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About GATE – long version

The volunteer project “GATE – Germany and Tunisia exchange!” is an initiative of members of the German association “Alumni der Studienstiftung e. V.” (alumni of the German National Academic Foundation) and brings together young Tunisian academics and scholarship holders of the German National Academic Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) for intercultural exchange. The participants spend a week together in Tunisia and a week together in Germany. So far, four intercultural German-Tunisian weeks took place: after the first week in September 2012 in Tunis, one week followed in September 2013 in Cologne, one in March 2015 in Tunis and one in August 2015 in Bonn.

The focus of our project is the intensive personal exchange between up to 30 participants from Tunisia and Germany. Most of the participants are students, but there are also doctoral candidates and young professionals. The major themes of the workshop are politics, religion, business and civil society. The participants talk about selected lectures in smaller seminar groups, followed by an hour of discussion. The subjects of the participants are mostly motivated by their own questions and experiences in everyday life: How do students live and live in Tunisia and Germany? What is the history of anti-Muslim racism in Germany? How has publicly accessible art evolved in Tunisia since the revolution? What is the function of bureaucracy in a democracy? In the evening, the topics of the exchange week are further deepened in guest lectures, followed by a discussion in the plenum. Visits, excursions and creative elements, such as the Theater of the Oppressed or a model climate conference, complete the tight timetable.

Among the excursion destinations in Tunisia so far were the Tunisian Parliament, Carthage, the Tunis Medina, the DAAD office in Tunis, the artists’ town Sidi Bou Said, the historical Oudhna and Kerkouan archaeological sites, the Institut des Belles Lettres Arabes in Tunis, the castle and beach of Kelibia, and the ENIT Engineering Department of the University of Tunis. Excursion destinations in Germany were among others the cities of Cologne and Bonn with an official reception in the city hall of Cologne, which is a twin town of Tunis, the mosque Cologne-Ehrenfeld, the art gallery Greve in Cologne, the Konrad-Adenauer-Haus, the Rhine River valley and the castles Drachenfels and Ehrenburg, visiting a group of refugees in Bonn, the Cologne Cathedral, an openair rock music festival in Bonn, and the headquarters of the German international news channel Deutsche Welle.

In contrast to other intercultural projects, which pay fees to their guest speakers and guarantee exclusive access to numerous politicians and decision-makers, we are working more modestly but also more affordable for our participants from both countries. We are, therefore, all the more enthusiastic that we have been able to welcome the following honorary speakers: Prof. Boukricha, Professor of Mathematics at the University of el Manar, on the long-standing academic exchange between Tunis and Bielefeld supported by the DAAD; Father John MacWilliam of the Catholic Order of the White Fathers in Tunis, on the Institute of Belles Lettres Arabes (IBLA) in Tunis, the intergenerational transfer of Tunisian culture, the role of the Catholic Church in North Africa and the public library for children; Tarek Cheniti, political blogger and, at the time, working with the United Nations in Tunis, on the political and social future of his country Tunisia; Linda Rose Smit, former mayor in the Netherlands and co-worker in projects to promote democratic structures in Egypt and Iraq; Prof. Anja Bettenworth, Professor of Latin Studies at the University of Cologne, on European and African identity based on myths; Dr. Detlev Ihnken, editor of the WDR in Cologne, on the development of press freedom in Germany after the Second World War; Jan-Martin Lichte, IT entrepreneur, on the economic development opportunities in Tunisia using international examples; Raphael Wunsch, Head of the Teacher Training Center Engelskirchen, on the education system in Germany; Dimiter Chalev, Head of the Human Rights Office in Tunis, on the human rights situation in Tunisia before and after the revolution; Esghaier Chamakh, former political prisoner under Ben Ali, on the chances for Tunisia through the education of all social classes and all regions of Tunisia; Souheil Thabti, Islamic scientist and member of the Ethics Council of the First Islamic Bank in the Eurozone, on critical questions of the form and content of religion in a modern state; Andreas Müller, social scientist and staff of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), on the border regime of Europe; and Boris Schinke, Germanwatch e. V., on renewable energies in North Africa.

