Cultural Vistas Blog

Collaborating in Crisis: Lessons from a Transatlantic Test

The Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (CBYX) is a fellowship funded by the German Bundestag and U.S. Department of State that annually provides 75 American and 75 German young professionals between the ages of 18½–24 the opportunity to spend one year in each other’s countries, studying, interning, and living with hosts on a cultural immersion program. Separate CBYX programs not administered by Cultural Vistas include similar programming for high school and vocational students.

CBYX has weathered many challenges in its 37 years, but nothing like the one on March 12, 2020. Ironically, the same day Cultural Vistas held an organization-wide remote work trial, the U.S. State Department and German Parliament made the difficult decision to curtail the 2019-20 CBYX program due to the emerging pandemic. Each of our 150 participants on both sides of the Atlantic had to return home immediately. As the global pandemic worsened, the 2020-21 CBYX program would pivot to a fully virtual format.

Cultural Vistas Senior Director Dr. Daniel Villanueva and member of the CBYX for Young Professionals College Coordinators Council and merit scholarships advisor, Dr. Lori A. Felton (American University, Washington DC), here take stock and share key lessons learned a year on.

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Giving Spotlight: Malia Simon

Malia Simon is an environmental studies major at Susquehanna University and a part of the Class of 2019 of Cultural Vistas Fellows. She spent summer 2019 in Hong Kong interning at CarbonCare InnoLab where she was involved with communication and advocacy efforts to create awareness and contribute to solving global climate challenges – read on to hear what inspires Malia about giving back through the Cultural Vistas community.

Name: Malia Simon

Relationship: Alumna of Cultural Vistas Fellowship Program

Current location: Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Graduating Environmental Studies Major at Susquehanna University

What inspired you to participate in the Cultural Vistas Fellowship?

The ability to expand my horizons as a student, contribute to my Diné community from my international internship experience and overall understand how I could be a contributor to a network of like-minded, global citizens inspired me to apply for the Cultural Vistas Fellowship. I am a first-generation college student; the opportunity to grow not only as a student but professionally as I learned about my future goals and aspirations overseas was the greatest opportunity of my life. Hong Kong helped me understand how I could help my community back home through policy work and advocacy for Indian Country outside of environmental advocacy, though that is my passion. Living outside of the U.S. allowed me to view the intricate government-to-government relationship from an alternative perspective. This fellowship shaped my lifelong goals to be a positive role model for Native youth who want to make a change in their own communities starting at home or aiming for enriching abroad experiences overseas, too.

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Alumni Spotlight: Jocelyn Nitta Builds Skills with the Virtual Internship Corps

The COVID-19 crisis continues to shape our world and future. Restrictions to international travel have limited opportunities for public for public diplomacy and international exchange at a time when it is most needed.

With the support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, Cultural Vistas launched the Virtual Internship Corps, providing young professionals in the U.S. with the opportunity to develop their transatlantic networks and enhance their professional development. For the Fall 2020 semester, twenty-five emerging leaders were selected to take part in an immersive virtual internship program. One of whom, Jocelyn Nitta, reflects on how this virtual experience impacted her view on German culture, the future of work, and democracy.

Name: Jocelyn Nitta

Program: Virtual Internship Corps 2020

Current location: Michigan

Virtual internship placement: Global Innovation Gathering: Careables project

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Statement on Asian-American Hate Crimes

Cultural Vistas stands in solidarity with Asian-American communities who are facing a rise in racist attacks and hate crimes. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the eight individuals killed in a deadly rampage in Georgia last week, fueled by anti-Asian sentiments and misogyny.

This horrific incident is just one of the many acts of violence the Asian-American community has faced over the course of our nation’s history. From the Chinese Exclusion Act to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II, Asian-Americans have long had to contend with racist policies designed to exclude.

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Asian-Americans across our country have been unfairly targeted and blamed for the virus by politicians, the media and members of the public. Words matter and the effect charged rhetoric and unscientific claims have led to a 150% increase in reported hate crimes against Asian-Americans in 2020.

We condemn these attacks and the racist rhetoric that fuels them. As we mourn those who were lost, Cultural Vistas reaffirms our commitment to being an anti-racist, inclusive organization and working to build bridges through our exchange programs.

Cultural Vistas Hosts Virtual Internship Forum

The benefits of international talent are immense. As the global pandemic brings changes to the world of work, Cultural Vistas has been working with companies to host virtual interns from across the world.

Cultural Vistas and our partners gathered for a Virtual Internship Forum to share best practices in designing, recruiting, onboarding, and managing successful virtual internship programs as well as the future of virtual work and using virtual as part of a long-term strategy.

The event kicked off with Elizabeth Kumbhari, General Counsel and VP of Professional Exchanges, moderating a keynote discussion with T.H. Ong , VP at Global Integration. Ong’s organization that provides training in remote and virtual teams, matrix management and agile & digital leadership to companies in our increasingly connected workforce.  

 Watch the Keynote Address

Following the keynote address, attendees broke out into panel discussions to dive deeper into several topics regarding international internships.

Panel #1 – Getting Started and Managing Virtual Interns

Getting started hiring virtual interns may seem like a daunting process, but it’s actually easier than one might think to bring international to your team. Our esteemed panelists gathered to share their perspectives on recruiting and onboarding virtual interns as well as managing these young professionals throughout the duration of an internship. Panelists include:

  • Kathleen Struck, Voice of America 
  • Neave Denny, Johns Hopkins SAIS 
  • Yuki Hayashi, ecolytiq

Watch the Panel

Panel #2 – Creating and Building an Impactful Virtual Experience

What does it take to create and build an impactful virtual experience? Hear from managers of successful virtual internship programs give their insights on designing experiences that will result in success for both companies and intern participants. Panelists include:

  • David Lais, Cofounder of the Organization for Sustainable Consumption + ecolytiq
  • Julia Gedeon, ecolytiq
  • Veera Mitzner, Future Earth
  • Ed Palmer, Unity Technologies 

Watch the Panel