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The International Exchange Programs

The history of international exchange programs in the area had its beginnings in 1973 when the “Research Triangle International Visitor Center” was established, a service of the office of Duke University’s then-President Terry Sanford. President Sanford, that had previously served as governor of North Carolina, went on to become a U.S. Senator representing North Carolina following his tenure at Duke University. The growing number of programs and visitors naturally led to the birth of a nonprofit organization recognizing that Research Triangle, with its abundant technology, innovation, and higher education resources, has become home to successful companies, vibrant organizations, and major universities who have active global engagement. 

Hundreds of professional exchange programs were administrated for decades, working in close partnership with the U.S. Department of State, USAID, National Programming Agencies, the Open World Leadership Center, and embassies abroad. International Focus continues this partnership with the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP); the Community Connections Program (CCP); the Open World Learning Center.

The International Festival of Raleigh

The first International Festival of Raleigh was held in October of 1986 at the Raleigh Civic Center. It was originally a project of the Sister Cities Association of Raleigh. The International Festival of Raleigh was established to promote respect and increased understanding among people of diverse origins by:

  • Developing awareness of the many cultures in our community.
  • Sharing the uniqueness of each heritage through music, food, dance, and exhibits.
  • Promoting the quality of life in Raleigh.

In 1987, the International Festival organization restructured to provide a more solid operational platform for the large event. The new organization became International Focus Inc. A Naturalization Ceremony and voter registration of new citizens became part of the Festival in 1988 with the help of the Woman’s Club of Raleigh. The relationships and connections made through the International Festival of Raleigh have resulted in the creation of many additional associations and organizations within the Triangle.

International Focus in November 2013 adopted programs from the International Affairs Council of North Carolina. International Focus made a significant organizational transition embracing the synergistic fusion of a similarly focused mission and shared ideals.