As a new member of USEU’s Public Affairs team, I find it both exciting and challenging to try to grasp the extent of collaboration between the United States and the EU. While our governments seek common ground on a variety of issues, the Public Affairs office engages in people-to-people diplomacy.
As a U.S. Government program alumna myself, I strongly believe that exchange programs are one of the most effective and long-lasting ways to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation between people and nations. In my new job, I see this in action every day. Since my arrival in January, my primary responsibility has been to work with USEU alumni of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP), a flagship exchange that sends European professionals on tours of the United States.
Our alumni are current and emerging leaders representing the diversity of the European Union. They come from different cultural and professional backgrounds, have varying political views and speak many languages. Yet we are united in our belief that the success of the transatlantic relationship largely depends on personal ties and experiences. During their two- or three-week program, IVLP participants meet their professional counterparts in Washington and all over the United States. But the personal ties don’t stop there. Home hospitality visits are an integral part of any IVLP tour. Whether in Texas, Seattle, California or South Dakota, lively conversations with regular Americans over homemade meals help create lasting memories and stronger bonds between us.
Since the beginning of the USEU IVLP program in 1959, alumni have been our partners, allies and friends in the pursuit of common strategic goals. Speaking of goals, we have fun too. Just last week, USEU and the U.S. Embassy to Belgium hosted a World Cup USA-Germany live screening event for our alumni. This was the first time I saw European and American soccer fans cheering for both teams. I guess it worked – Germany scored, and both the U.S. and Germany made it to the next round! Bringing people together: That’s the power of public diplomacy.
By Tatyana Pyak, Cultural Affairs Assistant