Understanding the U.S. Heartland
Due to the impacts on the travel and international exchange industries as a result of the coronavirus situation, the originally scheduled program dates for 2020 have been postponed until May 9 – May 15, 2021
A program to the United States for staffers of German Bundestag Representatives
Cultural Vistas invites staffers of German Bundestag Members (MdBs) to apply to the Beyond Washington program, an eight-day professional exchange that will provide participants with a deeper understanding of the U.S. heartland. The 2021 program will take place in the U.S. between May 9-15, 2021.
The transatlantic relationship is undergoing profound changes. Decades-old norms in foreign policy are being replaced by new approaches to international affairs by both the United States and Germany. In the U.S., these changes in foreign policy positions are rooted in domestic policies and issues that are not always apparent to foreign observers or experts, but that have been shaping the development of U.S. local and national politics for decades.
To provide context and a deeper understanding of the political changes taking place in the United States, Cultural Vistas offers the Beyond Washington: Understanding the U.S. Heartland program. The program invites staffers who work for MdBs from all of the major political factions represented in the German Bundestag to take part in an eight-day visitor program to the United States. The focus of the 2021 program will be on Lincoln, Nebraska and the surrounding area, providing participants insights into domestic policies and the challenges faced by regions away from the U.S. coastal cities.
The primary goal of the program is to promote a deeper understanding among MdB staffers of U.S. domestic and resultant foreign policies. The program aims to strengthen transatlantic relations by allowing this group of MdB staffers to come into contact with Americans beyond coastal cities and the capital. Beyond Washington focuses on the following themes:
- The current U.S. political landscape and voter engagement
- Local government fiscal policy and budget priorities
- Economic issues—Agriculture, Manufacturing, and Innovation
- Other contemporary issues (education, race relations, immigration, drug abuse, etc.)
Cultural Vistas arranges high-level meetings with leaders from government, business, civil society, and other relevant contacts that bring into focus a set of regional challenges that are echoed in other areas of the country.
Up to 18 staffers who work in the offices of Members of the German Bundestag (MdBs) will be accepted to participate in the program each year. Special consideration will be given to staffers whose MdBs represent districts that have shared challenges with the area to be visited in the United States. A broad representation of political parties is sought in participant selection; Cultural Vistas aims to have three individuals representing MdBs from each of the six Fraktionen in the Bundestag participate in the exchange each year.
Special consideration will be given to staffers whose MdBs represent districts that have shared challenges with the area to be visited in the U.S. Staffers employed directly by their MdBs in Berlin, as well as staffers working in district offices are all encouraged to apply. Applicants who have not previously spent a significant amount of time in the United States will be given special consideration in the application process.
Applicants must be primarily employed in the office of a German MdB, have an interest in U.S. affairs, and speak English proficiently, in order to be able to engage in meaningful conversations while in the United States.
Participants in the Beyond Washington program will share the lessons learned during the program with a wider audience via a post-program report and an event in the district of their MdB, acting as multipliers and spreading an understanding of the primary issues impacting the United States’ heartland.
Monday, February 1, 2021:
Pre-departure meeting in Berlin and briefing with U.S. Embassy representatives
Sunday, May 9:
Flight from Berlin to Washington, D.C.
Monday, May 10:
National-level meetings in Washington, D.C.
Tuesday, May 11–Saturday, May 15:
Meetings in Lincoln, NE and surrounding area
Sunday, May 16:
Arrival in Berlin
Participants organize events to share the lessons learned during the program with a wider audience in the electoral districts of their MdBs.
There is no cost to apply to or participate in the Beyond Washington program. Up to 18 participants will be selected each year by Cultural Vistas to take part in the program. The program covers transatlantic airfare costs as well as accommodations, meals, and all program-related travel costs in the U.S. Health insurance will also be provided by Cultural Vistas during the dates of travel.
What Participants Are Saying
“Die Möglichkeit, mit so vielen Personen zu reden und Einblicke in das amerikanische Leben zu bekommen, war für mich einzigartig. Meine Erwartungen vor der Reise wurden übertroffen und meine Ansicht, dass man die Menschen vor Ort erstmal treffen muss, um sich eine Meinung zu bilden, bewahrheitet.”
- Mihai Ganea, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Berliner Bundestagsbüro von Detlef Müller, MdB
“Die dringende Frage unserer Zeit ist, wie man diesem Polarisierungstrend etwas entgegensetzt. Und dies ist die Frage, die nicht nur in den USA relevant ist; überall auf der Welt scheinen Länder mehr oder weniger von diesem Phänomen betroffen zu sein. Deutschland ist keine Ausnahme, und ich halte dies für eine der zentralen Fragen der Zukunft. Daher werde ich dieses Thema nach dem Beyond Washington Programm in einer Diskussion mit den Bürgern im Wahlkreis meines MdBs erörtern.”
- Michal Petrík, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Berliner Bundestagsbüro von Rüdiger Kruse, MdB
“Neben den neuen Geschichten und Lernerfahrungen, die ich Washington DC und Pittsburgh sammeln konnte, hatte ich auf meiner Rückreise aber ein noch bedeutenderes „Mitbringsel“ im Gepäck – nämlich das Interesse an den USA. Dieses neue Interesse hat dafür gesorgt, dass ich mich nach diesem Programm weiter und intensiver mit US-amerikanischer Politik, Gesellschaft und Kultur beschäftigt habe.”
- Daniel Kister, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Berliner Bundestagsbüro von Gülistan Yüksel, MdB
“In unserer täglichen Arbeit erleben wir momentan, dass die außenpolitischen Positionen der Vereinigten Staaten ihre Ursprünge in der amerikanischen Innenpolitik haben. Nur vor Ort kann man wirklich verstehen, wie Politik in den USA funktioniert und wie diese Politik die transatlantischen Beziehungen beeinflusst.”
- Patrick Moss, Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter im Berliner Bundestagsbüro von Mark Hauptmann, MdB
The Beyond Washington program will take place over a period of three years, with a different cohort of MdB staffers being selected each year to visit a different U.S. region each year. Programming locations and meeting partners will be adjusted according to the most important U.S. domestic issues as they evolve during the course of the three-year program.
Please select “Request an Application” to begin the application process. The deadline to submit your complete application is February 1, 2021.
Following a review of all applications by Cultural Vistas and an approval of the final selection by the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, applicants will be contacted by early March 2021 with information on whether or not they have been accepted as a participant in the Beyond Washington program.