Cultural Vistas Blog

Alumni Spotlight: Russian Space – Looking Back on the Alfa Fellowship Program Experience

While I had lived abroad previously and traveled extensively, my Alfa Fellowship Program year was the first-time that I had ever stepped foot in Russia. Not only that, but I only had a very basic knowledge of Russian language at the time of the start of the program. However, I knew that for an aerospace engineer working in the space industry, an experience living and working in Russia would be invaluable in order to better understand the nuances of the long-standing space relationship between the U.S. and Russia, nuances that have included both competition and cooperation over the last few decades.

My goal for the Alfa Fellowship Program was to achieve a greater international perspective of my field, look into the healthy competition that exists among countries to spur innovation from the non-U.S. point-of-view, and gain a better understanding of international science and technology policies, specifically space policies. Going into the Alfa Fellowship Program, I already had an understanding of U.S. science and technology policy and initiatives, but I wanted to see how Russian science and technology policies and technological motivations are shaped by comparison.

So, I took a leave of absence from my engineering job, I arrived in Moscow, and as promised, a taxi driver holding a sign with my name on it met me outside of the baggage claim area at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. He immediately started asking me questions about American politics, to which I responded as best as I could in my very limited Russian. This was just the beginning of a long series of conversations I would have with my Uber and Yandex drivers throughout the year. It turned out to be the best language practice I could have. Thus, began my journey as an Alfa Fellow, and I have never looked back.

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How a Pandemic Changed the Future of International Exchange

CBYX 33rd Class Group Photo in Cologne

How can we facilitate international exchange in a world where travel has come to an almost complete halt? At Cultural Vistas this is a question our teams grappled with again and again throughout 2020 and most likely will continue to contend with for years to come in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to the devastating loss of life, the pandemic resulted in closed borders, grounded planes, and recommendations to stay at home, impacting many opportunities for educational experiences abroad. It has changed – and is still changing – the world as we know it, and the international exchange industry must also evolve.

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Giving Spotlight: Ben Conard from Five North Chocolate®

In addition to running his own certified fair trade, LGBT business enterprise, Ben Conard, an alumnus of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program, makes time to give back to the Cultural Vistas community in a variety of ways. From financial to in-kind contributions, collaborations, and offering his time and talents as a mentor — we are highlighting Ben and the ways and reasons he gives to Cultural Vistas.

Name: Ben Conard

Program: Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, 2016-17, Germany

Current location: Long Island, New York

Occupation: Founder & CEO, Five North Chocolate®

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We Are Ambassadors For Democracy

At Cultural Vistas, we are Ambassadors for Democracy. Born in the ashes of World War II with the mission of re-building relationships between nations once deep at war, our organization has a storied legacy of bringing diverse perspectives together to find shared solutions for common global issues. As we move forward in a new year, we recommit to upholding the values we hold most dear such as equality, freedom and respectful debate. 

We gathered our staff and network virtually to weigh in on the work we can do in this coming year to support our values. Read on to hear the diverse ways our community pledges to support democracy this year and beyond.

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YSEALI Seeds for the Future Grantee Produces Conservation Film Series in Brunei

YSEALI Seeds for the Future has brought together many talented people to address the most pressing challenges in different communities across Southeast Asia. In 2020, despite all the ups and downs, the YSEALI Seeds grantees have added a new meaning to the word “community” with their perseverance and passion.

As we get ready to leave behind a challenging year, we are celebrating small grant competition winner Play Naturally for releasing Brunei’s first series of conservation short films. The innovative project provides opportunities for Bruneian youth to create short films inspired by the beauty of nature and local myths and legends.

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