Work-Based Learning Attracts International Professionals to U.S.

By Kathryn McConnell
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington –- Young international professionals increasingly are coming to the United States for work-based learning experiences to help boost their careers back in their home countries.

"I have gained important experience in preparing oral and written summaries and knowledge of program administration methods," said Linda Mence, a trainee at the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy, a nonprofit organization in Washington. Mence plans to use her new skills to develop a college-level conflict resolution curriculum in her home country of Latvia.

Mence was placed at the institute by Washington-based International Center for Language Studies (ICLS), a U.S. educational institution designated by the State Department as an exchange visitor program sponsor.

ICLS helps people from all over the world learn career-specific skills in such diverse fields as information technology; hotel, financial services and small business management; and nonprofit administration, said Ula Marshall, director of ICLS' International Exchange and Business Training program.

At home in Cameroon, ICLS trainee Delphine Kongnyui educates women on such topics as HIV prevention and small business management.

Kongnyui came to Washington to work and learn at Fair Fund, an international organization that focuses on helping young women become civic leaders.  She came for what she could not obtain easily at home - a cultural exchange of ideas and exposure to other organizations giving opportunities to women.

Placements "foster international understanding through interactions at both the personal and professional levels," Marshall said.

After several successful years working in the office of London's mayor, Sharon Campbell came to ICLS to explore a new career path in human rights. As an exchange trainee, she will help coordinate the 2007 Perdita Huston Human Rights Award administered by the Washington affiliate of the private United Nations Association.

Kazunori Miyanishi came from Japan to learn about information technology system integration at telecommunications firm KDDI America in Virginia. Won Chul Choi of Korea learned theater arts management with the (Washington) D.C. Independent Film Festival. Amandine Aulunes of France expanded her knowledge of business English while training at Lionbridge Technologies in Massachusetts.

All say their experiences will help them in their careers back home.

"The demand for informed, open and inspired citizens of the world is increasing," according to Washington-based NAFSA, of which ICLS is a member. NAFSA formerly was known as the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs.

The relationships that develop between exchange visitors and their U.S. hosts pay both short- and long-term dividends, said ICLS President Karen Decker.

"Short term, participants acquire skills and familiarization with U.S. business practices. Long term, many continue business relationships with contacts they made in the United States," she said.

Both Decker and Marshall have had personal international exchange experiences. Decker was a Peace Corps volunteer, and Marshall is a former participant in an exchange visitor program.

Young professionals learn about ICLS and other exchange visitor sponsors from such sources as international education associations and U.S. embassies, and from international education seminars and former program participants.

The ICLS business training program provides individualized yet structured workplace situations of six months to 18 months duration with a host organization - a business, government agency or nonprofit group - based on each trainee's stated objectives.

Prospective trainees are tested in their home countries to determine if they have a functional knowledge of English. They then are guided by their sponsor institution through the process of obtaining an exchange visitor visa.

In Washington, ICLS trainees receive intensive training in business English usage and are exposed to U.S. culture and business practices before being placed with a host organization.

Both trainees and mentors provide regular progress reports to the sponsoring educational organization and ensure that U.S. visa requirement for exchange visitors are met.

More information on the exchange visitor program is available on the State Department Web site.

More information about the ICLS International Exchange Business Training program is available on the ICLS Web site.

See also “Fulbright Educational Exchange Program Marks 60th Anniversary.”