More than 420 recently-returned FLEX alumni, over 52% of the 2012-2013 class, took part in re-entry seminars in their home communities throughout the summer months of 2013 upon the completion of their exchange. Twenty-two re-entry seminars offered alumni the chance to learn about the FLEX Alumni program and opportunities with the program, meet other alumni in their region and city, and discuss the changes that come with the completion of the program and adjustment to life at home. This opportunity is offered to alumni annually together with online re-entry forums for those alumni who are not able to attend the events in person.
During this anniversary year of the FLEX program, many innovative techniques were included in the re-entry sessions to develop strong ties with the new alumni, encourage them to be active members of the alumni community, and speak openly about the adjustment issues associated with the end of the program and return to life in their home communities. Regarding the latter, sessions on the topics of readjustment, changes to life at home and relationships with friends and family, and a review of the exchange year gave the recently-returned alumni the opportunity to speak on these topics with others who are experiencing or who have experienced similar issues. Alumni organizers throughout Eurasia used small group work, the expertise of senior alumni, and “Q and A” sessions using the beloved sticky notes to keep these sessions fun and interactive.
Following the required sessions, organizers shared opportunities with the recently-returned alumni to encourage continued volunteerism and the use of the skills gained during the exchange year to develop their communities. In Armenia, alumni leaders led sessions to promote the Global Alumni Network as well as local alumni networks. City Representatives worked with the alumni from their regions to present past activities and brainstorm ideas for further project development. Additionally, alumni took part in an opportunities fair where representatives from different organizations presented their organizations, programs, and volunteer opportunities for alumni. Presenters at the fair included representatives of the U.S. Embassy Information Resource Center (IRC), Birthright Armenia, the American University in Armenia (AUA), and Peace Corps. In other parts of Eurasia alumni learned about education opportunities from representatives of local Information Resource Centers, EducationUSA advisors, and the New York University of Abu Dhabi and received information about volunteer opportunities from local youth organizations and even FLEX Alumni Grant program recipients, who promoted their projects as volunteer opportunities for recently-returned alumni.
Following the seminars, alumni took part in social activities ranging from networking events at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence (Ashgabat, Turkmenistan) and alumni-led presentations about the FLEX program for youth at the local American Center (Khujand, Tajikistan). Events such as karaoke night (Astana, Kazakhstan) and bowling night (Dushanbe, Tajikistan) reinforced the relationships of the recently-returned and senior FLEX alumni on a more social level. These activities along with the team-building sessions organized throughout the re-entry seminars work to build bonds between alumni of the FLEX program and offer them a base of support, in everything from adjustment following the exchange to volunteer support as they develop successful new projects at home.