In addition to running his own certified fair trade, LGBT business enterprise, Ben Conard, an alumnus of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, makes time to give back to the Cultural Vistas community in a variety of ways. From financial to in-kind contributions, collaborations, and offering his time and talents as a mentor — we are highlighting Ben and the ways and reasons he gives to Cultural Vistas.
Name: Ben Conard
Program: Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, 2016-17, Germany
Current location: Long Island, New York
Occupation: Founder & CEO, Five North Chocolate®
What is one of your fondest memories of your exchange experience?
My CBYX cohort (33.PPP) was the first ever to have designated exchange partners. My German counterpart, Viktoria Bucholz, was living in Kansas working in hospitality. Viktoria connected me with her family in Germany who invited me to stay on their farm in the Black Forest. Upon my arrival, I met her grandmother, Adelheit. We talked about Viktoria’s journey and her generous and happy spirit which brought her to tears. To this day, I have never met Viktoria in person and, yet, share a special connection with her and her family. This, I believe, is what makes exchange so powerful.
Also, introducing my host family to pumpkin pie and s’mores were among my more comical memories.
How do you keep your exchange experience alive?
One of the most admirable qualities of German culture is a focus on loyalty to friends, family, and deeply rooted relationships. And while it isn’t easy to keep transatlantic relationships alive, my German colleagues and peers have taught me how to do just that. Whether we are sharing old memories and photos, video chatting, editing essays in each other’s native language, or visiting New York or Cologne, we continue to cherish our shared experiences.
Why do you give to Cultural Vistas?
I was encouraged to explore international exchange as a post-grad option and I am forever grateful to my mentors at SUNY Geneseo (Cynthia Klima and Judy Albers!) who pushed me to do so. In any way that I am able to provide that encouragement and support to others, I will. Cultural Vistas continues to fight for increasing international diplomacy across borders one relationship at a time by bringing the world and our global neighbors closer together. And I cannot think of a more important investment in our world and its future generations than that.
What are some of your personal highlights from being a part of the Cultural Vistas community of giving?
It has been an absolute privilege and joy to mentor recent CBYX applicants and participants. I remember a recent video chat I had with a Fellow from the 36th CBYX cohort. She was nervous about not getting the most out of her exchange experience because it was cut short due to the pandemic. I reminded her that her initiative and openness to take on an experience like CBYX at such an early stage in her career and life is a skill, attitude, and mindset that she will take with her in all of her future endeavors in our world. The exchange experience that was cut short might be the first in her quest to contribute as a global citizen, but will certainly not be the last. I am grateful to be reminded of this value that is shared among the Cultural Vistas community.
About Five North Chocolate®
Thanks Ben! Your contributions mean so much and have impacted many. Cultural Vistas loves Five North Chocolate® and to help you combat those winter blues, when you enter the code CV10 at checkout on fivenorthchocolate.com you get 10% off your purchase of these delicious treats AND 10% will be donated back to Cultural Vistas!
Visit Five North Chocolate® to send chocolate gifts to all your loved ones this Valentine’s Day and throughout the month of February!
To become part of our community of giving, learn more here.