April 24, 2007
Chrissy Hyde, an international visitor program director
Travel enthusiast Chrissy Hyde has found a way to get the world to come to her. For the past year, she's worked as deputy director of the International Visitor Program at the World Affairs Council, a U.S. State Department program designed to foster greater cross-cultural understanding. In a nutshell, she arranges for prominent professionals from around the globe to visit Seattle and meet with their local counterparts and community leaders. She also writes the curriculum for the council's youth camps, which draw students from Serbia, Morocco and Iraq.
Q: What kind of international affairs background do you have?
A: Before working here, I was the assistant director of an international summer camp in Vermont, but the focus was on conflict transformation for students from Cyprus, students from England of Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds and students from Northern Ireland.
But what got me my current job were the internships and volunteer jobs I took abroad. When I was an undergrad, I volunteered at a summer camp in Ireland working with Bosnian refugees. I found that opportunity through a great organization called Service Civil International (SCI). It was a great way to get experiences as a global citizen rather than as just a tourist. I also went to Kosovo for a few months to volunteer in 2001. And I lived in Japan and did the sister city exchange program, teaching English there.
Job hunting tip:
"There are a lot of international positions at universities, too. It could be international student advising; it could look like a study abroad coordinator or advisor; it could be an international coordinator at a library."
An association like the Young Professionals International Network [at the World Affairs Council] is a great way to tap into the international community. It's targeted at people in their 20s and 30s and there are tons of events. There's Culture Through Cuisine, Transnational Trivia Night and there are always language groups-Spanish, Japanese, French.
Q: How does all that cross-cultural experience help in your current position?
A: I pull on those experiences when talking with visitors from other countries. I know what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. And some of our program's visitors might have limited English. Because I've been in Japan and I didn't speak very good Japanese, I know how that feels.
Q: What's a typical workday like for you?
A: There is a lot of variety to my job, which I love. Some days I am writing programs or out with a delegation. Other days, I spend most of my time on the phone and e-mail connecting international visitors to community leaders - probably about 75 percent of my time is spent that way. Depending on the time of year, I spend about 10 to 15 percent of the time meeting with the international delegations and accompanying them to meetings.
Q: What's your favorite part of the job?
A: Being able to connect the international visitor to a community leader or a group of students in Seattle and really see that they find so many similarities. We're all concerned about our children; we're all concerned about health care; we're all concerned about policing in neighborhoods. It's really common ground.
Q: What's the biggest drawback?
A: The money. You don't do this job because of the money. You do this job because you feel like you've contributed to something bigger at the end of the day.
Q: What advice do you have for others who want to get into international work?
A: A: It can be hard to get into this field if you don't have international experience. But international experience can look like so many different things. It can be that you had your individual traveling; it could be that you volunteered abroad; it could be that you studied abroad. There are a number of local organizations doing citizen diplomacy work: Global Citizen Journey and Crooked Trails, for example.
Learning a language is really important. In Seattle the most useful languages are Japanese and Chinese, and it also helps if you speak Spanish. French is a diplomacy language, so it's really important to learn French if you want to go far with that. Also, Arabic is a great language to learn.
Q: Can you tell us more about interning at the World Affairs Council?
A: Maybe I'm biased, but I think an internship here is really beneficial. A lot of our interns accompany delegates to meetings and help run events - they're really given a lot of responsibility. We have 15 spots every quarter, so it's pretty accessible.
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