EDYN Members Share Insights from the EDYN and ACYPL’s Trip to the USA Members

Published March 14, 2024

In February, eight EDYN members had the opportunity to participate in an ACYPL trip to the US. During this week-long journey, they delved into European-US relations, US politics, the judiciary, policymaking structures, and electoral processes, experiencing firsthand the pulse of American politics in Washington D.C., and Oregon.⁠ Explore their enriching experiences and discover how they intend to apply their newfound knowledge back home.

Blerta Berisha, EDYN Kosovo

What are your general impressions of the program?
The trip with the American Council of Young Political Leaders was an enlightening journey filled with impactful experiences and memorable moments. Engaging in discussions with fellow young leaders from diverse backgrounds broadened my perspective on global issues. Visits to historical landmarks like the Capitol and White House were highlights, inspiring a sense of patriotism and responsibility. Meeting with elected officials provided insights into the inner workings of American democracy and the power of effective governance. Overall, the trip fostered valuable connections, deepened my understanding of political processes, and ignited a renewed commitment to effect positive change in my community.
What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

This trip reaffirmed my belief in the power of youth leadership and cross-cultural collaboration. I learned the value of coalition-building and the importance of engaging diverse voices in decision-making processes. The exchange of ideas with peers and mentors helped refine my communication skills and sharpened my understanding of policy-making processes. Moving forward, I intend to apply these lessons by spearheading initiatives that promote youth participation in governance and foster dialogue between communities. Furthermore, I plan to share my experiences with fellow youth leaders, empowering them to become catalysts for change in their respective communities. This trip has equipped me with the tools and inspiration to pursue my passion for social and political activism, driving forward a vision of a more equitable and inclusive society.

Alexandra Daám, EDYN Hungary

What are your general impressions of the program?

There is only a very small segment of U.S. politics one sees from across the Atlantic. However, during our visits to D.C., Maryland, Salem, and Portland, I got to discover how much more there is to American democracy and its institutions. I was very impressed to see how tightly different levels of government, business actors, various interest groups, and state agencies work together, regardless of political beliefs, to progress and better their communities. In line with that, I very much appreciated the honesty and openness of legislators we had the chance to talk to about challenges and issues they are facing. To my surprise, these were very similar to the ones European countries and localities are experiencing. Therefore, I was very grateful for the many inspiring conversations and thoughts exchanged with leaders across all federal states.

What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

As I see it, every country has a political culture that is unique and is, to a degree, a reflection of its historic past. However, the interdependence between states across the globe was never as apparent as it is today. That’s why I personally believe that building mutual understanding, sharing practices, and experiences among states and their legislators and public officials is not only crucial but also an invaluable learning experience for all involved. During my time in the U.S., I was impressed to see and eager to bring home the experience to my community about how mindful institutions and officials are in creating platforms for their citizens to have their voices heard. Also, I noticed how citizens and civil society are very organized and skilled in raising concerns, getting their points across to legislators, and demanding respective solutions.

Ana Gjidiaj, EDYN Albania

What are your general impressions of the program?

The trip was incredibly enlightening and enriching. Some highlights include the warm welcome in Maryland, where we engaged with various state officials and delegates, and the insightful discussions in Washington DC, where we interacted with key figures and former key figures in the U.S. Department of State, National Democratic Committee and State’s Education and Cultural Department. The visit to Oregon was particularly memorable due to its unique history and the opportunity to meet with a diverse range of representatives, including government officials, judges, and community leaders. The discussions and encounters throughout the trip were impactful, providing valuable insights into the functioning of governmental institutions, electoral processes, and policy advocacy in the United States.

What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

From this trip, I gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of U.S. politics and governance, as well as valuable insights into effective advocacy and diplomacy. I plan to utilize this knowledge and the skills acquired during the trip in my political career by implementing best practices learned from various stakeholders, including government officials, community leaders, and advocacy groups. Additionally, I aim to strengthen the connections made during the trip to foster collaboration and exchange of ideas between my home country and the United States, ultimately contributing to positive social and economic development.

Pavel Havlicek, EDYN Czech Republic

What are your general impressions of the program?
My impressions from the trip from the United States were largely positive and extended my horizons in terms of political processes and culture as well as topics of the day all around the US. What was particularly interesting was to observe the nuances and differences between different states, including Washington DC, Maryland and Oregon, and compare and contrast with the state of play inside of the EU. I have especially enjoyed the discussion at the Department of State related to our region of Central and Eastern Europe as well as the Western Balkans or different viewpoints from the Democrats and Republicans in DC related to foreign and security policy, including when meeting the former Assistant Secretary of State of Education in the Republican Club House.
What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?
From the trip, it got once again confirmed that politics is about people, interpersonal relations and (international) partnership, which help the overall system to work and function. This is why it is so important to invest in the Transatlantic bond, getting to know each other, our similarities and differences, which we should respect and take into consideration. I am planning to continue investing in my own community, which is so important in the US, including at the federal state and county levels and also building and investing in these partnerships, which bring the fruit of better understanding each other and facilitating easier relations and smoother cooperation.

