Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange final interviews coming to FIU

Three Panthers in the running for the 2012-2013 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) program won’t have to travel far for the next round of interviews: For the first time, FIU’s Undergraduate Education will host the final interviews for the southeast U.S. at Modesto A. Maidique Campus Feb. 9-10.

CBYX is an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Congress and the German Bundestag. Each grant is valued at $25,000 and covers international airfare and partial living, travel and academic expenses. The program places winning students with a host family or a student dorm. They participate in two months of intensive language training, a semester at a university or college, and a five-month internship in their career field.

“Because of our unique ethnic and economic demographics, many of our top-performing students often lack the resources, mentoring and coaching to compete for awards like this that will fund their education and provide work-based learning opportunities,” says Hilarion Martinez, associate dean of Undergraduate Education. “Having three FIU finalists is good, although I know we can do even better. We want to promote global opportunities for all disciplines.”

After the initial application round, 150 U.S. candidates are interviewed at various locations across the country by CBYX staff, alumni, host families, professors and other program supporters. Seventy-five finalists are then selected to participate in the exchange.

Timur Kuzibaev, a political science major, is one of the finalists. Born in Uzbekistan, he moved to Miami at the age of 13. Kuzibaev learned of the exchange program in one of Martinez’s classes.”

“My goal is to have full emergence in German culture, learn the language and intern at an agency that’s related to politics or the military,” Kuzibaev says. “I want to eventually be a foreign officer or a JAG for the U.S. Air Force. This is a great program that’ll prepare me for a career in diplomacy or the military.”

Abdel Perera, a political science and international relations double-major, is also a finalist. The Cuban native immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5 years old.

“I want to add the experience from this exchange to my knowledge base so I can be more competitive in the job market,” Perera says. “I’ve been so focused on Latin American issues that I want to branch out to the other hemisphere. There’s always an opportunity to do something out of the ordinary and unique. This program offers that opportunity.”

Perez, outside the EU Parliament in Strasbourg. The Colombian native says the exchange program forced him to look deeper into his own cultural roots.

FIU alumnus Nestor Perez of the School of International and Public Affairs was one of the finalists selected for the 2009-2010 exchange. Perez learned to speak German, attended the University of Gottinegen and was an intern at the Bundestag during his time in Germany.

“The exchange helped me realize who I am as a human being and what my place is in the world. It also gave me the opportunity to make friends whose different takes on life enriched mine,” Perez says. He is currently in Colombia but has been in touch with the FIU finalists to mentor them throughout the application process.