Our Stories

As we all face this unprecedented time, how is Citizen Diplomacy uniting the world? Hear from our program alumni and volunteers from around the world and Chicago.

Tihana Smitran (Professional Fellow, Fall 2019): Empowering Youths through Small Action

Tihana Smitran is an entrepreneur from Croatia. She is the Co-Founder of MaNaBu, a youth empowerment platform, and the Founder and Owner of Amulet Studio, a creative tech agency in Croatia. Tihana visited Chicago in 2019 as a part of Tech, Education, and Entrepreneurship Professional Fellowship,

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Connecting Youths Through Virtual Exchange

Youth Diplomat Social Venture Virtual Exchange Program, supported by the Stevens Initiative at the Aspen Institute.

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Diplomacy Through Professional Exchange: John M. Geiringer, Partner at Barack Ferrazzano Kirschbaum & Nagelberg

I love interacting with people from different backgrounds, and WorldChicago allows me to serve as the diplomat that I always wanted to become. I have learned so much from the WorldChicago international visitors, both about their areas of expertise and about their countries."

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Megan Mozina & Patrick Laux, Chicago Homestay Hosts for Brenda O.

How Homestays Foster Lasting Connections & Exponential Impact

Brenda O. (student): “Meeting with people like Megan as homestay hosts gave me hope. It reminded me that there are many people helping other people to achieve their goals, that they want to support Mexican students like me to make a difference.”

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Our Professional Lives After the Professional Fellows Program

The Value of Professional Fellows Program (PFP) - Alumni Cooperation in Tech, Innovation & Entrepreneurship

The Professional Fellows Program (PFP) is a two-way, global exchange program designed to promote mutual understanding, enhance leadership and professional skills, as well as build lasting, sustainable partnerships between mid-level emerging leaders from foreign countries and the United States. This story features four professional fellows from North Macedonia: Dimitar, Ivana, Aleksandar, and Ljupka from the Fall 2019 cohort.

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Sunny Irakpo (IVLP Alumni, 2019): Empowering Youths and Reducing Drug Abuse in Nigeria

Sunny Irakpo is the Founder and President of Silec Initiatives, an organization dedicated to youth empowerment and drug-abuse reduction in Nigeria. In 2019, Sunny Irakpo participated in the International Visitor’s Leadership Program (IVLP) sponsored by Exchange Programs - U.S. Department of State and facilitated by WorldChicago and the Meridian International Center. IVLP is the U.S. Department of State's premier professional exchange program. Through three- to four-week visits to cities across the U.S. - including Chicago - current and emerging foreign leaders from a variety of fields engage in face-to-face dialogues with Americans and cultivate lasting relationships with their professional counterparts.

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WorldChicago Youth Diplomats Program Participants Olivia K. and Emma Z.

WorldChicago Youth Diplomats is an 8-month experiential learning program to equip and empower Chicago teens to be active global citizens. Youth Diplomats brings 40 Chicagoland students together once per month to explore topics in global affairs and diplomacy, and builds essential skills in leadership and cross-cultural communication. This story features two of our Youth Diplomats: Olivia and Emma.

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Sustainability and Love in the time of Corona: The Impact on the Fashion Industry by Vari Garcia, Peru (Chicago Participant 2018)

Vari Garcia is a fashion designer for the Peru-based company Inkamoda, which works with Indigenous Peruvian weavers to create clothes from alpaca fur. In 2018, she traveled to Chicago to participate in the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative (YLAI), a fellowship program facilitated by WorldChicago and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

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Ana Markovic, Croatia & Brian Starr, YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago

" [The Professional Fellows Program] was a great chance to learn more, to develop new ideas, hints, advice, meet new people, get new angles, viewpoints etc. Not just professionally, but also on a personal level.”

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Alumni Feature: Vedran Didara, Croatia

Vedran and other Fall 2015 Professional Fellows at a volunteer activity with the Chicago Cultural Mile Association

"Volunteering experience from [the Professional Fellows Program] in Chicago gave me the resolution and clear direction on how to get myself involved in community projects and help projects with skills I have.”

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Tanja Dzido, 2019 WorldChicago Professional Fellow from Croatia

"I still remember the day I landed in Chicago in October, so excited to discover a whole new world of possibilities."

Tanja and Chicago Business Host Sam Letscher, Bossy Chicago

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Steve DeBretto, ICNC (Chicago) and Danijel Bertovic (Croatia)

One WorldChicago Program; Four Years of International Cooperation

Even years after departing for their home countries, WorldChicago program alumni and their Chicago counterparts continue to work together to make change, both globally and locally.

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Rolland Kulla, Artist-In-HIS-Residence & Homestay Host

Rolland Kulla, renowned artist, takes us on a tour of his home studio and his current body of work. Rolland has been involved with WorldChicago for numerous years, hosting international delegates in his home year-round.

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Dalal Hassane Sophomore, Maine East High School

I am glad the [WorldChicago] Youth Diplomats Program is helping connect us to the world.

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Maia Baratashvili with Love from Tbilisi, Georgia

Internationally esteemed jazz singer and pianist, Maia Baratashvili, came to WorldChicago in 2010, through the USAID Community Connections program from Tbilisi, Georgia. Her greeting to WorldChicago and love for the City of Chicago is not only eloquently spoken, but also gifted to us in song.

