My first major interaction with another country’s public diplomacy program occurred when I was 16, studying German in high school. I was selected to take part in a program run by the Pädagogischer Austauschdienst, which is a bit of a mouthful and therefore normally referred to as the PAD. The program basically entailed an all-expenses-paid trip to Germany, spending two weeks with a host family and another two weeks in a group travelling around the country. At the time, I thought it was just a nice thing that the German government did, but I can now look at the program with fresh eyes in the context of public diplomacy.
I turns out that the PAD is a collaborative effort between the 16 state governments of Germany to promote international exchange and cooperation in the education sector. What also didn’t occur to me is the double-edged benefit that the program achieves—it not only improves education outcomes in other countries, but it also enhances the education systems of the respective states.
While I was already studying German in high school, the PAD trip cemented my affinity for Germany and its language. German became not just something I did at school, but rather what I used to converse with friends that I’m in contact with some eight years later (many members of the student group spoke only German and their mother tongue, so English was not the lingua franca).
I think PAD’s program is is a good example of the kind of knock-on effect of collaboration guest lecturer Aimee Fullman was talking about. I learned more about Germany, but also about Kazakhstan, Finland and many different places. It also gave German students we interacted with the chance to take their English out of the classroom and become young ambassadors for Germany.