A Look Back: Our 10 Favorite Moments of 2015

The year 2015 was our best yet. We couldn’t possibly tell you everything that happened, so here were a few of our favorite moments. Walk down memory lane with us.

1) We jumped in a lake.

What we can we say, we live on the edge. At the YSEALI Generation: Earth workshop that we organized in Cambodia, in April, we took a little field trip to the Floating Village (Kompong Phluk) on the Tonlé Sap, one of the world’s most productive freshwater ecosystems which is feeling the effects of climate change.

The plan for the exercise was to help community members preserve their livelihood in preparation for the rainy season by placing markers around protected fisheries.

We did not stick to the plan. We’re looking forward to similar immersive learning experiences in the region this spring.

2) We helped save CBYX.

This past year, the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange, which has been a tremendous multiplier for cultural understanding with over 22,000 alumni in its 30 years of existence, faced some very detrimental cuts in a tight U.S. budget environment. With cuts looming, program alumni on both sides of the Atlantic came together to voice their support and created the Save CBYX campaign, which garnered over 20,000 signatures. Even Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke out in support of the program.

In July, word came down that Congress would be restoring full-funding to the program. Congressman Glenn Thompson, an essential ally and dedicated supporter of exchange programs, made the announcement on the hill and thanked everyone involved for their support.

3) We got some new digs.

​In March, we closed the doors of our old office in Maryland, expanding our presence in Washington, D.C. by moving to 1250 H Street NW. The 10,000 square foot space now houses 40 of our staff. Together with our neighbors Global Ties U.S., the space has become #1250Hub: a hub for international exchange. We officially unveiled the office in May with all our friends. Are you in the area? Come see us at #1250Hub!

4) ​We hung out with the kids.

Every year, we have more and more fun sharing global culture with kids during International Education Week. This year, more than 30 of our J-1 Visa interns and trainees participated by presenting their culture to classrooms. From November 16-20, participants visited schools in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Manchester, New Hampshire. See photos of the whole week to see how fun sharing one’s culture really can be.

5) We made a documentary.

What is it really like to experience one of our professional exchange programs? With a documentary film crew in tow, this 2014 International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project aimed to show just that. In February, we premiered the film for all to see. Watch the full documentary here and make sure to look out for our visitors singing John Denver’s “Country Road.”

6) We added new offerings, but kept the old.

One is silver, one is gold.

Many of our new programs are housed in our Washington, D.C. office.

The need for international exchange is increasing, and so Cultural Vistas is growing too. ​This summer, we established a department of philanthropy and added dedicated staff focused on alumni and client relations, representing a pivot point in our capacity to take our professional programs to scale.

We’ve also expanded our portfolio with the Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program and began delivering on our commitment to provide more Americans with professional experiences in an international environment  through new internship offerings in Berlin, Brazil and Ireland, as well as a fully-funded urban arts in India. As a result, dozens of talented new staff now call themselves Cultural Vistans.

We even claimed the International Education Softball League title in our team’s inaugural season.

7) JFK, RBG, POTUS, and many more.

The young leaders that come through our doors sometimes get the chance to meet some of the most influential people in the United States. This year alone, our staff met with Caroline Kennedy while in Tokyo, judges on an IVLP project met Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Trafficking in Persons IVLP project received awards directly from Secretary John F. Kerry, and our YSEALI Generation: Earth alumni attended a White House reception with President Barack Obama.

8) We worked on our translation skills.

Sometimes knowing a language is only half the challenge. You have to know the culture. Through our #Untranslatable series on Instagram, we sought to translate the untranslatable through images, collecting, and translating words submitted to us by our followers.

9) ​We made the best international playlist ever.

Cultural Vistas staff at ourBerlin gathering in July 2015. We’re very serious people.

At our annual gathering in Berlin in July, we asked attendees to share songs that reminded them of their international exchange experience. The result is this awesome global playlist that you can listen to on YouTube. We hosted this event to bring our international community across Europe together to reflect on the importance of exchanges.

10) We started a blog!

Our blog has made it so much easier to share the amazing stories we hear every day. ​If you haven’t read them already, here are a few of our most popular posts:

  1. How to Become (Nearly) Fluent in German by Emily Wiechers
  2. How to Take Travel Photos While Living In the Moment by Aaron Eisenberg
  3. Want Cultural Immersion Abroad? Find a Tandem Partner by Amanda Daquila
  4. 9 Untranslatable Words in Different Languages by Lauren Aitken
  5. How to Be a Less Awkward American Intern by Timothy Young