Cultural Vistas Blog

Why I Didn’t Experience Culture Shock in India

Culture Shock: the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone when they are suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

This is what I thought I would experience when I arrived in India for a summer internship as a Cultural Vistas Fellow. What I found instead was a culture that, shockingly, seemed familiar. Let me explain: I had never traveled to India before, but I had traveled to Mexico. To my surprise, I realized there’s a great likeness in Mexican, Mexican American, and Indian cultures. Three different cultures that are on opposite sides of the world have more in common than one would think. Here are the ways I felt at home in a “new” country.

Cultural Vistas Fellowship India Group Pic
Brenda poses with the four-member Cultural Vistas Fellowship cohort in India.

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Why These Young ASEAN Leaders Will Change the World

Sixty-five percent of Southeast Asia’s population is under the age of 35. This makes it crucial to empower the region’s youth to invest in and make changes in their communities. Enter: The Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) Seeds For the Future Grants Competition.

The 2017 grantees, each receiving grants ranging from $8,300 to $15,000, were selected from a competitive pool of nearly 400 applications. Their projects are as diverse as the Southeast Asian region itself, covering all 10 ASEAN members states and topics ranging from food insecurity to training special education teachers. But they share a common goal: to positively impact communities across ASEAN.

Bangkok Workshop YSEALI Seeds
Representatives from the 20 YSEALI Seeds for the Future groups gathered recently for a two-day coaching workshop in Bangkok

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My Experience With Georgia’s Unique Wine Scene

I’ve learned during my Alfa Fellowship in Russia that despite what you might think, one of the main attractions in Moscow is the food. Contrary to the stereotypes of Russian cuisine as gristly meat in a beetroot purple liquid, the Russian capital now offers world class food, including my favourite: Georgian restaurants.

I’m not talking about restaurants serving southern fried chicken, or dishes from 18th-century Britain, but the cuisine containing the pomegranates, walnuts, meats, aubergines, and spices typical of the southern Caucasian country of Georgia.

Georgian Food and Wine
Georgia, the “fruit bowl” of the Soviet Union. 📷: DDohler

A month working in the Georgian capital Tbilisi in 2013 taught me that few things in life beat devouring its fresh produce and endless regional dishes in a picturesque setting. So I was thrilled when the Georgian National Tourism Administration invited me last autumn to fly a few hours south from Moscow. I got to spend a week gorging on the staple – and heart attack-inducing – khachapuri (melted cheese in soft doughy bread); plump, juicy dumplings (khinkali); and everything else that earned this country the nickname the “fruit bowl” of the Soviet Union.

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10 Things To Know When Preparing to Intern in the United States

You’ve gone through the process of submitting your documents, you’ve reviewed things over and over again and finally your application has been approved for visa sponsorship with Cultural Vistas!  Congratulations!  You’re now one step closer to starting your J-1 internship or training program in the United States.  But what comes next?

At Cultural Vistas, we are committed to providing support throughout your exchange program.  We want to help you to navigate through the process of applying for your visa.  We facilitated exchanges for over 4,600 students and professionals last year alone, and we are here to help your process go smoothly too.

Passport full of visas, 📷= J Aaron Farr

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German Gets Crafty at His Sierra Nevada Internship

Water, malt, hops and yeast.

Because of something called the “purity law,” those are the only four ingredients allowed in German beer. And so, unlike the more experimental nature of the American craft brew scene, German brewers tend to be purists. There’s a right way to make Pilsner, to make Oktoberfest, to make Kölsch. That’s why Marius Hartmann was so surprised when he first tasted Kellerweis, Sierra Nevada’s take on a traditional German Hefeweizen beer. As a Brewing and Beverage Technology student at University of Applied Science Weihenstephan-Triesdorf, Marius and his peers often sampled international pints.

“He didn’t know an American brewery could actually make a good Hefeweizen,” said Abe Kabakoff, the head pilot brewer at Sierra Nevada.

Marius Hartman J1 Internship Sierra Nevada
Marius Hartman samples beer during his internship. 📸:: Sierra Nevada

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5 Foods to Try During Your Brazilian Internship

Cultural Vistas’ Internship Program in Brazil provides more than an opportunity for U.S. college students to spend their summers gaining professional experience. It’s also a chance to get to know the infectious Brazilian way of life, which of course includes sampling its delicious food.

Rio de Janeiro seen from Sugarloaf Mountain
Rio de Janeiro seen from Sugarloaf Mountain 📸: Christian Haugen

Brazilian cuisine is a melting pot of global influences, ranging from African, European, Middle Eastern, and homegrown flavors. It’s as wide-ranging and unique as the regions and people that comprise Brazil. Dishes and local specialties in Brazil can vary greatly in flavor, spices, and preparation, depending on what state or region you’re in. For example, Bahia’s cuisine is heavily African-influenced, while many of São Paulo’s culinary offerings reflect its substantial Japanese population.

Because there are so many amazing and delicious foods to try in Brazil, it wouldn’t be possible to list them all here (you’ll just have to get out there and aspire to try as many as you can!).

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The Yearly Wind-down: Reflections on IVLP’s 2016 Projects

Winston Churchill once said, “Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection.” With that idea in mind, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) team at Cultural Vistas recently mulled over the year that was in 2016.

And there was a lot to reflect upon with a record 292 visitors and 42 projects in 2016!

Join us as we take a look back at some of our favorite moments from this year.


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Why Learning About International Cultures is Important

This November 14– 18, Cultural Vistas participated in International Education Week (IEW) by bringing international exchange visitors to elementary, middle and high schools in both New York and Washington, D.C to give presentations on their home countries. This year we had 19 J-1 international interns and exchange alumni participate.  The hope is, by sharing their cultures with young American students, participants help to increase global understanding.

Through feedback collected from teachers, students, our international participants, and Cultural Vistas staff, we learned that these presentations are influential and can make a lasting impact on everyone’s life. 

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This #GivingTuesday, We’re Inspired By These Muskie Alumni Volunteers

#GivingTuesday is a global movement that connects individuals, communities, and organizations around the world to celebrate and encourage giving back. Celebrated on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, it represents a global day focused on promoting sustainable change in one’s community.

Even before #GivingTuesday, volunteering and investing in one’s community has been an important facet of American culture. Dating back to the founding of our country, Americans have banded together to help serve the collective good. In 1736, Benjamin Franklin founded the first volunteer firehouse, a concept that continues today with more than 70 percent of firefighters in the United States being volunteers.

Nowadays, the idea of giving encompasses donating one’s time, money, or knowledge to better the health and well-being of the community. In 2015 alone, more than 62 million Americans volunteered more than 7.8 billion hours.

At Cultural Vistas, we honor this American tradition by encouraging our international participants to give back to their adopted communities.

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To Moscow, to Moscow!

To Moscow, to Moscow! – this has always been the yearning phrase proclaimed by characters in novels by Anton Chekhov. “To Moscow!“, they say full of longing because life is supposedly better in Moscow, where they anticipated work and opportunity. But in the end, they never go to Moscow. In June 2016 I, too, told myself: “To Moscow!” but with one difference – I actually went!

What made the difference? The Alfa Fellowship Program.

When I began my undergraduate studies in 2006, I chose Russian as a foreign language. At that time, I could never have imagined that I would develop such a close relationship to Russia and its culture, build such kind friendships with its people, and take several trips resulting from this choice. Since then, I have always been pulled back to Russia.

Ten years later, in the summer of 2016, I now find myself back in Moscow through the Alfa Fellowship Program, a young professionals program for emerging leaders from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany.

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