Exchange Matters / November 16, 2021

Navigating my Career in International Exchange

By Keira Chandler, Mission Support Coordinator, WorldDenver and 2021 Emerging Leader 

Keira Chandler. Photo by WorldDenver

My time as an intern for WorldDenver helped me to explore the different facets of international collaboration. I gathered experience working with international programs and cultural exchange. I also learned how to stay better connected to our global communities and was given multiple opportunities to learn more about citizen diplomacy, one of them being my nomination to the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders Program. When I found out I was admitted to the program, I did not hesitate to accept. I was excited to virtually attend the 2021 National Meeting and meet others with similar passions as myself. Unlike anything I have participated in before, the conference offered a variety of networking sessions and fireside chats dedicated to growing the Global Ties U.S. community. 

My favorite aspect of the National Meeting was talking to people who work with the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Some of the programmers have been at their organizations for a few years while others have been dedicated longer than I have been alive. Since the National Meeting, I have transitioned to a full-time position with WorldDenver and part of my job is working with these individuals to implement virtual IVLP projects in Denver. As I have witnessed in these IVLP meetings, citizen diplomacy is about making lasting connections. My service project goal was to share how these connections can be made through volunteerism and travel and how that intersects with public diplomacy. 

When choosing my service project audience, I knew that I would have the greatest impact working with youth in Denver. Encouraging youth to be interested and engaged in the global sphere is crucial to the development of public diplomacy and cultural understanding. In high school I found those influences through a club called buildOn, whose mission is to “Build a Better Future for America’s Youth and Others Across the Globe.” Through this program I participated in local volunteer projects, tutored students, and even traveled to Jokaiya, Nepal to build a secondary school with the local community. These experiences both changed my life and guided me to explore my interests in international relations. All students should have access to those experiences. 

Images from Nepal: (top) at the worksite of the secondary school and (below) Keira (center) with local youth. Images provided by Keira Chandler.

I worked with Kent Denver, a high school in the Denver Metro Area, and met with one of their Global Politics in the 21st Century classes. I framed my project around the volunteer and travel opportunities I was given in high school and how that fostered my interests in cultural diplomacy. Along with sharing my experiences, I also provided local and international volunteer resources related to community building. When I opened the floor up for discussion, the students asked thoughtful and challenging questions. Specifically, I had a student ask me “How can we use public diplomacy on a larger scale to fix world issues?” This is a complex question to answer and one that is still being explored every day. We discussed how public diplomacy breeds cultural understanding and community building, tools that are at the forefront of international peacebuilding. There is much to be learned from the younger generations and after only one class period, I am confident that I met with future emerging leaders. 

I cannot thank WorldDenver or the Global Ties U.S. Emerging Leaders Program enough for giving me the tools to navigate my new career in the international nonprofit sphere. Entering a new chapter in your educational or professional career is daunting. There are a multitude of pressures coming from different directions. My advice to those interested in this field: ignore those pressures and explore what aspects of international affairs interest you. There is no one path that leads to the perfect internationally-focused career and every individual is important to creating cross-cultural bridges.