Learning job skills in foreign countries doesn’t have to be expensive for students or professionals, thanks to exchange programs like Cultural Vistas. “We connect people from different cultures in different countries with professional exchange programs,” said Anthony Naglieri, a spokesman for the non-profit organization. “We have programs in the United States and programs abroad, but the one thing that links them is the hands-on component, whether it’s an internship, work placement or professional study tour,” he said.
Naglieri said Cultural Vistas works with governments to administer the programs and has two fellowships between the United States and Germany, a relationship that has lasted more than 30 years. Since 2010, Cultural Vistas has had nearly 25,000 students and professionals participate in its exchange programs within and outside of the United States. “American students and professionals participated in language immersion and fellowship programs in 25 different countries around the world,” Nagilieri said.
Denise Blankenberger took part in a fellowship program in Singapore. “I was placed at AG INGO, an architecture firm located in the heart of Chinatown,” said Blankenberger. “I completed an eight-week, full-time internship, assisting on document drafting, office work and even site design for a development project in China,” she said.
“In addition to learning about architecture in a different climate and sustainability efforts, my experience in-country allowed me to experience life through the lens of a new culture,” Blankenberger said. “I learned how to make meaningful connections with people to embrace cultural differences. Ultimately, the experience in Singapore was a life-changing opportunity that will continue to benefit me in the years to come,” she said.
Outbound American participants range from high school age to their mid-40s. The average age is 25. “We’ve also had international students and professionals from 136 different countries participate in the U.S.,” he said.
In the future, Naglieri said, more and more importance will be placed on international exposure. He said 2015 is the third year for the Cultural Vistas Fellowship, which is completely funded from its own revenue. “We will provide funding for up to 12 U.S. students from underrepresented backgrounds to go to Argentina, Gemany or India. We have different themes and this summer focuses on entrepreneurship and innovation or someone starting their own business.” Naglieri said. Cultural Vistas hopes to reach students who either cannot afford or wouldn’t normally do this type of program. “We want to make sure we engage and get people out of their comfort zones.”
More than 5,600 individuals participated in Cultural Vistas programs in 2014 and more than 85% of the American participants received full or partial funding, through scholarships or paid internships, according to Naglieri.
Cultural Vistas offers the following programs: Alfa Fellowship (Russia), Berlin Startup Program (Germany), Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange for Young Professionals (Germany), Cultural Vistas Fellowship (Argentina, India, Germany), EMGIP (Germany), IAESTE (Various countries), among others offered in the United States. Culural Vistas’ headquarters is in New York City, with offices in Washington, DC; Columbia, MD and Germany.