The volunteer organization team consists of alumni and scholarship holders of the German Academic Scholarship Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes). The project began in 2012, after Jan-Martin Lichte, an IT entrepreneur from Bonn and alumnus of the Foundation, traveled privately to Tunisia to see the changes and developments in the country after the revolution with his own eyes. On the spot, he met motivated students and young graduates from the IT industry who were interested in cultural exchange. Together, they decided to organize a first meeting between Tunisian and German students. Back in Germany, Jan-Martin Lichte, together with a small team from the alumni regional group Cologne / Bonn / Aachen, looked Germany-wide for further organizers among the alumni of the Foundation. With seven organizers, the first exchange was implemented on the German side. On the Tunisian side, a handful of people founded an association for the purpose of exchange: TAICE – Tunisian Association International Cultural Exchange. In particular, Wafa Boussaid has been extremely active on the Tunisian side and has been accompanying the project since its beginnings.

We place emphasis on the fact that the organization team and the participants are interdisciplinary. Humanists, natural scientists, social scientists, linguists, engineers, medical scientists, and more meet to discuss relevant intercultural issues. The selection of the participants is based on application documents, which include a motivation letter, in addition to the personal data and CV. While on the German side there is already a pre-election through the admission to the German Academic Scholarship Foundation, there is no pre-election on the Tunisian side; based on application documents, the Tunisian applicants may be interviewed personally by the Tunisian organization team or via internet.

The first exchange took place in Tunis in September 2012, with 14 German and 14 Tunisian participants. The exchange was a great success, the atmosphere open and relaxed, even with the very tangible cultural differences. While the German National Academic Foundation supported the German participants financially, the regional group Cologne / Bonn / Aachen gave a generous donation to the alumni association for the general infrastructure of the exchange such as the meeting rooms. The newly opened DAAD office in Tunis sponsored our final dinner at the hotel.

During the first exchange, and particularly at the meeting of some German participants and organizers in Cologne, the strong desire to make a return trip of the Tunisians to Germany possible. Since Jan-Martin Lichte was increasingly busy in family and business matters, Hella Riede took over the coordination for the return exchange in 2013. The biggest challenge of the return trip was the financing of travel expenses and accommodation of the Tunisian participants. Since the Foundation can only cover the costs of scholarship holders, funding applications were sent to different institutions. The German Ministry of Foreign Affairs Office examined and approved our application within the framework of the German-Tunisian Transformation Partnership, so that the first exchange in Germany took place in Cologne in 2013 – an important step for our project.

In 2014, a new organization team was formed, many of them former participants. The goal this time was to plan to exchange back and forth from the beginning. The Foreign Office approved our application so that in 2015 the two exchange weeks could be done much more compact within one year. This was very helpful for our goal of a homogeneous unchanged group of participants for both exchange parts, in Tunisia and Germany.

In the previous workshops, some prejudices had already been disproved, for example that Germans have no family spirit or that Tunisians have not learned to discuss openly and controversially because of the totalitarian regime under Ben Ali. Perspectives beyond the personal exchange include the possibility to be informed independently of the media about the situation in the other country as well as a long-term contribution – analogous to the understanding between France and Germany since the Adenauer / de Gaulle era – to a better mutual understanding between Germany and Tunisia, and perhaps more generally between Europe and its Mediterranean neighbors. Mahatma Gandhi’s quotation summarizes the idea behind our workshops: “Peace between countries must rest on the solid foundation of love between individuals.”

Further impressions of our previous workshops have been collected on our website: https://gatexchange.wordpress.com/experience/. Since 2013, an additional documentation has been given by anonymous surveys after the conclusion of each exchange week, the results of which were provided to our funding partners.

We were also influenced by external circumstances during our project. Shortly before our first workshop in Tunis in 2012, the US embassy was attacked, after which a German participant canceled. Between the workshops 2012 and 2013, two liberal politicians were murdered on the streets of Tunis. Only three days before the start of our week 2015 in Tunis, tourists died before and in the Bardo Museum in Tunis – three German participants subsequently canceled the visit. We have always looked at the information provided by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Since no general travel warnings were issued for Tunisia, we left the decision to the individual participants to participate. In both cases, a large majority of participants opted for the exchange and both times we experienced a wonderful exchange and felt very welcome. Also, we have not experienced any resentment against our Tunisian guests in Germany. We hope that Tunisia will cope with the challenges in their country, and that we can continue to promote exchanges between our countries for a few years.

