Washington, D.C. (September 9, 2022) – The 2022 cohort of the Edmund S. Muskie Professional Fellowship Program gathered in Washington, D.C., from August 18–21 for a debriefing seminar after spending three months learning new skills and gaining real-world experience as part of their summer internships.
Forty-seven program participants and Fulbright scholars spent two days exchanging ideas and lessons learned from U.S. work culture.
The seminar started by outlining community agreements, including the importance of exercising empathy, maintaining an open mind and a safe and welcoming atmosphere, and fostering communication among attendees.
The fellows took part in a number of program activities on the first day, sharing their experiences from volunteer work they had done. They also discussed cultural reintegration in a session hosted by staff from AFS Intercultural Programs where three Muskie alumni—Jakhongir Azimov (class of 2021), Olga Romanova (class of 2020), and Salome Apkhazishvili (class of 2020)—shared their experiences after returning home.
Participants also had a chance to reflect in small groups on their intercultural growth during the course of the program as well. The day was concluded with a guided trip on the banks of the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia, where participants visited Mount Vernon, the former estate of George Washington, the first president of the United States, and his wife, Martha. They learned more about U.S. history while touring the estate and mansion.
On day two of the event, participants first learned more about the Muskie Alumni Council, the Cultural Vistas Alumni Network, and how to stay connected as alumni. Cultural Vistas’ alumni community, which includes over 150,000 members from all around the world, strives to further global collaboration to address the complex challenges our world faces.
Cassandra Sánchez, ICDEI Senior Advisor at Cultural Vistas, got a chance to participate in the event and share her experience working with diverse groups to advance intercultural competency, diversity, equality, and inclusion.
Twenty-one participants selected by their peers to share presentations highlighting expertise and information they had learned from their summer internships around the United States. By using their knowledge, which they had acquired in a variety of professional fields over the course of the last three months, students successfully demonstrated the main skills they had built during that time.
Muskie Fellows have a commitment to using their newly acquired expertise to improve their home countries and make a lasting impact.
“The best way to learn something is by doing it, this is why I enjoyed very much the internship I did this summer as a Muskie Fellow,” said Kuanysh Yermukhanbetov from Kazakhstan studying materials science and who completed his Muskie Fellowship with the Peaslee Steel Manufacturing Research Center at Missouri University School of Science and Technology.
“The Muskie program provided vital experience which gives me a strong base for the future,” said Uzbekistan’s Sardor Musaev, who completed his LL.M. at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
For Marika Verulashvili, a Georgian participant, her summer experience with the World Bank Group was life-changing.
“Muskie gave me an opportunity to complement the knowledge learned during my studies with practical experience which otherwise I would not have had a chance to acquire. At the same time, I established lifelong connections and networks with people that will be very useful for me in my future professional career,” said Marika, who recently earned her Master’s in Public Administration at Georgetown University.
With many of the fellows are heading home after the event, their suitcases will be filled not only with the sweet memories of this amazing journey, but also with strong bonds formed with other Muskie fellows.
Funded by the U.S. Department of State, the program aims to provide emerging leaders from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan with professional work experience to compliment the graduate studies they are undertaking through the Fulbright Foreign Student Program.
Since 1992, the U.S. Department of State has provided thousands of graduate school fellowships for students from across Eurasia in order to build democracies, strengthen the transition to market economies, and establish strong civil societies. Cultural Vistas has built upon that foundation by providing hands-on, professional skill-building opportunities across the United States for 380 graduate students over the last eight years.