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The Importance of Intercultural Exchange for Rural Development: a youth perspective from Germany

The Importance of Intercultural Exchange for Rural Development: Views of Juliane Neufang from the Rural Youth Organization, GermanyBy Johanna GysinJuliane Neufang, 27, feels that it is important to help young people from rural areas to stay open minded and get to know other cultures with their values and needs. “If young people take part in cultural exchange, the danger of them getting caught in the narrow world of their rural towns gets smaller. They might be more eager to step into action and improve things in their home towns to make them better places to live in!”For Juliane exchange programs for rural youth are thus very important and valuable contributions to rural development. She works as youth education referee at the Rural Youth Organization Germany in the section Bavaria.The Rural Youth Organization is one of the biggest Youth Organization with rural background in Germany and participates all over the country in many different expert groups to work on agricultural, educational and political topics. Youth exchange is a central task in Juliane’s job. But it is not always easy to organize the exchanges; Juliane is constantly working on securing the financing for the exchange programs.Besides the exchanges, Juliane organizes seminars and other educational events for the members of the Rural Youth Organization to provide them with the skills they need for their participation in important positions. In the frame of her assignment at the Rural Youth Organization Juliane supports young people from rural areas with their participation in politics and education and with the development of their home regions.Bavaria is the one of the regions of Germany with the highest share of the population engaged in agriculture and many farmer families are working on their farms since generations. “Our members are not all exclusively from an agricultural background”, says Juliane. “Some of them have grown up on farms, but some did not. These non-agricultural members are from the rural areas of Bavaria and feel the need to support their home regions in order to stop other people leaving the rural areas for the cities.” This is also the case for Juliane: she did not grow up on a farm but the development of rural areas is important to her.Therefore the participation in the Herrsching Seminar was also valuable for her personal development: “the seminar is a great opportunity to get connected with other people from all over the world, who are following the same ideas of changing and developing something in their home countries. I learned a lot of things here which I can take now with me to develop my own life in a different way than I thought before the seminar. Different points of view from other cultures helped me to become more open minded and to think about different ways for solving a problem or handling a challenge.”