We are very grateful that the German National Foundation, the German Foreign Office, the DAAD office Tunis and the alumni of Studienstiftung e. V. have been supporting our project so far. The success and the future of the project depend not only on our financial supporters, but also on the willingness of a competent organization team (https://gatexchange.wordpress.com/about/the-team/) as well as the guest speakers, and many other helpers that volunteer and engage with their time and money. A total of 84 participants participated in the two exchange weeks in 2015: 33 participants, five guest speakers, eight German organizers, four Tunisian organizers, two partners within the German National Academic Foundation, two hosts at the Institut des Belles Lettres Arabes in Tunis, three Tunisian students who showed us Tunis from their personal side, three attendees from Tunisian NGOs who presented their projects for a more diverse civil society in Tunisia, one DAAD office employee in Tunis, and two former Tunisian participants who played Tunisian music with friends on our farewell evening in Tunis, six refugees and the their caring priest in Bonn, four hiking guides from the alumni of the Foundation for our excursion day in the Rhine River Valley, a visitor to our project from a German-Tunisian academic association in Stuttgart, and seven former participants and organizers as visitors to our project in Bonn, two Buddhist nuns from London who spontaneously offered us a morning meditation in the youth hostel of Bonn, and perhaps some more, which I may have forgotten.

Thank you!

Hella Riede

Team GATE-Germany and Tunisia exchange!

Application for GATE 2017 is closed – thank you for your interest!

The teams of Tunisian and German participants are assembled and will be meeting personally in Tunis very soon!

Contact us here if you are interested to connect to our project as a future speaker, or with ideas that promote intercultural exchange.

Thank you all!

In October 2016, the PewResearchCenter has published a survey among U.S. Americans about the influence of social media on political debates.

Most users try to ignore political arguments on social media as best they can; when that fails, they take steps to curate their feeds and avoid the most offensive types of content.

[…]

39% of social media users have taken steps to block another user or minimize the content they see from them because of something related to politics.

http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/10/25/the-political-environment-on-social-media/

Do you personally think social media the wrong place for political topics, or do you think social media can facilitate public political discussions and political engagement?

Application for GATE 2017 is open!

Application for GATE 2017 is open now!

We are looking forward to assemble a team of participants – 15 Tunisian students and 15 German stipend holders of the German National Academic Foundation – to meet for one week in Tunis in March 2017, and one week in Munich, Germany in August 2017.

Please visit GATE 2017 in Tunis & Munich for further information who can apply, how to apply, and what it costs.

Please help spread the word by distributing our flyer and the link to our website!

We hope to hear from you soon!

The Germany and Tunisia exchange! team

One day at the Festival of Cultures in Stuttgart

Dear GATE friends,

this is a wonderful report on an intercultural event by Achraf from our GATE 2017 team. Enjoy the read!

Hella

Stuttgart, the sixth biggest city in Germany is situated in the South-Western region of the country. It’s not only one of the economy corner stones of Europe with the headquarters of Bosch, Porsche and Mercedes, but also one of the most intercultural and international cities in Germany. Nominated officially as Germany’s city of culture last […]

via One day at the Festival of Cultures in Stuttgart — Achraf’s personal website

We mourn the victims of the Sousse attack

We are deeply concerned and very sad about the attack on tourists near Sousse. This incident is not only a human tragedy, but also an attack on the political development towards a free society, and the economical development towards better lives for everyone in Tunisia.

We think of you.

Your friends from the GATE project

We have a full team from Tunisia and Germany!

Hello everyone,

it is my pleasure to tell you that we selected our German and Tunisian participants for 2015!

In your applications, we checked out if your English is good enough to participate in discussions and hold your presentations in front of the group, if you convinced us in your letter of motivation that you will not only profit from the exchange but also give back to the others, if you suggested two interesting topics to present in Tunis and Bonn, and if your activities, studies, and CV all point to you being an active member of society.

We have to say that it was not easy make the final selection among all the interesting applications, and in a few cases, we had to make sure not to create a too-obvious imbalance between male and female participants, or certain subjects of study.

We liked your applications a lot, and we hope that you are further interested in our project – no matter if you will participate this specific year or maybe in another project to come!

Best wishes, and greetings from a busy busy GATE organization “hub”,

Hella