Exchange Matters / October 27, 2016

The Multigenerational Impact of the International Visitors Leadership Program

For many, the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is a defining career moment, for Ricardo Vanella, 2010 IVLP Alum and chairman of IVLP Alumni Network of the Americas (IANA), the IVLP became much more. As a result of his IVLP visit, both of Ricardo’s sons have lived and/or studied in the United States. He shares some of his thoughts on the program and the multigenerational impact it has had.

The IVLP is a unique, less-than-500-hour, experience that lasts for a lifetime. It acts as a catalyst for people who can build great things individually, and strongly promotes the power of strength in collaboration and partnership. I personally confirmed that the American people recognize, appreciate, and support talents and efforts perhaps more than any other society does.

My experience during the IVLP provided me with a wealth of valuable integrated knowledge. Interacting first hand with Americans gave me an authentic portrait of the American way of thinking, feeling, and doing things. I was also able to grow my network through the people I met and the many contacts and friends this program provided to me. Meeting with professionals in my field and building connections inspired me to work harder in my field to help tackle global challenges because there is no time to waste in fostering peace and fellowship to attain a better world. Likewise, experiencing the U.S. answered many lingering questions I had: why people do good things voluntarily, why they can give to others getting nothing in return, and why people from towns I visited gave me attention and affection, why I participated in the program, why I am a leader, and why I have to move forward.

Overall, through the IVLP I learned what people feel, think, and do in different cultures, what they see from different points of view, what perspectives they have in different places of the world. I was capable of thinking more similarly to others,seeing a little bit through the eyes of others, and sharing the dreams of others. This program acted as a sort of quantum leap in terms of my personal evolution, since sharing with others is a gift that allows us all to feel like sisters and brothers. The “others” are no longer others; they are just ourselves.

I am fortunate in that I was able to share my newfound appreciation of the U.S. and the connections I made with my personal and professional networks at home. More specifically, through the Inter-American Network of Alumni Associations (IANA) which is an active Alumni Advisory Council where alumni from U.S. exchange programs share ideas, opportunities and dialogue on issues relevant mainly to the Western Hemisphere region, and the entire world. More personally, my introduction to the U.S. led to my sons Matteo and Luca feeling comfortable with and seeing the benefits of studying and living in the U.S. ” The strong ties with the United States of America built through my participation in the IVLP program go far beyond myself and expand in my society, in my people. And through my children, and hopefully my grandchildren and all my offspring. While the IVLP has clearly had a profound impact on my life, I am even happier that the benefits of cross-cultural relationships have been conveyed to the next generation.

Photo of Ricardo (right) and his son Matteo at Millenium Park in Chicago, where Matteo studies thanks to Ricardo’s time during the IVLP. Photo Courtesy of Ricardo Vanella