Zhamilya is originally from the town of Oskemen in the eastern-most region of Kazakhstan. This region close to the intersection of Kazakhstan, Russia, China, and Mongolia is also where she studied international relations at the Sarsen Amanzholov East Kazakhstan State University. Despite being in her early twenties, she has already mastered several foreign languages and experienced life abroad in South Korea, Germany, and now—the U.S.
Lupe is a proud Bolivian who has already attained a fair bit of early career success in the IT sector even though she just completed her Bachelor’s degree last year at The Higher University of San Andrés. She is a developer who has worked on promoting Google products and APIs with the local chapter of a Google Developers Community Group in La Paz as a Marketing Team Lead and Lead Organizer. She also worked as the External Team Lead for an independently organized TED event called TEDxUMSA. Like Zhamilya, she is currently living in the U.S.
But besides their diverse backgrounds and the fact that both now find themselves in the States, what do the Kazakh international relations scholar and Bolivian IT developer have in common?
Though Zhamilya is staying in Washington, D.C. and Lupe is in New York City, both women are completing internships for the same organization. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s a nonprofit dedicated to advancing global skills and building careers through international exchange…
Yes, that’s right. Zhamilya and Lupe are actually interns working for Cultural Vistas itself rather than completing internships administered by the organization. Lupe is a software engineer with the IT department and Zhamilya works with the team administering The Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program.
Upon completing their internships, both Zhamilya and Lupe intend to return to their native countries to implement the skills acquired through their internships at Cultural Vistas. But while in the U.S., both Zhamilya and Lupe are eager to correct a few common misconceptions about their countries.
Zhamilya says that the image people often have of Kazakhstan as an ancient land of nomads roaming across thousands of miles of uninhabited and destitute land is woefully outdated. Nowadays, though the traditions of hospitality for which the country is known remain a big part of the culture, Zhamilya says that modern-day Kazakhstan is a melting pot of hundreds of different ethnic groups of various religious affiliations living in peace and mutual respect.
Lupe would have you know that despite the apparent wealth of some people in NYC, the poverty she encounters in the city on a daily basis is far more striking than what she ever recalls seeing in Bolivia. Similarly to Zhamilya, she also highlights the relative diversity of her country. She points out that Bolivia is landlocked and borders five other countries, resulting in a relative mix of people who frequently feel that their identity is more closely related to their native roots and languages than the Spanish cultural influence and commonly spoken Spanish language.
Upon returning to Kazakhstan, Zhamilya plans to implement the cultural insights she is gathering through her hands-on work experience toward a career in international relations. Though Lupe still jokingly alludes to a potential career on Broadway, she hopes that, for now, she will be able to work remotely as a developer for a U.S.-based company back in Bolivia. Almost as an afterthought, she adds that a “bigger thing” she also wants is to be able to “change the world.”
Like all Cultural Vistans, interns like Zhamilya and Lupe work “To enrich minds, advance global skills, build careers, and connect lives through international exchange.” But unlike most of the people around the office, this exchange is also something they experience themselves on a daily basis.