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Alumni Feature: Ina Abadjieva, Bulgaria

"I made a lot of valuable contacts and met wonderful people. I learned about practices we don’t have in Bulgaria, which I am willing to implement.”

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Alumni Feature: Haris Palalija - Bosnia & Herzegovina

He helped create a new website that provides resources like mental health services and co-founded a brainstorming initiative that engages the Bosnian public in thinking of creative ways to address COVID-19.

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Alumni Feature: Dr. Hayam Abdel Rashid Gamil, Activist for Individuals with Special Needs

“The Professional Fellows Program provided me with a unique opportunity to look around and explore the wide range of services provided to people with disabilities in the U.S. as well as disability rights legislation."

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David Reithoffer and Pavel Nishchanka

Building Bridges…One Road Trip at a Time

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Shahla Humbatova, “This is what I do. It’s not courage - it's responsibility.”

US Secretary of State International Women of Courage Award

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Bringing The World to Chicago, Globalizing Through Exchange

WorldChicago believes generating more person-to-person interaction is the best way to combat misinformation about cultures and people from around the world, the world that we share.

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Interning at WorldChicago Julia Sosnivka

My name is Julia Sosnivka and although I was born and raised in Chicago, my family is originally from Lviv, Ukraine. As a first-generation Ukrainian immigrant, it was standard for us to learn Ukrainian and Russian, so I have been fortunate enough to grow up speaking three languages and using them interchangeably as necessary.

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International Relations Major at Lake Forest College and WorldChicago

Hi! My name is Kaitlyn and I’m a senior at Lake Forest College. I’m originally from Oistins, Barbados but I now live in New York. I’m an International Relations major with a double minor in Asian Studies and Chinese.

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A Look Inside a Career in International Diplomacy

My name is Lindsay Post and I am a senior at Loyola University Chicago. I am majoring in political science and international studies and minoring in Spanish. I have always loved traveling and experiencing new cultures.

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From Argentina to WorldChicago

My name is Megan Delaney and I’m a Program Assistant here at WorldChicago. I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina and emigrated to the United States with my family when I was five years old

Picture: My mom, brother, and me during a trip to Seattle, Washington.

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What 1950's Housewives, U.S. Foreign Affairs and a Female Role Model from Croatia have in Common

Hello! My name is Magda Pach. I am a Public Relations senior at Columbia College Chicago and I am honored to be a guest writer on WorldChicago’s blog.

I took a look into WorldChicago's history, how it started, and how it still to this day stays true to its core values.

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Co-hosting Rethink Education: Much More than a Forum on New Perspectives in Education

In June 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in the Young Leaders of the America’s Initiative Fellowship Host reverse exchange program through generous support from the United States Department of State, United States Embassy in Mexico City, Meridian International Center, and World Chicago. In my reverse exchange, I traveled to Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico to co-host, Rethink Education: Foro para las Nuevas Perspectivas, at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey with my co-founder and “amiga”, Fabiola Figueroa Navarro.

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My two weeks in Chicago

Chicago has been amazing so far. I had the chance to meet my homestay host Tony and also had the chance to get to know closer my roomate Mak. This whole experience for me has been eye-opening as i got to meet all these amazing people and chat about different aspects of life. After exchanging a lot of cultural differences with my homestay host Tony I came to knowledge a lot of stuff that was new to me.

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All that Jazzmatazz in Chicago - Igor IZotov

“My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of town, Chicago is
My kind of people, too
People who smile at you
And each time I roam, Chicago is
Calling me home, Chicago is
Why I just grin like a clown
It’s my kind of town”

— Franky Sinatra

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Samira

As part of my WorldChicago fellowship I am placed with the education company called Design Dance. Design dance has a team of dancers and teachers who partner with schools and community centers to build courage, connection and self- awareness by using dance as a teaching tool. The program offers high quality dance education that aims to meet the needs of the communities and schools served. Students who go through the program learn communication skills, empathy, confidence and focus during the school day. Alongside Design Dance, its founder and director Debra Giunta also set up another organization called Prismatic. Prismatic focuses on providing entrepreneurial education to students who would like to explore the business possibilities in the arts sector.

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Ivana Carev, PhD – Visiting postdoc

Ivana Carev gained her PhD in Chemistry at the University of Zagreb, while doing her research at the University Paris Sud; CNRS France and University of Split, Croatia, where she currently serves as a postdoc/senior assistant at Faculty of Chemistry and Technology. She works in the field of natural product compounds research and their biological activity. Besides science she is very interested in educational projects connected with different forms of learning, service learning, development of student's soft skills; quality assurance of higher education, as part of her academic work. Her visit was part of World Chicago Tech Innovation, Education, and Entrepreneurship Fellowship Program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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Tanja Madžarević - Former WorldChicago Professional Fellow

Former WorldChicago Professional Fellow, Tanja Madžarević, is one of the 2018 Alumni Impact Award recipients selected by the State Department for the impact they are making in their home countries after completing the Professional Fellows Program. They were acknowledged in Washington DC where they received their award, led workshops, shared their work experiences, and spoke with 200+ Professional Fellows from around the world.

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