Using virtual exchange to help GEM students develop cross-cultural relationships and vital skills. 2020 Annual Impact Report CULTURAL EXCHANGE IN A VIRTUAL WORLD

As part of SNHU, GEM utilizes its available network and work with like-minded partners to support refugee students and develop their skills to thrive in a global community. With a robust approach to online collaborations, not even the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 could hamper the exceptional growth of the resilient GEM students.


SNHU hosted a virtual exchange program between Syrian refugee students in Lebanon and U.S.-based students. Led by SNHU faculty, these students participated in a series of online workshops geared towards the development of new professional skills for online careers and studies, while also fostering cross-cultural understanding and exposure.

This free online workshop series was a part of the SNHU Global Education Movement’s Summer Exchange Program, a partnership with multiple university departments and teams to connect SNHU students from all over the U.S. with their peers in Lebanon.

The SNHU Global Education Movement’s Summer Exchange Program is supported by the Stevens Initiative, which is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, with funding provided by the U.S. Government, and is administered by the Aspen Institute. The Stevens Initiative is also supported by the Bezos Family Foundation and the governments of Morocco and the United Arab Emirates.

Throughout the month of August, the program offered 26 workshop sessions, consisting of 12 unique workshop titles delivered or co-delivered by 14 faculty members at SNHU. Workshops were interactive and included a wide-range of relevant topics for the 21st century workplace, including:



Professional communication

Essential job search skills

Tips and advice for succeeding as an online student

Faculty at SNHU participated in an induction session led by the GEM team at the beginning of the program to orient them to the goals and objectives of the virtual exchange program, and were introduced to GEM’s partner organizations in Lebanon for follow up and support. 65 students in Lebanon and 48 students in the U.S. participated in the virtual exchange program.


”Collaborating with the American students definitely impacted my perspective in a positive way.”
– Azari, Syrian Refugee and Student

Azari was one of the participants in a virtual exchange program called Innovating Across Boundaries, which facilitated the collaboration between Syrian and American students on designing prosthetics for Syrian refugees injured in the war.


There is no denying that the future is digital. For refugee students and students in Africa, developing cyber-related skills are necessary to access opportunities – not only in terms of employability but also in relation to the limitations on opportunities in their current locations.

To support student development in this field, SNHU partnered with Cybint, an Israeli tech startup, to deliver a remote cybersecurity bootcamp for refugee and displaced learners.

In July 2020, 17 GEM graduates from Rwanda, Kenya, and South Africa enrolled in this three-month intensive cybersecurity bootcamp. Through 480 hours of virtual training, students were equipped with the skills to enter the growing cybersecurity job market. Together, SNHU and Cybint aimed to empower and educate this great group of students who want to gain financial independence, support their families, and strengthen their refugee communities.

“These skills changed my life because I have potential skills to protect myself, family, country, and world from hackers. With this, my goal after the bootcamp is to get an internship and job in the cyber industry field because it is my passion.” – Sebakungu, Rwanda


The impact of this collaboration between SNHU and Cybint


GEM is partnering with SNHU’s Institute for Language Education (ILE) to deliver cutting-edge online ESL support to GEM students based in Lebanon.

During the global COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown measures that prohibited the gathering of students at physical learning centers, students weren’t able to access their usual language support classes at their learning centers. To bridge this gap, the GEM partnership with ILE enabled students to enroll in SNHU’s online-intensive English courses with SNHU faculty, with the goal of improving students’ academic English and providing opportunities for English language practise during lockdown.

The development of language skills, and particularly communication skills in English, is a valuable tool for refugee students in their search for employment, as it allows them to enter the global job market and to engage with employers outside of their current locations.

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