For more than five decades, Cultural Vistas has positively impacted the world through immersive educational and skill-building exchange programs. As we reflect on our 55th anniversary and look ahead to 2018, we are reminded of the importance and sustainability of our mission.
While the world and workplace continues to change, the global skills and competencies our professional programs uniquely cultivate – among them adaptability and resilience, empathy, tolerance for diverse approaches to life and work, and proficiency in a foreign language – remain as important today as at the time of our founding.
For more than a half a century, Cultural Vistas has been at the forefront of preparing young professionals from around the world to both adapt to and define the future of work through our international exchange programs.
We help individuals develop a diverse set of global skills necessary to compete and succeed in today’s highly complex environment. Skills and competencies they gain through our wide range of programs include: empathy, creativity, social intelligence, adaptability, entrepreneurial abilities, as well as the facility to navigate ambiguity and difference.
In addition to preparing young people to navigate an evolving workplace, we help thousands of employers in every sector access global talent. This brings a multitude of benefits to their organizations like introducing new innovations, penetrating international markets, globalizing their workforce, and helping them increase international sales.
Looking ahead to 2018, we will be celebrating our 55th anniversary. This milestone provides us the opportunity to celebrate our many accomplishments. I am pleased to join Cultural Vistas at such a critical time in history where the challenges are significant, but so are the opportunities.
The stakes are high. We are in a moment of transformation that could go in a positive or negative direction. We want to be part of the positive transformation. We want to help create a better future by preparing a better workforce.
It is my goal to instill the skills and competencies of adaptability, resilience, the ability to navigate difference and build on a strong spirit of innovation throughout the Cultural Vistas ecosystem to help “future-proof” the field of exchanges and our organization.
The need for globally-competent individuals, organizations, and nations will only continue to grow. We can and must step forward in a significant way to galvanize our vast networks of alumni, partners, employers, supporters, and participants toward fostering a future that provides opportunity, prosperity, stability, and peace for all.
We will be calling on you to help us realize our vision and look forward to hearing how you can join us to redefine the future of work!
Jennifer Clinton, PhD
Cultural Vistas President + CEO
South America: 2% | Africa: 2% | Oceania: 1%
Affecting change knows no age limit. The future of the U.S.-ASEAN relationship is bright, and the YSEALI network is a major reason why. Since its inception in 2013, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, the State Department’s preeminent youth leadership program, has provided over 110,000 young people with a platform to discuss and address the region’s most pressing issues. Cultural Vistas has experienced this phenomenon firsthand in its implementation of seven YSEALI projects over the last three years, including three in 2017. The largest to date took place in October 2017 as 250 alumni came together in Manila for the third annual YSEALI Summit.
The fifth cohort of the Cultural Vistas Fellowship spent summer 2017 living and interning in Buenos Aires, Berlin, and Bangalore. Selected from a nationally competitive pool, the 12 American students received full funding to pursue internships with focuses ranging from international business in Germany to an NGO that runs school lunch programs in India.
The importance for students to be able to understand and value diverse perspectives and understand how current events around the world are interconnected continues to grow.
Through its Teach USA program, Cultural Vistas brings new ideas, new cultures, and new ways of thinking to K-12 classrooms across the United States.
As often is the case, the teaching-learning process is a two-way street. As best put by one of our Filipino educators, “After teaching for 15 years back in my home country, I thought I knew everything about teaching. However, coming here to the U.S. showed me there’s so much more to learn. I encourage you to always keep your cup empty, leaving space to take in more.”
Over the course of 2017, Cultural Vistas, together with the exchange community, worked vigorously to raise greater awareness amongst elected officials about the value of our work and sustain bipartisan support for exchanges. In July, a member of Congressman Ro Khanna’s staff provided a special welcome at a reception we held for Bay Area participants and alumni.
