How Trump’s Travel Ban Ripples Through Global Financial Literacy Movement

By Lexie Kadlec

February 1, 2017

President Donald Trump’s travel ban on certain Muslims is sending chills through the global education world, not least among those that promote financial education.

At the Intern Group, we place 2,000 mostly college-aged students in foreign countries every year. A quarter of those positions are related to finance. Through these programs people of different cultures share ideas—not just about money, of course. Yet how they view money enters their daily conversations and can’t help but generate a personal interest in how their own practices measure up or fall short of peers around the world.

That’s good for everyone. We need to spread the word on financial education—what works, what doesn’t—through every means possible. When we place an intern we see first-hand that the costs associated with our program are among their chief concerns.

First, we help them understand the living expenses involved and how to budget and get the most value out of our program. These are skills they may retain for a lifetime. We also encourage them to approach program costs as they would the expense of any other type of education that stands to jumpstart their career and lead to a better job with more pay. Return on investment is important.

Since the Trump travel ban we’ve seen a swift reappraisal of international travel from many quarters. This includes young adults in our programs. Those with Muslim heritage, even though they may be citizens of nations not banned, are expressing alarm. Even if the ban is lifted, they fear the sentiment it represents.

One young applicant, a woman with dual citizenship in Iran and Canada, was accepted into our program because she embodies global citizenship. She has ambition and has demonstrated a passion for learning about other cultures. Serving an internship in New York City is what she always wanted. Now, she told us she is likely to turn it down.

“I was beyond excited to enter this program,” said the woman, who did not want to be identified because she may yet enter the U.S. and fears being put on a watch list. “With the new government of America, unfortunately, things are changing very quickly and taking away millions of people’s dreams.”

Mariam Araim is another young woman who applied with us for an internship in New York City. She is Iraqi with dual citizenship in Canada. She too was accepted, and this week declined to enter our program fearing anti-Muslim sentiment and difficulty traveling. “I no longer feel welcome and safe, nor do I feel the same excitement I had towards going to New York,” she told us.

Our mission, shared with exchange student programs globally and much of the international higher education universe, is to engender cultural sensitivity that will help generations face the world’s issues together. Our core belief is that this type of experience will foster cooperation that will end or avoid wars, protect human rights, promote discussion about climate change—and yes, in a small way, contribute to the spread of financial literacy. All of these efforts have been dealt a blow that cannot be fixed quickly.

Lexie Kadlec is an executive at The Intern Group and, for disclosure, daughter of Right About Money founder Dan Kadlec

Posted in Inclusion, International, Policy on February, 2017