Building bridges through virtual cultural exchange

  • Published: Thursday, June 29, 2023

This spring, about 20 Missouri 4-H’ers joined teens living 8,000 miles away in Bangladesh to explore each other’s cultures and learn how much they have in common. The 13- and 14-year-olds were part of a program called EXCEL (EXchange for Cultural Engagement and Learning).

A partnership between Missouri 4-H and the Bangladesh Institute of Information and Communication Technology in Development (BIID), the seven-week pilot program aimed to foster cultural understanding, teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills among Missouri youths and their counterparts in Bangladesh, a country in Southeast Asia that is the eighth most populous in the world.

Participants from both countries joined one-hour virtual meetings that started at 8 a.m. in Bangladesh and 8 p.m. in Missouri. Through discussions, activities and projects, the teens explored interests and cultural practices and learned about each other’s perspectives on nutrition and healthy living through topics covering family, traditions, food, hobbies and sports.

“Our partnership with Bangladesh gives youth a great opportunity to have an intercultural experience as 4-H’ers learn about the culture of Bangladesh while sharing their own experiences,” said Missouri 4-H Director Lupita Fabregas.

“This experience was amazing!!” wrote one student in a survey about the program. “This is the greatest experience of my life,” wrote another.

All the youths who answered the survey either agreed or strongly agreed that they learned to hear and respect people from another country and that their knowledge of food and culture grew.

“We foresee this collaboration as a window to connect adolescents in an inclusive manner and towards making future leaders with more diverse knowledge about different cultural and social aspects,” said BIID Chief Executive Officer Md Shahid Uddin Akbar.

Since 2015, BIID has been pursuing Nutrition Club initiatives for youths and teens, exploring ways to collaborate with 4-H in the United States. Missouri 4-H was the first to participate in this successful pilot. Missouri 4-H and BIID have recently signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the program to grow.

About 4-H

More than 55,000 members strong, Missouri 4-H is an active, dynamic organization of young people who are learning, growing and preparing to be the leaders of today and tomorrow – making a real difference in their community, country and world. 4-H is the youth development program of the University of Missouri and the nation’s Cooperative Extension System. For more information, visit

Screenshot from the second session of the seven-week EXCEL program, an online cultural exchange between Missouri 4-H’ers and youths in Bangladesh.

Writer: Katherine Foran

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Sherry Grace

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