Open Your Heart, Open Your Mind, Open the World

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Donna Weinraub and Teresita Bernales at the Citizen Diplomacy DinnerIn October, delegates from the International Visitor Leadership Program from across East Asia and the Pacific spoke with members of International Focus during the monthly Citizen Diplomacy series. The group, consisting of representatives from Brunei, Fiji, Indonesia, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, and Thailand had come to the Research Triangle as part of a program dealing with negotiations around the Trans Pacific Partnership- looking at how international trade is dealt with on the state level and the impact this trade has on the North Carolinian economy. The group consisted of trade lawyers, trade officers, and journalists covering the trade agreement.


Leila Bekri and Kelsey Noonan initiating the evening’s program and introducing the guests

Marshall Island’s representative speaking eloquently about the delegation experience and their appreciation for the work of International Focus and the IVLP program
After networking, the evening began with a short speech by Mr. Ravunivadra Uluilakeba, a delegate from Fiji but representing the Marshall Islands. The format for the evening which was facilitated by IF Program Associate, Kelsey Noonan featured mini-roundtable discussions with the guests: visitors sat down with IF members for casual discussions ranging from their opinions on international trade to their personal impressions on American culture and their stay. Some spoke of their role in the TPP and others, who had visited or lived in the US in the past, compared their experiences.

Visitors and members sharing stories and engaging on the topic of international trade and exchangeThis unique format allowed our guests to speak with more members. It also didn’t prevent longer discussion between new found friends, as the evening ended, foreign visitors and IF members paired off to continue their conversation and exchange business cards, a few souvenirs, and promises to keep in touch. It was a great moment when a recent member of IF actually discovered during her conversation with a journalist from Indonesia that they shared 4 friends in common. Episodes like this highlight our ever shrinking world and the importance of similar events in building strong personal and professional global networks and friendships.

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