I anticipated that the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) “Demographic Change and Immigration,” which opened on April 23, 2018, would be an excellent program. Sometimes, you just get that feeling. The meetings were spot on, the cities were diverse, and the visitors had a perfect blend of professional backgrounds—a journalist, an attorney, and a few elected officials. There was also uncommon diversity in the group, including first generation and second-generation immigrants from Tajikstan and Turkey. On April 23, I thought an excellent meeting on demographics with D’Vera Cohn at Pew Research Center might be the highlight. And while that meeting was vital to the program, in a way that is so quintessentially American, the most memorable moment was baseball. Minor league baseball.
At the program’s closing our visitors raved about watching the Greensboro (North Carolina) Grasshoppers vs. the mighty Hagerstown Suns. To me, this is why working on the IVLP is special. In the implementation of our programs we seek opportunities for cultural immersion because they provide a window into who we are. You can look up the Office of Immigration Statistics’ reports online back home in Germany. You can peruse a researcher’s work on Twitter, but you can’t experience the feeling of the crisp spring air hitting your face during the seventh inning stretch. You can’t understand life in the Piedmont Region of North Carolina, without the roar of the crowd after a home run.
You learn the most about America when you sit in the bleachers alongside volunteers from the NGO, North Carolina Global Leadership, who explain Greensboro’s role in resettling refugees from all over the world. You get a taste of America with each bite of the stadium’s hamburger, and you taste the flavor of the town itself when they dress you up as a hamburger and volunteer you for the between-innings race. The winner? The first everything hamburger.
I couldn’t imagine the impact this game would have on the program when I reserved the tickets, and I doubt the visitors could either. But that is the beauty of the IVLP program. And I suspect it is why my co-workers have dedicated so many years of their working lives to facilitating international exchange. Greensboro Grasshoppers vs. Hagerstown Suns. It’s why we do, what we do.
This program was conducted in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of International Visitors. A warm thanks to the staff and volunteers of Community Based Members in Greensboro, San Diego, and Austin. Special thanks also to Mr. John Zins, International Visitor Liaison, who was there every step of the way.