“The Bay Area has always been home to so many different communities. We have members who are born in foreign countries, people who adhere to various religious and spiritual traditions, and individuals who speak different languages. As the representative of the 17th District of California, I have the honor to serve in one of the most diverse congressional districts. It is hard to overstate the importance of the work that organizations like Cultural Vistas do. They play a vital role in our international community to help foster mutual understanding and collaborations.”
Experiencing a new culture and living overseas is often a life-changing experience, but we know that it is also not without its challenges. When you encounter a different way of doing things and are cut off from the cultural cues you know so well at home, it is easy to feel overwhelmed.
As part of our unwavering commitment to participants’ health and well-being, Cultural Vistas began an exciting new partnership in September 2017 with Talkspace, an online therapy and counseling platform, to provide participants free, on-demand access to counseling services as they navigate life away from home.
The service offers access to over 1,500 licensed therapists who can help with stress, anxiety, depression, and other emotional needs.
“As the first international exchange program to implement an online therapy offering of this kind, Cultural Vistas sets the standard for mental health awareness in its field. Talkspace is proud to be partnering with Cultural Vistas and their leadership in ensuring that individuals in international exchange programs have access to convenient online therapy.”
As cities work to keep themselves safe, strong, and resilient, exchanges are proving to be a valuable platform for sharing information and best practices.
Launched in 2017, the Community Leadership in Preventing Violence Exchange brought 41 American and British community leaders, including local city and police officials, NGO leaders, and educators to each other’s cities to learn from each other’s experiences in promoting acceptance and preventing radicalization in their respective communities.
These two-way exchanges, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in London and administered by Cultural Vistas, paired communities of similar size and with relatable challenges, including Denver and Birmingham; Los Angeles and London; and Boston and Manchester.
“It’s really motivating and encouraging to see the work Birmingham is doing because we face the same challenges in a different manner in our communities,” said Yoal Kidane Ghebremeskel, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Denver’s nonprofit youth center Street Fraternity. “It has been a great learning experience.”
Research continually shows that well-designed educational and work-based international experiences strengthen student employability and career prospects upon graduation.
However, while the number of Americans studying overseas is increasing, less than 2% of all students enrolled at U.S. higher education institutions study or intern abroad every year, and even fewer are members of minority communities.
On the employer side, the demand for a globally-competent and mobile workforce shows no signs of slowing down. The task ahead remains vast, but not insurmountable.
Every year, Cultural Vistas expands its offerings so that more young Americans of all backgrounds can broaden their worldview and gain in-demand skills through overseas and immersive learning experiences.
For Doug Roman, a member of our inaugural Cultural Vistas Fellowship class, interning in Argentina was life-changing. After graduating college, he used his Argentinian workplace experience to get a job with a Spanish wind turbine company.
"It really is unbelievable that my Cultural Vistas Fellowship was nearly 5 years ago,” said Doug. “I'll never forget the memories I made that summer! My time in Argentina has proven invaluable in helping me use Spanish in a professional setting and relate to colleagues from different cultures.”
Courtney Bliler, a 2014 Fellow and current Field Artillery Officer in the army, went on to intern with the U.S. Foreign Service's Yemen Affairs Unit and the State Department's Iraq Office.
“The Cultural Vistas Fellowship has opened up a lot of opportunities for international study and internships in foreign policy for me,” said Courtney.
An internship in Bangalore, India inspired Brenda Vasquez, a 2016 Cultural Vistas Fellow, to internationalize her education.
“I am currently studying abroad in Finland because I had such an amazing experience the first time with Cultural Vistas,” said Vasquez. “I now push myself out of my comfort zone even more because I came to the conclusion, if I can cross a street in India I can do anything.”
Expect more success stories from our Cultural Vistas Fellows. The program has been renewed for at least five more years, giving many more students the chance to experience life overseas for the first time.
Kimberley Ramirez Gonzalez, an undergraduate at University of California, Merced, traveled abroad for the first time as a 2017 Cultural Vistas Fellow. Ramirez is majoring in sociology and volunteers as a community organizer.