Aleksandar Ljubomirović, EDYN Serbia

What are your general impressions of the program?

All things considered, my impressions of the trip to the United States are really positive and I’m truly grateful to both ACYPL and EDYN for giving me the unique opportunity to further advance and develop my knowledge, skills and professional network. I can only wholeheartedly recommend this extremely interesting program to future generations who strive to learn about U.S. politics, their culture and lifestyle, as well as many other aspects of their society, but who also aim to strengthen the ties between their home countries and the United States. The highlights of the U.S. trip were definitely the countless new friendships and relations forged during our stay in Washington DC and Portland, but also the people from the EDYN delegation I’ve met, who are undoubtedly future leaders and changemakers within their local communities. On the other side, we had the opportunity to travel throughout several states and cities, meet people with various backgrounds and thus get different perspectives and overall, a whole picture about the United States. Lastly, one of the most memorable moments that I will cherish for a lifetime was the NBA game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets, when we also got to witness the greatness of the two-time MVP and my fellow national from Serbia, Nikola Jokić.

What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

The U.S. trip was really informative and educational for me personally, because I had the unique opportunity to learn from experts with various backgrounds over the course of one week. The intensive program during our trip gave us the chance to meet with numerous decision-makers and learn from their respective experiences, which in turn will help us impose positive change within our societies. We had the chance to gain knowledge and learn how a real democracy should look like and function, which we can in turn use to change our societies and countries for the better. The political trip to the U.S. motivated me even more to make a positive impact in my own country and change things for the better, after seeing what is possible when you have a clear vision and goal. On the other hand, I have met some wonderful people from the EDYN delegation and I’m convinced that we will improve the relations between our countries and lead them towards prosperity.

Gjorgi Tasev, EDYN North Macedonia

What are your general impressions of the program?

As part of the esteemed American Council of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL) program, I undertook a transformative journey that profoundly enriched my understanding of the US political landscape, strengthened my international network, and broadened my perspectives.

During this immersive experience, I had the privilege of visiting Washington D.C. and Oregon and engaging with a wide spectrum of leaders, officials, and experts representing various sectors and backgrounds. This invaluable interaction provided me with a comprehensive understanding of the U.S. political system, its challenges, and its multifaceted relationships with Europe and the Western Balkans.

Equally significant was the opportunity to share my own insights and perspectives on issues of mutual concern. Through constructive dialogue and exchange of ideas with my American counterparts, I fostered a deeper understanding of the priorities and aspirations of the Republic of North Macedonia and the region.

What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

Some of the key things I learned during my trip included the importance of building strong relationships and networks with people from different backgrounds and perspectives and to appreciate the value of open and honest dialogue, even on difficult issues. Additionally, I first hand saw the importance of finding common ground and working together to solve problems and being adaptable and flexible in a rapidly changing world. The key is staying informed about current events and global issues.

I plan to use the knowledge and skills I gained during my trip in my work as a political leader in my country. I believe that the insights I gained into the U.S. political system, its challenges and opportunities, and its relations with Europe and the Western Balkans will be invaluable in my work to promote democracy, good governance, and cooperation in my region.

Additionally, I also plan to use the skills I developed in building relationships, facilitating dialogue, and finding common ground to work with other leaders and stakeholders to address the challenges facing my country and the world. I believe that the knowledge and skills I gained during my trip will make me a more effective leader and enable me to make a positive contribution to my country and the global community.

Radka Wagingerova, EDYN Slovakia

What are your general impressions of the program?

This trip marked one of the best weeks in my life. Meeting all the amazing people from different countries in Central Europe and the Balkans, together with all the speakers and our lovely project coordinators formed this extraordinary experience. What touched me very deeply was the National Museum of African-American History and Culture which educated me about the richness of all the untold personal stories and struggles of African Americans that they had to face (and are still facing to a certain degree even today). This part of history is something we did not experience in my country as we did not have the African-Americans living in our territory. Although the African-American history in the USA was very different, I found, unfortunately, many similarities with other minorities oppressed in the European countries. Another big experience, I would like to highlight, was a very kind welcome in Salem, Oregon, provided by Senator Sara Gelser Blouin who is an ACYPL alumni as well.

What did you learn from the program, and how do you plan to use it?

Most importantly, I have gained insights into American national governance, state-level politics, U.S.-European diplomatic relationships, political consulting, and the functions of the Democratic National Committee. This trip provided me an opportunity to engage with elected officials to understand their duties and obligations, as well as debate about different and common political realities of my peers from countries of Western Balkans and Central Europe. I am sure, this knowledge will prove valuable for me in comprehending the political environment, government procedures, and international relations in my professional pursuits, inside and outside of my country – Slovakia. Furthermore, I have learned about different campaign strategies and lobbying which will be, undoubtedly, very helpful during my campaign for the European Parliament (for which I am running this June). Moreover, this understanding will enhance my awareness of the policies, laws, and the impact of political consulting on public perception and policy development.

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