[Turkey to US ’15 Preview] Mehves Evin: “How to maximize your acypl experience”
Many of the international or Turkish delegates will have visited the US before their ACYPL exchange, but this particular exchange trip will mark a very special time in your life. For those who are visiting the US for the first time, I can’t think of a greater introduction to the American political system than as a delegate with ACYPL.
As a journalist, I traveled to many different states before joining the 2011 delegation from Turkey to the US. Yet, this experience was different, exuberant and also, fun.
So here are four tips for delegates to get the most of their trip, based on my personal observation:
1. Get to know your group:
Our Turkish group consisted of young politicians, journalists, and business professionals from different backgrounds and various political affiliations. To be honest, I was a bit stressed at the beginning because travelling with strangers can generally be risky, especially when politics is involved! However, during our trip, we got to know each other and had a lot of fun together. Some of us are still in contact today, so make the most of getting to know your group; they may become life-long friends.
2. Network while you’re in the US:
Are you ready to meet approximately 30 professionals and politicians a day? On some days, you will meet many more! This is one of the most rewarding parts of the ACYPL program, since you will exchange ideas and thoughts with Democrats, Republicans, lobbyists, business professionals, members of Congress, journalists, artists, and so many more. Make the most of your networking opportunities, and stay in contact with the people you meet. And don’t forget to bring a stack of business cards with you.
3. Discover the American political system:
Even if you are acquainted with the US governance system, you’ll gain a much better understanding of how the Federal system, judiciary, trade, and generally, how US democracy works. The high point of this for me was visiting the Illinois State Capitol and meeting state representatives, and it was also very interesting to see how lobbyists and politicians interact. In Turkey, we are used to closed-door business, whereas in the US, business is a natural part of politics and transparency is key.
4. Be open to all learning possibilities:
Our trip started in Washington, DC, with a heavy schedule focused mainly on international politics. While we were in Illinois, and specifically Chicago, our meetings were more business-oriented. When we finally arrived in Colorado, we were more relaxed, and our meetings reflected that. The ACYPL alumni hosted dinners in each of the states, and we had perfect hosts, and met lovely people. You will learn a lot about American culture from the people you meet.
Overall, the ACYPL experience was one you will never forget—I certainly haven’t.
Mehves Evin is a columnist for the Milliyet Daily Newspaper in Turkey