Exchange Matters / June 24, 2020

PAK-USA Virtual Classroom Exchange: Connecting Students Across Cultures

By Elizabeth Black & Bjorn Schwarzenbach, Global Ties U.S. Virtual Exchange Team

Launched in February 2020, the PAK-USA Virtual Classroom Exchange connected Pakistani and American high school students through project-based activities to develop relationships, increase knowledge of each other’s cultures, and learn about transforming intercultural conflicts. The program connected approximately 175 students and 20 teachers from Washington, DC; Cincinnati, OH; Kansas City, MO; Seattle, WA; and Lahore and Karachi, Pakistan.

The exchange was funded by the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan and implemented by Global Ties U.S., with support from the World Affairs Council – Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, Global Ties KC, the World Affairs Council – Seattle, and Beyond The Classroom in Pakistan.

The program used a three-phase curriculum. During the first phase, students learned basic concepts of culture, communication, and conflict in order to identify specific intercultural conflicts in their communities. After this initial groundwork was laid, students used case studies to analyze conflicts, determine the root cause, and identify potential interventions to transform them.

In the final phase, teams of students produced short video presentations addressing conflicts in their communities, which were evaluated by a panel of conflict resolution experts.

Students collaborated throughout the exchange through a variety of digital education tools, including Google Classroom to access and upload assignments, Padlet to brainstorm and share notes, and Flipgrid to share and create short video clips. Through these platforms, students were able to discuss and debate complex issues and work together despite geographical distance and time-zone lags.

Originally, the final phase of the program included a two-week in-person exchange for the Pakistani students with the highest scoring final projects to travel to the United States to meet their American counterparts.

Due to COVID-19, the culminating in-person exchange was altered into a PAK-USA Student Film Fest via Facebook Live to showcase participating students’ final video projects and announce the winning projects. As one of the Pakistani teachers remarked during the livestream, the student presentations were great examples of the “same issue at two ends of the world.”

Though it was not a project end that anyone predicted at the beginning of the exchange, it was a celebration of student resilience and the important bonds formed through virtual exchange.

Watch the PAK-USA Student Film Fest at