Join the Virtual Student Foreign Service To Learn About Diplomacy

Posted by Erica Ma
July 1, 2014
Erica Ma Poses for a Photo

I was thrilled to be selected as a Virtual Student Foreign Service (VSFS) eIntern for the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.  One of the attractions of my virtual internship was that I could work on this project from anywhere in the world. I first connected with my supervisor in September 2013, while I was studying abroad for a semester in Rabat, Morocco.  I often worked from my host family’s home while we discussed my role as a member of the IVLP team.  IVLP connects foreign professionals in various fields with their American counterparts, and nearly 5,000 participants visit the United States annually. 

My role was to add a new dimension by creating resource guides -- one-page pamphlets on different thematic topics that highlight resources such as academic and grant databases that are relevant for the participants and available on the State Department’s International Exchange Alumni website.  These resource guides provide participants with added incentive to explore their ‘alumni connections’ and will simultaneously build their understanding of the site and expand its usefulness.  Although communicating with a time difference took some getting used to -- one video meeting took place on an iPhone at 8:00 PM Barcelona time with barely functional Wi-Fi -- I ultimately found it easy to check in electronically with any questions.

The VSFS provided me with significant flexibility which worked extremely well for me.  I wasn’t constrained to a 9-5 office job for this project.  I was provided with the concept for the resource guides, but I was able to design the template and make decisions about what kinds of information to highlight.  I designed the template using Photoshop, customized each resource guide with relevant articles from academic journals and magazines, and added key funding opportunities from various sources.  The topics range from "Women in Entrepreneurship" to "Environmental Protection," and the resource guides are available online or in print for the alumni participants.

In addition to building my research skills and my knowledge of some of the key foreign policy priorities, I also saw our public diplomacy efforts firsthand.  In February, I attended the closing event for six participants on the IVLP Gold Stars project, hosted by Citizen Diplomacy International of Philadelphia.  I presented several resource guides to the participants and got to spend some time with them.  Speaking to them and learning about their experiences allowed me to understand the impact that public diplomacy has around the globe.

In May, I finished the last of the resource guides and presented my yearlong project to the IVLP office via videoconference.  In the past year, I was able to learn about one of the key public diplomacy tools available to missions and contribute in a concrete way to the program.  My efforts not only built my skills, but they will be of help to future international visitors.  Overall, I found my experience as an eIntern to be tremendously rewarding, and the VSFS program itself has been an incredible opportunity to engage with the mission of the State Department and contribute to global diplomacy.

Want to be an eIntern too?  Go to to see the available projects and apply July 2-22 on USAJobs.  You have to be a U.S. citizen enrolled in university-level courses to be eligible.

About the Author: Erica Ma served as a Virtual Student Foreign Service eIntern during the 2013-2014 school year.



Vincent P.
Hawaii, USA
July 2, 2014
This looks like a great program (hands-on engagement, skill building, and opportunities to learn about foreign policy issues)! I will be sure to share with eligible candidates. Thank you.
Heba A.
July 2, 2014
I want to study in usa
Rinku K.
New York, USA
July 3, 2014
This is a good operunity
muhib d.
July 3, 2014
please ........ help artist ande art work of bangladesh. i want to work american art and sclpture. i want to study for american fine art.
Thelma S.
July 8, 2014
How can i be a student, im mexican but i'm interested in the course. Thanks for the information, i spect the answere
mohamed i.
August 1, 2014
thanks foreign affairs this is first time i log in this wander full blog
Dibyo M.
November 22, 2014
I want to study in usa.


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