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Millennial Mindset: Civic Initiative fellows contemplate social media, pop culture and modern politics at student conference in Islamabad

As part of the U.S Embassy’s Study for United States Institutes (SUSI) program in Pakistan, six current and recent UMass Amherst political science students traveled to Islamabad on April 8 for a week-long stay, during which they attended an international youth conference, toured some of the region’s landmarks and spoke to news outlets there about cross-cultural education and exchange.  The trip presented a rare opportunity for U.S. undergraduates to be hosted in Pakistan and an even rarer one to speak with several of the country’s popular media outlets. Although Pakistan is the U.S’s largest student exchange program partner, American undergraduate students have not been hosted there in over 12 years. Originally scheduled for January, the trip was postponed when a large march blocked roads into Islamabad on the day of the students’ intended arrival.

The voyage coincided with the International Young Alumni Conference, a gathering of nearly 400 past student exchange students from Pakistan, India and Afghanistan, brought together with an international panel of educational leaders, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs and political leaders. The conference theme, “The Faces of Change, the Changes We Face” examined the attitudes of today’s generation and how those perspectives apply to politics, business, culture and international relations.

The UMass group, four males and two females, are all current or recent political science majors, and all have worked with Pakistani students through the UMass Donahue Institute’s Civic Initiative, a democracy education program directed by political science professor Michael Hannahan, who also accompanied them on this trip. Each summer, the Civic Initiative organizes and administers the Pakistani Young Leaders Program, a six-week summer program that brings 25 students from Pakistan to the UMass Amherst campus for courses that discuss public policy and democracy within Pakistan and the United States.

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