AFS Intercultural Programs, in partnership with BP, is proud to announce the start of the BP Global STEM Academies this June in Brazil, Egypt and the USA. This science, technology, engineering and math (STEM)-based study abroad scholarship program will enable 100 talented secondary school students from around the world with demonstrated interest in STEM to participate in the four-week programs. Over the next three years this new international summer exchange program will enrich the STEM and intercultural skills of 300 high school students.

The Academies leverage BP’s deep expertise in STEM and AFS’s established track record in international education to develop the next generation of globally competent leaders, which resulted in high interest and demand for the program. In its first year alone, more than 850 students submitted their applications to participate in BP Global STEM Academies. The selected participants are introduced to essential intercultural skills to help them communicate and collaborate with other students in the program from Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, India, Mexico, South Africa, USA and other countries where BP operates (including Azerbaijan, France, Hungary, Indonesia, Trinidad & Tobago, and UK).

STEM programs like this are urgently needed. According to the 2018 Global Education Monitoring Report Gender Review, young women lag behind men in completing STEM degrees and in some countries, women make up less than 25% of all STEM degrees. With 55 % female participants, this program is designed to ensure that the STEM community is inclusive and representative of a spectrum of cultural, economic and other differences, and that international education opportunities are open to those who may not be able to afford to go abroad. The BP Global STEM Academy scholarships cover the full participation fee, transportation and living costs of all attendees.

Participants of the BP Global STEM Academy in Brazil

“I decided to participate in this program to prepare for studying biochemical engineering. Studying in another country will give me the chance to see how people from different cultures manage and solve similar problems, which I’m committed to put into practice once I come back to my country,” said Ilse Albarrán Sierra from Mexico who is attending the Brazil BP Global STEM Academy.

The BP Global STEM Academies prepare students to thrive in competitive and diverse classrooms and workplaces. Program participants will interact with STEM professionals, visit oil and gas refineries and alternative energy facilities, as well as take classes on subjects like geology, math, robotics, climate change, architecture and more. STEM scholars will develop key global competencies such as problem solving, critical thinking and foreign language skills through structured learning opportunities before, during and after the program. Through a blended learning system, which combines online and in-person education, participants will learn about what culture is and define themselves as cultural beings, explore stereotypes and  generalizations, learn about communication styles, dive deeper into notions of power and privilege, and adopt new tools to suspend judgement in ambiguous situations. The program of BP Global STEM Academies also includes cultural field trips, social impact projects with the local communities, visits to museums and fun activities, such as watching the soccer World Cup.

“I believe that the world is at a critical time where we need more teenage boys and girls of all backgrounds aspiring to STEM careers. Equally, our world needs future leaders with cultural fluency and the ability to transcend different languages, beliefs, and cultures in an intuitive way,” said Helmut Schuster, group human resources director, BP.

For over 70 years AFS has empowered more than 500,000 students and families around the world with intercultural education and exchange programs. AFS President and CEO, Daniel Obst said, “STEM programs are in demand globally, and we at AFS know that we must do everything we can to make sure these programs are diverse and inclusive. This inspired us to partner with BP and empower more young people to confidently pursue their career interests and take their first steps to becoming active global citizens.”