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Job/Internship Opportunity

Few Days Remaining to Apply for Joint US-Russia Youth Delegation

Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow

Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Moscow

With only a few days left to apply, I would like to invite the GW community at large to take a shot at becoming a part of this year’s Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum delegation.

Now running in its seventh year, the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum (SURF) cultivates collaboration between American and Russian university students through long-term research projects. Delegates in the program travel to Moscow for a five-day-long conference in the fall, conduct collaborative research with their working group members for eight months, and ultimately present their work at a capstone conference at Stanford University in the spring. Working groups range in their focus from cyber-security and nuclear proliferation to entrepreneurship and public health, and they are mentored by leading experts in both countries. At the conferences, students get to hear from a variety of speakers in closed, private meetings. This past April, our capstone conference at Stanford University featured former U.S. Secretary of Defense Dr. William J. Perry, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, former U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu, and many other past and current leaders in a variety of fields.

As relations have gotten quite tense over the past year, it is startling to note that our student-run program is one of few channels left for people our age to work with their American/Russian counterparts. I feel as though the current circumstances make this opportunity quite compelling, and I hope to see more GW applications in our review process!

Moscow night skyline

Moscow night skyline

Over the past year, I have grown to appreciate the power of having access to friends my age in a country that is often distanced from the American psyche. I recall being in Moscow and hearing from a student that the situation in Crimea was one of the first times that Russian families have strongly disagreed, and possibly stopped speaking, over a political matter since the collapse of the Soviet Union. As is true in America, there is no monolithic “public opinion” to which every Russian must submit, and that diversity is something that needs to be acknowledged. I quickly came to realize that there is a large clash between conservative tradition and progressivism that is very similar to the undercurrents of change we see in the United States. I am happy to assert that this mirrored societal evolution represents a window of opportunity, but one that is under an ever-increasing threat of being closed by people who have no vested interest in promoting cooperation. Given our similarities, one of the best ways to address these opportunities is to focus on peer-to-peer relations and build an informed and nuanced understanding, rather than rely on political and media-led narratives to define one another.

Fort Ross State Park, an old Russian settlement/fort in California

Fort Ross State Park, an old Russian settlement/fort in California

Governments are not populations; they are institutions and frameworks for governance. In this sense, there needs to be a differentiation between the American and Russian governments and the respective people they represent. Russia is not an “issue,” nor does it spawn crises. Russia is a country with a vast history, a beautifully complex culture and population, and a welcoming generation of youth that want to become a part of a global movement that is anchored in working hard to make a difference. The family I have gained from becoming close friends with a number of the American and Russian students who took part in this past year’s SURF delegation is one that I will have for life. I am truly honored to have been able to witness the strengths of both cultures come together to produce such fascinating work.

The program is open to both undergraduates and graduate students from any university in the United States or Russia. No previous background in US-Russia relations required. Students from all fields of study are encouraged to apply. We have rolling admissions open until June 1, 2015 at 23:59 PDT (coming up quite soon). The application can be found here: http://bit.ly/usrussia1516, and this is our website: usrussia.stanford.edu.

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out at sahilvshah@gwu.edu.

Sahil Shah is a Senior in the Elliott School of International Affairs and a member of the Honors Program.

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