Exchange Matters / July 3, 2024

Art and Diplomacy Shine at Impact of Exchange Exhibit in Idaho

 By Maya Duratovic, Board Member, Global Ties Idaho 

Global Ties Idaho proudly hosted the “Impact of Exchange: Stories from U.S. Exchange Alumni” exhibit in Boise April 22 June 10, 2024. Positioned in the heart of the city next to Grove Plaza, a bustling area with numerous businesses and one of the largest conference venues in the state, the exhibit attracted around 2,000 visitors over seven weeks.  

The exhibit served as a valuable platform for Global Ties Idaho and the U.S. Department of State to engage with the community, raising awareness about the organization’s role as a Community-Based Member of the Global Ties Network and the significance of educational and cultural exchange programs. Board members actively participated in the Saturday Downtown FarmersMarket, even ringing the market bell to officially open the event, and the exhibit’s location provided an excellent opportunity for marketgoers to discuss the exhibit while enjoying their shopping.  

As one attendee shared: “One of the things I noticed is the use of color in so many other countries. It’s seen in their buildings, in their clothing and in other multiple areas of their culture. From my perspective this is a vast difference from Idaho where we use neutral colors and blend in.”

“I loved the impact of the photographs in the Impact of Exchange exhibition as they helped me reflect on the joy that friends, family, food, and culture brings to humanity worldwide!” shared another attendee. “Yes, exchanges can bring us together as a world, but so can sharing about these exchanges with others, as these photographs so vividly shared with me.”

A youth climate delegation visits the Impact of Exchange exhibit in Boise, ID. Photo from Global Ties Idaho.

Participants from the City of Boise Youth Climate Action Network also visited the exhibit and were thrilled to learn about the various opportunities available for them to travel abroad, adding to the exhibit’s impact on the community. 

Additionally, at a Downtown Boise First Thursday event, Global Ties Idaho hosted the U.S. Department of State Diplomat-in-Residence for the Rocky Mountain Region, Denver Herren, who shared information on Foreign Service internships and careers, along with insights about his career in the Foreign Service, enriching the exhibit experience with his firsthand accounts of international exchange. 

Our signature event was the opening reception, which showcased the transformative power of cultural exchange. The event, held at the Boise Center on the Grove Event Center, saw an enthusiastic turnout of 150 attendees, all eager to hear stories of global connection and diplomacy. 

The event began with a poignant land acknowledgment by Ross Burkhart, a Global Ties Idaho board member. Ross, representing his family hailing from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, set a tone of respect and recognition for Indigenous communities. 

The audience was treated to captivating narratives and visuals by ExchangeAlumni Mrinalini Watson, featured in the “Impact of Exchange” exhibit, who illuminated the profound impact of cultural immersion and cross-border connections. 

Vera Zdravkova, a Senior Advisor at the U.S. Department of State, encouraged attendees to embrace the spirit of exchange programs, emphasizing their role in fostering mutual understanding and cooperation across borders. 

A representative from U.S. Senator James Risch’s office attended the event, affirming the importance of fostering strong international ties at both the local and national levels. 

Attendees at the opening reception. Picture from Vera Zdravkova.

Adding to the event’s international flair were guests from Malaysia, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Singapore. These Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) visitors are part of the Civic Engagement Institute and are currently immersing themselves in Boise’s vibrant community. Our local YSEALI leader and Global Ties Idaho Board Member LeAnn Naillon shared her experiences with international exchange on both sides of the exchange equation and how formative it is for participants and hosts. 

The cultural richness of the event was further enhanced by the mesmerizing performances of the Oinkari Basque Dancers and Tejano singer Damian Rodriguez underscoring the universal language of dance and music in bridging cultural divides. 

Idaho has one of the lowest rates of residents traveling abroad. For the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), hosting this exhibit in Boise through Global Ties Idaho was crucial. The exhibit and events surrounding it presented ample opportunities to inspire Idahoans to participate in U.S. Government-funded exchange programs, or simply experience new cultures through travel.  

As one attendee shared, “I enjoyed reading about the various experiences these individuals had while traveling and experiencing other cultures. I’m always very impressed with how brave people are who travel like this to other countries. It seems very intimidating to me. The stories and pictures are heartwarming. I find it fascinating to learn about other cultures and it’s interesting to learn how they do things differently. However, I also love seeing the ways in which cultures do some things similarly. The exhibit was a refreshing reminder of the goodness that humanity is capable of everyday, especially when we stop to listen to one another.”

Representatives from Global Ties Idaho, Global Ties U.S., and Photoville. Photo from Global Ties Idaho.

Experiencing other cultures firsthand can ignite a renewed passion for sharing our own culture with international visitors upon returning to the United States. This initiative is meaningful as it fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of global diversity within our community. Global Ties Idaho now has more community members who want to be involved in international exchanges.  

With its diverse array of speakers, performances, and participants, “Impact of Exchange: Stories from U.S. Exchange Alumni” succeeded in its mission to promote cultural exchange, diplomacy, and community engagement. Global Ties Idaho looks forward to continuing its efforts to connect people, cultures, and ideas for a more understanding world.