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East meets West

August 17 - August 23, 2022
Gulf Weekly East meets West
Gulf Weekly East meets West
Gulf Weekly East meets West

Gulf Weekly Mai Al Khatib-Camille
By Mai Al Khatib-Camille

A group of social media influencers from Bahrain were taken on a cultural exchange programme to the US to gain insight on building up their businesses, forging friendships and learning about American hospitality.

The US Embassy Bahrain had selected Dana Zubari, Mahmood Janahi, Manal Talal, Areej Matooq and Ali Fareed to participate in the International Visitor Leadership Programme (IVLP).

IVLP was launched in 1940 to help strengthen US’ engagement with countries around the world. It also aims to cultivate lasting relationships by connecting current and emerging foreign leaders with their American counterparts through short-term visits to the US. 

The programme began in Bahrain in 1973 and since then, 680 Bahrainis have visited the US to take part in it.

“The US Embassy in Manama, like US embassies around the world, invites current and emerging leaders to the United States through the International Visitor Leadership Programme,” said Linda McMullen, the embassy’s public affairs officer.

“The IVLP is the Department of State’s premier professional exchange, giving leaders a chance to engage in professional meetings with their US counterparts, and to cultivate lasting relationships. The programme spans a wide variety of fields, including, but not limited to, journalism, education, law, health, economics, business, technology and the environment.”

Dana, a Tru Active fitness attire co-founder, Ironman finisher and triathlete, who calls herself an ‘accidental influencer’, was thrilled to be a part of this experience where she and her fellow affiliates visited Washington DC, Manchester, New Hampshire and Atlanta, Georgia to meet and interact with digital agencies and government entities.

“The cultural exchange programme was an eye-opener in terms of what different digital marketing agencies do,” said Dana from Saar.

“The US Department of State hired Roy Abdo, the chief executive officer of Digital Revamp, to provide us with extremely helpful information on how to market ourselves as social media influencers as well as outlined tools we need to better sell our products. 

“We had meetings with other government agencies such as New Hampshire Tourism and we were informed about the methods they use to attract more tourists to their state. Atlanta Airport officials highlighted ways to capitalise on being one of the busiest airports in the United States.

“Washington DC is such a colourful state seeped in history and you really feel it while walking around on Capitol Hill with all the monuments surrounding you! New Hampshire really showed the members of the IVLP true American hospitality and, needless to say, Atlanta had the best Southern comfort food one could ask for.

“I will be implementing what I’ve learned, but most of all, I am grateful for forging good friendships with my social media peers and meeting different people during my journey. I am interested in pursuing more of these programmes in the future for entrepreneurial exchange.”

Speciality baker and self-taught chef Mahmood Janahi also said he had a good time.

“We got to experience American culture and how social media is being used in the companies and organisations we visited,” said Mahmood, a human resource director in a leading logistics company who lives in Arad. “It was more like an exchange, sharing what we do and what they currently use in terms of social media. I’ve implemented what I learned from the businesses we visited.”

Food and lifestyle influencer Ali Fareed found the IVLP interesting when it came to meeting with peers in the industry.

“We got to learn about the best practices used in that region as well as the challenges they face when it comes to reaching a target audience,” said the management information systems reporting assistant manager from Amwaj Islands.

“I’d have to say the best part of the programme was the people. It’s always fascinating to meet, exchange ideas and get perspective into their culture. This programme was focused on social media and its best practices so I’ll surely be taking those lessons into what I do in the future.”

Now that they are back, they will be slotted in with the alumni IVLP members group that can connect with other Bahraini and non-Bahraini international visitors who have completed similar programmes.

For details, follow @usembassybahrain, @Mahmoodjanahi, @manaltalal91, @areejinkitchen,

@ali_fareed and @danazubari on Instagram.

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