CBYX Fellow Eden Brockman Dives into the Lively Culture of Düsseldorf, Germany

Apr 16, 2024
The 40th CBYX cohort poses for a large group photo in an open field with trees in the background. In the middle, they hold a flag which is a diagonal split between the flags of the US and Germany.
Group photo of the CBYX-YP 40th cohort, program coordinators, and advisors at training and orientation in Wiesbaden during their first week in Germany.

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Young Professionals Fellowship (CBYX) is a reciprocal work-study program that lasts for an entire year and provides an opportunity for 75 Americans aged between 18 and 24 to experience everyday life, education, and professional training in Germany. The fellowship covers the cost of flights, university tuition, language training, a living stipend, and program-related travel costs in Germany. The program has three main components: two months of language training in Germany, four months of study at a German university, and a five-month internship in a German-speaking work environment. Participants also receive accommodations in a German home or student residence, attend seminars, receive in-country support during the program, and benefit from health and accident insurance.

Eden Brockman is a current CBYX Fellow studying European Studies and Journalism at the University of Düsseldorf. ProFellow recently spoke with Eden about her path to CBYX and her fellowship experience. In this interview, Eden shares her background before the fellowship, discusses a day in the life of a CBYX Fellow, and provides tips and recommendations for aspiring applicants.

Can you share your background and what led you to apply to the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Young Professionals (CBYX) Fellowship in Düsseldorf, Germany?

Applying for CBYX was a deliberate step to immerse myself in a new culture and broaden my perspective. I lived in Kansas my entire young adult life and loved growing up there. However, I needed to break out of my comfort zone and explore. My journalism journey exposed me to various topics, from addressing food insecurity to covering cultural events, navigating political polarization, and sharing the stories of international students at my university. By interviewing many individuals adapting to new cultures, I realized the immense value of firsthand experience living in a different culture in shaping a person’s worldview. I chatted with my university honors program, and they encouraged me to pursue the CBYX-YP program. I was interested in the program because of its dual emphasis on cultural immersion and professional development. 

Eden Brockman sits with her host mom in Germany on a concrete bench with graffiti on the wall behind them.
Eden’s sitting and having coffee with her host mom, Rose, during the language school phase. Every Saturday, they would explore the neighborhood farmer’s market and enjoy lots of espresso. Eden still visits her often.

Can you describe what a week in the life of a CBYX Fellow is like? How did this opportunity impact you professionally?

A week in the life of a CBYX fellow will undoubtedly keep you on your toes! Our program is divided into three phases. During the first phase, I attended language school in Cologne for around 5-6 hours daily and learned German with classmates worldwide. I spent much time with my host mom; she is wise and well-traveled and did a great job introducing me to German culture and the language. After language school, I would often explore the city with my classmates. Now, I am in the university phase, taking courses in media and cultural studies alongside European studies at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. Beyond my classes, I write for an expat magazine called Life in Düsseldorf, and I kickbox and dance bachata. In the spring, I will intern full-time for Common Ground Berlin and continue writing for Life in Düsseldorf, and I am sure I will find more ways to engage with my community. 

CBYX has widened my professional network exponentially. I am grateful to meet journalists and other communications professionals working all over the world. I now have a broad international network. I do not yet know the impact this will have on my career. As of right now, it has given me ideas on many different ways a career can look. This program and networking have opened my eyes to even what other jobs within journalism can look like that I was previously unfamiliar with and opened me up to ideas for jobs I did not realize existed. I am grateful to be surrounded by many inspiring people working to solve modern-day issues. Through CBYX, I engage in extensive intercultural training and learn about cross-cultural communication. I have also learned a lot about U.S. foreign policy and the United States’ role in world affairs. The program has made me a more conscious citizen and encouraged me to play a more active role in utilizing governmental structures to help support local communities and advance society. 

Eden and her sponsor representative smile at the camera holding drinks at a Christmas party.
Eden and her sponsor representative, Zanda Martens, meeting at the Düsseldorf Old City Christmas Market. Zanda helped with the selection and scholarship distribution to CBYX participants, and Eden appreciated Zanda welcoming her to Düsseldorf.

How did the fellowship serve your academic and professional goals? How will you incorporate these experiences moving forward?

My fellowship experience has propelled me forward professionally and academically far more than I could have imagined. I have many work opportunities in Germany and am increasing my international network. As I mentioned earlier, this year has exposed me to different career opportunities I hadn’t previously considered. I often work with other internationals and Germans, and I am usually the only or one of the only Americans in the room. I have become comfortable being out of my comfort zone and have more confidence to seek experiences like this in the future. I can relate to others who appear so different from me on paper and appreciate new and different ways of thinking. 

Eden and a few classmates, together with their teacher, pose for a group photo in a classroom.
Eden’s classmates, teacher, and her posing for a photo in the classroom. There were a few CBYX-YP participants and international students in the class. At one point, they realized they knew a collective of 23 languages among all the students!

What advice do you have for others who are interested in applying for the fellowship?

I advise people to connect with current fellows or alumni and chat with them about their experiences! I talked to several CBYX alumni before applying, and after learning more, I knew that this program fit my goals. International fellowships help you grow your global network, teach you much about yourself and the world, and offer new adventures daily. There are so many opportunities, so I recommend getting to know a program before going through an often lengthy application process. Fellowships typically require a lot of investment on your part, so make sure it is something you are excited about. I am happy to share my experience as a CBYX Young Professionals fellow and offer any advice, so please do not hesitate to reach out.

Want to apply to the CBYX fellowship? Be sure to create a ProFellow account and bookmark this opportunity!

In a headshot portrait photo, Eden Brockman smiles at the camera. Behind her is a hedge and a large, ornate building.Eden Brockman is a native Kansan passionate about solutions journalism, building intercultural bridges, and lifelong learning. Eden graduated with honors from Kansas State University with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences awarded a Heartland Emmy to Eden for her video special exploring political polarization among Generation Z in Kansas. Eden is pursuing Media and Cultural Studies courses alongside European Studies at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf. This spring, Eden will intern with the podcast organization Common Ground Berlin.

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