Changing the World with IVLP

By Ashalyn Hardy, International Visitor Leadership Program Intern 

The International Visitor Leadership Program is a program that is funded and administered by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It is a professional exchange program designed to build mutual understanding between the U.S. and other countries. As the IVLP intern, I work alongside Beth Barich to develop programs for IVLP delegations from all over the world. In this role, I have learned so much more than the technical aspects of programming for international leaders.
This is what IVLP has taught me: changing the world, doing “great things,” begins exactly where you are—it is all about your perspective. So many of us make the mistake that you have to be a certain age or be extremely wealthy in order to impact the world. My time here at The International Center has taught me that this traditional framework of thinking is simply not true. I am young. I am also in college, so I can assure you that I am not swimming in fortune. Yet, I am confident that I have, in some capacity, changed the world. So here’s a little blog post about doing great things, even as an intern right here at The International Center.

I believe in the radical idea that it is possible to impact the world from exactly where you are. Impacting the world can start in your own community. This is a lesson that is reinforced with every IVLP delegation that I have worked to facilitate here in Indianapolis. Changing the world looks a lot like a round table discussion. To an outside observer, this interaction might seem trivial. After all, it is only environmentalists from Bangladesh and Indianapolis, for example, sitting around a conference room table. Yet, the transference of ideas plays an important role in reshaping both American and Bangladeshi sentiments, and ultimately each country’s understanding of the environment. By examining environmental challenges that these countries face from diverse angles, American and Pakistani environmentalists gain fresh perspectives and new ideas about how to combat changes in our environment.

What is awesome about the round table discussions that I help coordinate are the effects that follow. The impact of the meeting between the Bangladeshi and American environmentalists does not cease when the meeting comes to an end. Both the Bangladeshi environmentalists and the Indianapolis environmentalists will approach environmental challenges differently than they did prior to their discussion. Thus, communities in Indy and Dhaka are changed for the better through the implementation of the ideas that were exchanged.

What on the surface appears to be a typical conversation, turns out to do great things for hundreds, if not, thousands of people. Remarkable, isn’t it? The opportunity to be a member of a team of catalysts that make these conversations happen, makes me realize that I have taken part of something much larger than myself. By helping enable the transference of ideas and reshaping perceptions, I have ultimately changed some aspect of the world. I’ve learned the importance of doing great things—even great things that on the surface seem very small.