One of the U.S. State Department’s largest, oldest exchange diplomacy programs, the International Visiting Leader Program (IVLP) was profiled in The Economist last week:
The article emphasises the role of host country volunteers–ordinary, everyday people who welcome visitors from other countries, and ultimately influence the visitors’ perceptions of the host country. One volunteer called the experience “surrogate travel”, because you get an opportunity to interact with people from other countries and learn about foreign cultures without actually leaving home. In my own experience, I know I’ve learned a great deal about parts of the world I’ve never visited from my students and colleagues–and perhaps I’ve provided some “surrogate travel” to the U.S. for some of them without realising it!
For more on the IVLP, Giles Scott-Smith’s Networks of Empire (2008) and article on Margaret Thatcher’s IVLP experience (2003) are brilliant.