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US: Muskie program adapts for online interns

US non-profit Cultural Vistas has announced 49 students of its 2020 virtual Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program cohort as Covid-19 and its repercussions continue to cause cancellations and postponements.

Most of the interns from 12 countries began the program virtually, and hope to transition to in-person work when safe to do so. Photo: Daria Shevtsova/ Pexels

Interns in 2020 hail from all 12 countries

Funded by the US Department of State, the summer internship program offers Fulbright Scholars from Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia real-world experience that complements and enriches their US graduate studies, according to Cultural Vistas.

“As the workplace has moved fully virtual due to the coronavirus, we’ve been presented with a whole new host of challenges”

Interns in 2020 hail from all 12 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan.

“These are incredibly challenging and difficult times for our field,” said Jennifer Clinton, Cultural Vistas president and CEO.

“The cancellation and postponement of international programs have left thousands of the best, brightest, and emerging global leaders without platforms to step forward and make a difference.”

With the State Department and implementing partner of the Fulbright program IIE, the organisation has pivoted from a fully in-person program to virtual delivery within four weeks as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, she continued.

“This summer’s Edmund S. Muskie Internship Program continuing is a testament and great example of adaptability, collaboration, and embracing change – skills that international exchanges themselves promote and that we all need to continuing cultivating in the months and years ahead.”

The new iteration of the Muskie program – originally established in 1992 following the dissolution of the Soviet Union – provides professional exchange opportunities to current Foreign Fulbright Scholars.

Nearly 5,000 connections between Americans and emerging Eurasian leaders have been made over the last two-plus decades. Cultural Vistas provided nearly 250 graduate students with hands-on, professional skill-building opportunities in the US since 2014.

Organisations hosting the 2020 interns include the Media Education Lab, World Wildlife Fund, Human Rights Watch, the World Bank Group, Voice of America, the Vermont Agency of Education, the International Bar Association, and the University of Tennessee Center for Sport, Peace, and Society.

“Traditionally, our work at Cultural Vistas focuses on the unique and immersive cross-cultural learning and skill development that takes place within workplace,” Clinton added.

“As the workplace has moved fully virtual due to the coronavirus, we’ve been presented with a whole new host of challenges and considerations.”

The summer internship began remotely in May for the majority of the students with the hope that students will transition to in-person work once it is safe to do so. It runs until August.

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