BRIDGE THE POND
Bringing US and EU High School Students Together
For some of us, growing up it is often times difficult to appreciate the size and scope of the world beyond our own country, state, county or township. Sometimes it is our communities which are inward focused. Other times it is the hundreds of miles separating us from diverse population centers. For some it is the lack of opportunities to travel away from home at a young age. For others it is a matter of just not having access to the high-speed trains and easy flying that allows many others to move easily from one city to another in a few hours.
Nowhere is this divide more evidently manifested than perhaps between Europe or the United States. Despite being citizens of the world’s predominant melting pots, and despite the internet and social media potentially exposing us to distant realities, many European and US citizens still grow up feeling far and disconnected from the other side of the Atlantic.
Our Transatlantic space is perhaps one great example of proximity and remoteness put together. There is so much that we have in common, from movies and music, to apps and social media. More importantly, we share a history, a set of values, and an always growing list of common challenges.
The tools we have at our disposal can however go a long way to bridge the distances between us, to bring our young people together, especially now - a time where European-US relations are even more central to so many challenges that we face together as people. We need to talk more to each other, exchange views, learn to respect our differences, appreciate what we share and learn about the challenges we are facing together.
Our Bridge the Pond program brings together secondary school students from the United States and the European Union, promoting dialogue and an exchange of views among youth on important topics our societies collectively face. At a time when our global connection is being constricted and severed by the Covid pandemic, this project will take advantage of a unique opportunity from that same pandemic where most students are learning virtually from home and missing many opportunities of reaching out and making new friendships.
The pattern is relatively simple - students from two high schools, one in Europe and another in the US, together with their teachers, agree on a set of questions and topics to study and reflect upon on their own, and later on, together. They prepare positions and resolutions, working separately and in joint-sessions and finally meet for a final event when they share their experience and present common positions. The students might decide to keep in touch and take this relationship forward. The seed for a transatlantic friendship is planted.
EPLO’s Bridge the Pond wants to help students on both sides of the Atlantic get together and talk to each other. While news stories center on the high-level statecraft conducted between the United States and the European Union, it is the people-to-people contacts that builds the foundation on which the transatlantic relationship exists. We want Bridge the Pond to be a contribution to that foundation, serving as a school-to-school conduit from Europe to the United States and back. Even if a drop in the ocean, we believe this is an investment in the future of United States-European relations.