More and more German students spend a part of their student days in foreign country, but just a few in the United States. While the Erasmus-program provides an uncomplicated and inexpensive stay at a foreign university within Europe, a lot of students hesitate spending time at an American university for financial reasons alone. Therefore, German, and American university students get to know each other only in a few cases. But getting to know each other is the precondition for any partnership. Only those who know each other can develop joint plans.
Until now in particular programs have been promoted and sponsored that mainly enable German high school students to spend a year at an American host family and visit the local American high school. A lot of them have a great time in the USA and make lifetime memories. The demand for those programs has always increased since they were first introduced. Because of the high demand it becomes challenging to find suitable host families. Whether the student develops a good view on his host county depends highly on the host family. While the demand for high school exchange programs increases also the probability rises that the teenager spends his time with an unsuitable family and therefore develops a lasting negative view on his host country. Furthermore, most exchange students, due to their young age, don´t develop longtime relationships and especially don’t network. In a lot of cases even the relationship to their host families breaks of after being at their home country again.
For these reasons, the focus should be shifted from high school student exchange programs towards university exchange programs in the future. The European Erasmus-program should be taken as an example to follow. The advantages of the Erasmus-program are easy apparent. The student learns the language of his host country, develops an understanding for the foreign culture, networks and in some cases even finds a life time partner. A program comparable to the Erasmus-program should be developed for German and American students. It is important to avoid creating obstacles for possible exchange students. Therefore, the program should provide a free exchange year at the foreign university. Most German students, who basically don´t pay any tuition fees in Germany, are not willing to pay thousands of dollars for tuition fees in the United States. Also access for visas for a year abroad should be easy to get and be for free. Every German university should have a qualified partner university in the United States. To decision makers in the United States it should be pointed out that exchanging American university students to Germany is also in the interest of the United States. It also must be noted that there is huge information gap between Germany and the United States regarding the quality of universities. While it is common knowledge in Germany that there are lots of universities in the United States of high quality and in general German students are interested in spending a year at an American university, that is not the case the other way round. In the United States the high quality of German universities is not well known or it is not known at all. That fore American universities should advertise Germany as an interesting country with high quality of life in general and specifically the high standard of German universities. While advertising Germany as a country to study it should be pointed out that a country that belongs to the top economies in the world has to have top universities.
Furthermore, the transatlantic cooperation should be strengths and extended on the field of scientific research by the implementation of new joint ventures. There is nothing better for a relationship than jointly pursuing a goal. On the field of scientific research nationalities usually are of secondary importance. Instead the jointly project is of main importance. The field of scientific research is just the right thing for transatlantic cooperation’s because this is a field that is not primary lead by financial interests. Beyond that cooperation in important fields of scientific research can lead to mutual dependence (not to a one-sided dependence!) of countries. Mutual dependence strengths the cooperation of partner countries and usually leads to good long-term relationship.