This past January, despite the torrential snow that hit the Northeast this winter, I had the pleasure of attending the Global Ties National Meeting along with SACIV Board Chair Betsy Cameron. The conference, held in Washington, DC each year, is the premier gathering of organizations, agencies, and leaders in the international exchange field, bringing together nearly 1,000 participants over four dynamic days to gain high-level insights on trends affecting our field, engage in in-depth professional development opportunities, and build networks to strengthen international exchange.
Attending the conference for a second time, I was able to maximize the benefits of the sessions and plenary events offered at this annual gathering. Through these opportunities, I deepened my understanding of the role we all play as citizen diplomats carrying out US foreign policy through public diplomacy. They also created a space for me to develop closer relationships with current and future partners within the national network. And finally, they strengthened my skills to maximize the impact of international exchange programs and most importantly, allowed me to build new skills need to further develop SACIV’s capacity for increased global and local impact.
Through the many sessions, I was able to grow professionally. I sharpened my leadership and programming skills, as well as shared best practices and latest trends in the field. Throughout the National Meeting, I expanded our network. I met new partners, connected with current colleagues, and represented San Antonio for positive exposure. Some other notable events and highlights of the conference included:
• The Department of State Reception, hosted behalf of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to honor and acknowledge the outstanding work of Global Ties US and its member organizations for their work supporting US foreign policy goals and successful IVLP programming. My colleagues and I were able to explore the historic Diplomatic Reception Rooms, surrounded by a stunning backdrop of American art and architecture from the time of our country’s founding and its formative years, and mingle in the beautifully ornate Benjamin Franklin Room, where many achievements of American diplomacy have begun, including the signing of treaties, the conducting of summit negotiations, the hosting of swearing-in ceremonies, the facilitation of trade agreements, and the promoting peace and ending of wars.
• The “Excellence Awards Celebration Breakfast”, in which I won 3rd place in the photo contest for my picture entitled “International Visitors & Folklorico Dancers”.
• The intimate “Embassy Reception”, in which I was joined by a handful of lucky colleagues
at the residence of the Moroccan Ambassador to United States for a glimpse of Washington’s diplomatic world and a formal dinner to express his appreciation for our work in building global ties with international visitors. Having spent a semester living and studying in Rabat, Morocco, I was thrilled to be able to practice my Arabic and enjoy the tastes of such a unique country. His Excellency Rachad Bouhlal showed us true Moroccan hospitality and reminded us of the historic diplomatic relationship between the two counties, as the Kingdom of Morocco was the first country to recognize the newly independent United States of America in 1777.
Most memorable, was the invigorating energy I felt through the shared excitement among the hundreds of dedicated individuals who came together in the name of public diplomacy. Aptly, given the theme of the conference was “I am Diplomacy: The Power of Exchanges”, I was surrounded by individuals who embodied the same dedication to citizen diplomacy as the members of SACIV, and who came together with the desire to share and learn. These networking opportunities were key to building existing relationships with my colleagues and making new connections for future endeavors.
I engaged in dialogue, made new connections, and witnessed the impact of the IVLP. I recognized the challenges we face, but also the opportunities for growth and was I motivated by ideas for the future. Having seen the power of exchange on individuals and communities, and having been introduced to the progress towards peace that these exchanges enable, I returned to San Antonio eager to implement these innovating and inspiring ideas in to action.