By interning at Subir el Sur in Buenos Aires, she gained international grassroots advocacy experience supporting women’s and children’s rights.
“I came to Argentina with hopes of learning how to advocate for vulnerable communities internationally and I was not disappointed,” said Kimberley. “Every day in Buenos Aires I grew as a person, every day at work I learned something new.”
She has since used this experience to create Girls United, a high school program focused on empowering at-risk young women.
“I think it is important that people like me — a low-income, first-generation woman of color and immigrants’ daughter — be given a platform like this to spread the powerful message that ‘you can change the world, no matter where you come from.’”
Cultural Vistas’ array of customized internship placement programs across Europe and South America continue to grow in size and scope, with program participation increasing by 51 percent since 2012 - thanks much in part to new and expanding university partnerships with James Madison University, University of Cincinnati, and Princeton University, among others.
For the fifth consecutive spring, Cultural Vistas teamed up with Morehouse and Spelman colleges in Atlanta to inspire students and faculty members to internationalize their educational and career paths through STEM LAUNCH, a two-week immersive tour of Berlin and Munich’s science and tech sectors, generously funded by The Halle Foundation.
“Partnering with Cultural Vistas has been excellent. Their customer service, professionalism, and level of organization is top notch. We began our collaboration with a JMU Internship in Germany program last year. Even though we had small numbers, they treated us as a top partner and provided our students with personalized attention and service. They visited our campus for pre-departure orientation, arranged lodging for our group, and provided us with a special on-site orientation. Based on the quality of our experience, we have added a JMU Internship in Ireland program this year and have plans to consider other options in the future to diversify our portfolio. I highly recommend Cultural Vistas!”
Amid an uncertain political climate in the United States and increasingly inward-looking policies around the world, the demand for global talent remains constant.
In fact, in the United States, 7 out of 10 employers place critical importance on the value of a global workforce, citing in-demand skills sets, new perspectives, and knowledge of industries and practices as the key reasons.
The U.S. has, of course, long reaped the rewards of its openness–to a diversity of perspectives; to an entrepreneurial culture of idea generation and experimentation; and to the notion that innovation and the next big idea can come from anyone and anywhere.
It is almost impossible to imagine how the U.S. would function if it closed itself off from the best and brightest students, researchers, emerging leaders, and newcomers who enrich our economic, scientific, and cultural life in immeasurable ways.
The American people and its institutions have much to teach the world about open markets, democratic institutions, and the economic and cultural benefits of openness and tolerance. But we also have much to learn.
As an organization dedicated to forging new connections and collaboration between Americans and the world, Cultural Vistas is well-positioned to answer this call.
For over 50 years, in partnership with the Department of State and thousands of leading companies and organizations around the world, Cultural Vistas has helped bring international students and young professionals to the United States to learn and hone their skills under the J-1 Intern and Trainee categories of the Exchange Visitor Program.
While without the fanfare of other work-based visa categories, the non-immigrant J-1, created in 1961 under the Fulbright-Hays Act, continues to be a catalyst for growth.
The 35,000-plus individuals that come for training opportunities in the U.S. annually are uniquely exposed to American values and business skills. They support local economies in all 50 states during their stays. Equipped with new abilities and expanded networks, which last long after programs end, they return home, where the benefits are magnified, often reshaping careers and communities.
At the same time, American businesses, from Fortune 500 companies to startups to family-owned businesses and NGOs, benefit from access to the top emerging talent around the world. They bring international perspectives to their operations. Their knowledge and networks help to greatly ease and expand opportunities for U.S. companies overseas.
The benefits are long-term. International interns and trainees exposed to American host organizations, products, and services regularly reach back for them when they’ve returned home, directly supporting the U.S. economy.
Alumni of J-1 Intern and Trainee programs report a multitude of career-related benefits as a result of their U.S. exchange experiences, including improved problem solving, adaptability to cultural differences, and working more effectively in a team.
