The U.S. Embassy in Tajikistan recently enlisted the assistance of American univeristy and college students to help us build relationships with the people of Tajikistan. Leveraging the State Department's Virtual Student Foreign Service eInternship Program (VSFS), the embassy worked with VSFS e-interns to organize more than 12 webchats between students and professionals in the United States and Tajik students and civil society representatives at American Corners in Tajikistan.
Tajikistan's six American Corners are located in some of the most remote places on Earth. One of them can be found in Khorugh, a town nestled in the country's rocky Pamir region -- wedged between impenetrable mountains and the Afghan border. Extreme weather conditions make it almost almost inaccessible nine months of the year. Internet penetration in Tajikistan is between three and seven percent, and almost no one in rural areas has the Internet at home. Tajikistan's American Corners provide free Internet access at 10 public computers and include a coordinator who arranges free English classes, educational advising, workshops and presentations, outreach to villages, documentary film screenings, and a robust program of online training and discussions. American Corner programs focus on serving youth, rural poor, women and girls, NGO and civil society leaders, journalists, entrepreneurs, English teachers, and local government leaders to help counter the threat of extremism. They reach more than 80,000 people each year.
Tajikistan's American Corners are using technology to connect American high school students to Tajiks living in rural areas, who rarely get the chance to meet Americans. Recently, a group of students in Pineville, West Virginia, chatted with high school and university students in Khorugh as part of Embassy Dushanbe's innovative webchat series. The students exchanged opinions and talked about their schools, clubs, sports, favorite foods, and weather. While the embassy regularly engages in web chats, this event was organized by one of post's four VSFS e-interns.
The VSFS e-internship program is part of a growing effort by the State Department to harness technology and a commitment to global service among young people. Working from college and university campuses in the United States and throughout the world, e-interns are partnered with our U.S. diplomatic posts overseas to conduct digital diplomacy that better reflects the realities of our networked world. In Tajikistan, our U.S.-based student e-interns and Internet technology allow us to connect everyday Americans with Tajiks in our American Corners, facilitate cross-cultural understanding, and build bridges of trust and friendship between our two nations.
Interested U.S. citizen undergraduate, graduate, or post-graduate students will be able to apply to the next round of VSFS e-internships in the summer of 2012. You can find more information here.