program that has been around for over 33 years and only costs $4 million. Luckily, the German parliament stepped in last minute and provided $2 million to fill the budget gap.
Many people are upset that the U.S. state department would make such a poor decision. The U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013, Phillip Murphy, expressed his disappointment and surprise in the budget cuts. Murphy went far enough to say that it is one of the most important exchange programs to the U.S.. Phillip Murphy is not the only politician to express his disapproval of the budget cuts; Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, said she strongly supports the program and even said she brought it up in talks with President Obama.
I hope that the U.S. State Department will review the budget cuts and reconsider. While I was abroad I was able to have experiences I will likely never have again. Educating 700 students each year about another country’s government, culture and people creates a much stronger relationship between the two countries. Others should be able to have the same opportunities that I had and the U.S. State Department should realize how important this exchange program is.