For Suna Jo, one of a record 233 South Korean students to take part in the Korea WEST (Work, English Study, Travel) exchange program with Cultural Vistas in 2017, interning at Ameriprise Financial in Washington, D.C. has provided her confidence needed to pursue a career in international finance, which had previously seemed unattainable.
“The first thing I learned from coming to the U.S. is that I can get over anything,” said Suna.
While the insider view of what it’s like to work with a major player in the U.S. market for asset and wealth management acts as a career jumpstart for Suna, the firm has also benefited from the new perspectives international interns bring to the workplace as a recurring WEST host company.
"With the help of Korea WEST interns over the past couple of years, we have been able to obtain fresh eyes and unique perspectives on some of our practice’s existing processes, products, and services,” said Michelle M. Mancari of Ameriprise Financial. “What I have found to be especially beneficial is teaching and approaching topics unfamiliar to our interns in various ways to make them understandable, which in turn helps me discover new ways to convey and teach financial planning products and services with varying complexity to our clients."
By Adam M. Hunter
Cultural Vistas Board Member | Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Alumnus (2003-’04)
Following the news in 2017 could have left you with the impression that citizens were more divided across many democratic societies. A concerning rise in nationalist populism, amplified skepticism of international engagement, and strained longstanding alliances. Retreating democratic norms coincided with greater hostility toward facts and expertise. Citizens turned inward and shielded themselves with like-minded peers. Many were left feeling more divided from others, whether fellow citizens across town or people around the world.
By this analysis, you might think it’s an inopportune time to be in the international exchange business. We disagree.
They work on two levels:
Despite recent inward-looking trends, the pace of globalization, technological advancement, and interconnectedness in the world is ever increasing. This means that any given field’s knowledge and innovation are more global than in the past.
Some of the best opportunities to learn and advance one’s career occur abroad, such as by gaining insight into new markets or practices. The thousands of young people for whom Cultural Vistas arranges international experiences each year have their fingers on the pulse of globalization and return home with industry knowledge, local understanding, and expanded networks.
I have witnessed this myself as a Robert Bosch Foundation Fellow in Germany. I dove deeply into German approaches to immigrant integration and forged relationships with policymakers and practitioners. These experiences changed the way I managed integration programs for the U.S. Government, allowed me to lead a working group among U.S. and German government officials, and helped in the creation of a new platform for local communities to share immigrant integration practices and jointly action-plan across the Atlantic.
Exchanges also help us to deepen our empathies.This process often starts with an attribute we rarely focus on in exchange, but which provides a critical component to global understanding: gaining valuable perspective about ourselves and our place in the world.
As German philosopher Hermann von Keyserling wrote nearly a century ago, “The shortest path to oneself leads around the world.” With this perspective established, we can develop the intercultural competencies to both better understand and apply the skills and knowledge that advance our careers, as well as become able to better engage across difference of various stripes. These competencies can improve our daily lives for the better not only during the abroad experience, but also at home, and can ripple positively across an organization or community.
Recognizing the multiple benefits of exchange programs – and how critical they are in the current climate – Cultural Vistas aims to see more people share in these benefits.
As an alum and board member, I am proud of Cultural Vistas’ efforts on this front. It creatively designs programs to engage on emerging issues and draw new partners and sectors into the exchange space. It seeks to recruit and better support a more diverse participant base hailing from more varied places. It provides financial support for certain underrepresented and first-time exchange participants to foster their participation. And it works to provide participants with broad country experiences, outside of well-worn pathways.
While 2017 certainly left us with some challenges, Cultural Vistas is as committed as ever to its exchange mission and belief that citizens are our best ambassadors. And we will continue to develop more ambassadors knowing that each will bring our communities and our world a tiny bit closer.
Cultural Vistas, with seed funding from the U.S. Department of State, led efforts to launch the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Alumni Association (CBYXAA) in 2017. CBYXAA aims to unite Americans who have participated in high school, vocational, and young professionals CBYX programs to create a strong network of people who have experienced this life-changing U.S.-German exchange.
