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International Festival of Raleigh | Update

We’ve decided to put a pause on the October date for International Festival of Raleigh, and we are currently gathering information to evaluate the best date and venue for our next event. 

We’ve realized it would best serve our mission to take time to further assess the new environment post-pandemic to understand how we can best serve our community at large – especially in times where new entities are producing similar events. 

We are excited to share that we already have a number of creative ideas we’re considering, and we would also love to hear from you: is there anything you think International Focus can do to better change lives through global experiences and empower people to discover the world in Raleigh? Please email us at info@internationalfocus.org 

For the time being, we will also continue to plan regular Global Gatherings for our community. We hope you will join us!


Every year International Focus implements approximately 25 short-term exchange programs and hosts 200 global leaders and youth in our community to share knowledge and best practices.

Through our Global Exchange Programs, International Festival has hosted more than 1,170 Exchange participants from across  136 Countries and regions throughout the world.

These programs connect our community with emerging global leaders and we host them in partnership with the US State Dept., USAID, Global Ties US, Open World Leadership Center, and the City of Raleigh.

International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP)

The IVLP is a professional exchange program of the U.S. Department of State designed to increase mutual understanding between Americans and people of other countries.

The Open World Program

Administered by Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL), the Open World Program is the first and only international exchange agency in the U.S. Legislative Branch. Through Open World, nearly 18,000 current and future leaders from Central Asia and Eastern Europe have interacted with members of Congress, Congressional staff, and thousands of other Americans.

Youth Leadership Programs

Youth Leadership Programs foster mutual understanding, respect, and civic engagement among young Americans and their international peers. Need all content in this section to be the same length.

International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP)

The International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) is the U.S. Department of State’s premier professional exchange program. Through short-term visits to the United States, current and emerging foreign leaders in a variety of fields experience this country firsthand and cultivate lasting relationships with their American counterparts. Professional meetings reflect the participants’ professional interests and support the foreign policy goals of the United States.

Each year 3, 000 to 5,000 exchange participants come to the U.S. on the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). More than 200,000 International Visitors have engaged with Americans through the IVLP, including more than 500 current or former Chiefs of State or Heads of Government.

Launched in 1940, the IVLP helps strengthen U.S. engagement with countries around the world and cultivate lasting relationships by connecting current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the United States. The majority of IVLP exchanges include visits to four U.S. communities over three weeks, although projects vary based on themes, Embassy requests, and other factors.

There is no application for IVLP. Participants are nominated and selected annually by the staff at U.S. Embassies around the world.

Community Connections

Community Connections is a program of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Community Connections is designed to promote public diplomacy through the exchange of cultural ideas and values between participants and local families and organizations. Through this program, a variety of professionals from former Soviet Union countries avail themselves of practical training opportunities in the United States. Local businesses and private organizations volunteer their time and resources to develop programs for these visitors.

Open World

The Open World Program is a U.S. Congress-authorized program managed by Congressional Office for International Leadership (COIL), which brings emerging community leaders to the United States for 10-day networking visits to observe U.S. democracy and free enterprise in action. Local hosting organizations around the United States welcome participants into their communities with the goal to foster lasting ties that result in ongoing cooperation and collaboration.  Participants engage in hands-on experiences, direct observation, and substantive exchange with their professional counterparts. They also experience American culture first-hand while staying with host families.

Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI)

The YLAI Professional Fellows program is a 5-week program for entrepreneurs that brings 250 promising leaders from Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean to the United States to expand their leadership and entrepreneurial skills and network through skills-building workshops and opportunities to learn from and exchange with U.S. counterparts. Participants are young entrepreneurs between 25 and 35 years of age, selected via a competitive application process. More than 500 alumni of past YLAI Professional Fellows Programs maintain a cohesive network across Latin America, Canada, and the Caribbean to support each other’s efforts to improve their own ventures, share best practices, and collaborate to reduce the opportunity gap and contribute to economic prosperity in their communities.

The sponsoring U.S. organization then has an opportunity to participate in a fully funded reverse exchange program to:

  • Implement community impact project with the fellows
  • Learn about the Fellows’ business
  • Share best practices and support the Fellows’ Action Plans

International Focus is one of several hosting communities.

Youth Leadership Programs

Youth Leadership Programs cultivate mutual understanding, respect, and civic engagement among young Americans and their international counterparts. These transformative exchanges typically span three to four weeks, with two weeks taking place in Raleigh. Participants range from 15 to 18 years old and also include adults involved in youth work.

These programs bring together diverse youth from various nations, such as Iraq, Serbia, Brazil, and Mexico, fostering cross-cultural connections and promoting global perspectives.

Uzbekistan Business Leaders (UBL)

Uzbekistan Business Leaders program, sponsored by the US Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is a two-way exchange program designed to build lasting, sustainable partnerships between mid-level emerging leaders from Uzbekistan and the United States. Participants are placed in unpaid fellowships in nonprofit organizations, private sector businesses, and government offices across the United States. Some American participants who have hosted professional fellows later travel to Uzbekistan for fully funded participant-driven reciprocal programs. Selected through a highly competitive process by the U.S. Department of State, Fellows represent the next generation of emerging business leaders (ages 22 to 40) from Uzbekistan. Fellows are fluent in English.

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