Announced by Secretary Clinton at the 2009 New York University commencement speech, the Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) is part of the State Department's efforts to harness technology and facilitate new forms of diplomatic engagement. Working from college and university campuses in the United States and throughout the world, VSFS eInterns (American students working virtually) are partnered with our U.S. diplomatic posts overseas and State Department domestic offices to conduct digital diplomacy that reflects the realities of our networked world.
VSFS offered 91 eInternships for U.S. college students during the 2010-2011 academic year, during which the eInterns worked virtually on 78 projects with 51 U.S. diplomatic missions overseas and three domestic offices. The Office of eDiplomacy within the Bureau of Information Resource Management oversees the program, and we are currently accepting applications for the 2011-2012 school year. Applications are available on www.usajobs.gov from July 2-20, 2011. Applications must be submitted by midnight on July 20.
This year, students will have the opportunity to apply to work on unique projects with U.S. diplomatic missions in Cairo, Berlin, Pretoria, Shanghai, Bogota, and with State Department domestic offices, including the Office of the Haiti Special Coordinator, the Office of the U.S. Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and the Bureau of African Affairs.
What makes these eInternships unique are the opportunities they provide students to gain international work experience without ever leaving the United States. The VSFS eInternship is perfect for students who want to learn more about the world around us and make a difference. Furthermore, the eInternship affords students the opportunity to pursue their other commitments, enabling students to continue their academics and set a flexible schedule. While I can certainly tell you what I believe to be the merits of the VSFS eInternship, it might be more compelling to hear from some of the students who have participated in the program, so I'd like to share some of their experiences.
For example, since January 2011, Veronica Elkins, a rising junior at the University of Virginia, has been blogging about women's issues as part of the VSFS program project with the U.S. Diplomatic Post in Guangzhou, China. Writing about marriage, dating, and careers, Veronica has the opportunity to share her insights, background, and research on topics in which both American and Chinese women are interested. Since Veronica's posts are in English, an in-house intern in Guangzhou translates her posts into Mandarin. Utilizing each other's talents, both interns post twice a week, and frequently update the blog with polls and photos, all related to women's issues.
Meanwhile, Arizona State University student Kyle Jones created and maintained web and social media-based platforms to connect New Zealanders and Americans during the Rugby World Cup hosted in Wellington, New Zealand during September and October 2011. By posting information about the U.S. team and encouraging New Zealanders to share their stories about rugby, Kyle helped increase awareness of U.S. and international sporting culture and advance mutual understanding between our two countries.
"It's a must-have experience and hands down the best internship I have had to date. It provides you with the flexibility of not having to be on a physical job site, yet provides you with a real world experience that only the Department of State can provide. My daily correspondence includes State Department officials in New Zealand, USA Rugby officials in Colorado, rugby celebrities in England, and the list goes on. The best part of the virtual experience is that it's not limited in any way; you have the ability to communicate not just by email or on the phone, but by the use of video chat. It allows you the face to face time you need with someone no matter where they are globally. This internship will definitely open doors for you," Kyle told me about his experience.
Zachary Cylinder, a student at Washington and Lee University, couldn't agree more with Kyle. Zachary worked with the U.S. Embassy Santo Domingo's Consular section. With guidance from the embassy, Zachary produced two videos specific to the American visa process. As an environmental initiative, Zachary produced a video on recycling and going green for the Dominican Republic in hopes of raising awareness. Due to his busy schedule, an eInternship was the perfect opportunity for him to gain valuable working experience and improve his time management skills.
“I was able to work off of my school computer for a few hours each week -- at my own convenience, producing videos that the Dominican Embassy would show, broadcast on its website and reach millions of people within the country," Zachary said. "The internship has exposed me to another country's culture and how simple promotional videos can bridge two cultures."
You can learn more about the VSFS program -- and how to apply -- here. Don't forget, this year's applications are due July 20, 2011!