The inaugural year saw more than 1,100 active members with chapters in Atlanta, Boston, South Florida, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C.
Denis McDonough, who served as President Obama's Chief of Staff from 2013 until he left office, received the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship Alumni of the Year Award at the annual meeting of the fellowship’s alumni association in Washington, D.C. from June 23-25. Denis, a Bosch Fellow from 1999-2000, delivered the keynote address urging his fellow alumni to remain engaged in the U.S.-German transatlantic relationship.
Christine A. Elder, a 1994 alumna of the Robert Bosch Foundation Fellowship in Germany, who has served as the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia since 2016, was admitted into the Star of Africa, with a Grade of Knighthood, for her invaluable services in improving already existing bilateral relations between Liberia and the United States of America.
Nancy Mancilla’s CBYX year (‘99-’00) in Germany working for Raphaels-Werk opened her eyes to the world and its common humanity. Today, Nancy (left) pays it forward as co-chair of the Cultural Vistas Alumni Council. In July, together with fellow council member Kristine Angell (CBYX, ‘97-’98) and Ron Bee (Bosch, ‘87-’88), they hosted a networking and community-building event in San Diego attended by 60-plus current exchange participants and alumni from Cultural Vistas programs.
Alumni continue to give back and stay engaged in our work in many ways - including our programming. At October’s Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Summit in Manila, Cordell Carter, a Bosch Fellowship alum (‘07-’08) and Cultural Vistas Alumni Council member, was among the featured speakers, leading an energizing design charrette, for an audience of 250-plus young ASEAN leaders.
Ashley Kowalski, a 2012-2013 alumna of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals, was one of 10 Americans to win an Alfa Fellowship award for 2017-2018. She is both the first aerospace engineer and CBYX alumna to participate in this prestigious professional program in Moscow. In her work placement at SPUTNIX, a microsatellite manufacturer, she is expanding her knowledge of international science and technology policy and markets.
More than 100 Cultural Vistas participants, alumni, and staff came together in three cities over the summer to give back to their local communities as part of J Day, a nationwide celebration of international exchange programs.
In the nation’s capital, we made and donated 1,137 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to Martha’s Table to help feed DC’s hungry. Following a picnic on the Mall, our efforts were featured on the evening news by NBC4 Washington.
In New York, we teamed up with fellow area exchange organizations to help beautify the East River Park. For many of our exchange visitors, it was their first experience with gardening.
Meanwhile in the Bay Area, we hosted a series of activities, beginning with a reception at the residence of the German Consulate General, followed by a baseball game, and culminating with conservation projects and a picnic at Golden Gate State Park.
Liana Manukyan's photo of the Great Aletsch Glacier earned her the grand prize in our 2017 #TransformedByTravel photo contest, and as a result, a free roundtrip to Washington, D.C. At our November gallery event and silent auction, Liana, a 2014 alumna of our Train USA program, shared the story behind the winning shot.
“I've put my heart and some effort into this photo, so I was very happy to hear it won the grand prize.”
Breaking down stereotypes. Exploring new ways of thinking. Making meaningful connections. We heard from host companies, current international interns, and American alumni about the many reasons why #ExchangesMatter at a May reception to rally support for our work in New York City.
Dongyun Yu, a South Korean student and 2017 Korea WEST participant, explains the concept of chopsticks to students at H.D. Cooke Elementary in Washington, D.C. through imagery and a song about alligators that go "chop, chop." He was one of 28 volunteers from 14 countries to deliver cultural presentations to 11 schools in Chicago, New York, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. as part of November’s International Education Week.
As a mission-driven nonprofit, Cultural Vistas is steadfast in its commitment to fiscal responsibility. We continuously strive to keep administrative costs associated with the operation of our organization within reasonable limits in order to devote the majority of our resources toward those we serve.
“I now know so much more about the issues that I’m passionate about. This fellowship has enabled my postgraduate career to have broader horizons than I ever could’ve imagined. I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to go to India. Everyone should get the gift of an international experience.”