Year-End Reflections of Newest Team Member

From the Global to the Local: Joining the Global Ties San Francisco Team

Authored by Oli Vorster, International Program Coordinator

Graduating from college in 2022 I never imagined that a professional position could combine my passions for connecting with people across cultures and languages and the field of local public diplomacy, especially so close to home in the San Francisco Bay Area. Since joining the Global Ties San Francisco team in May 2023, I have met with delegates from around the world on topics such as female representation in entrepreneurship and business development, climate change mitigation, anti-human trafficking efforts, journalism and freedom of the press, cybersecurity, deaf education, crisis response management, and Indigenous leadership.

The International Program Coordinator position is truly a unique role. It challenges me every day to develop not only professionally, but also as a better communicator and citizen diplomat as I engage with people from diverse cultural backgrounds and develop a better understanding of the unique ecosystem of professional resources the San Francisco Bay Area has to offer our international guests. In this post, I aim to highlight some of my standout moments since joining the team.

One of the first delegations I had the pleasure of meeting was truly a remarkable one, a Latin American group focused on NGOs and Volunteerism. I had the fortune of accompanying the visitors to most of their professional appointments, including a lovely meeting with the San Francisco LGBT Center on their volunteer program aimed at supporting at-risk community members, such as transgender people, LGBT+ youth, and unhoused community members.

I also attended a 3-hour Synthesis Session, where our expert facilitator helped the visitors create tangible takeaways and deliverables for themselves from their brief visit to the United States. That experience demonstrated to me the real-world impact the U.S. Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program has on each delegation, as they create meaningful professional connections with American professional counterparts.

A further highlight from my time so far at Global Ties San Francisco was a professional meeting and lunch with an Entrepreneurship and Startups delegation from Algeria. The Global Ties San Francisco team organized a kitchen facility site tour and meeting with La Cocina Municipal Marketplace, a non-profit kitchen incubator working to solve problems of equity in business ownership for women, immigrants, and people of color. This meeting was especially a standout as the group met with an Algerian immigrant woman business owner in the program, who operates KAYMA Algerian Eatery. Tasting KAYMA’s food and hearing the owner’s personal success story was an impactful moment for the International Visitors, as they were able to see real-world outcomes from the business incubator program they had just learned about. The interaction also emphasized the importance of supporting more women, and particularly women of color, who should be empowered by their communities.

Another inspiring moment for me was with a Judicial Practices group from Belize. The delegation worked on a highly emotional subject matter professionally, supporting the rights of children in child abduction cases. Seeing the level of shared commitment to protect children across nationalities, backgrounds, and belief systems across all the group’s meetings gave me hope for the future of global legal systems and helped me appreciate the work of human rights lawyers both in the United States and abroad.

Lastly, occurring outside the confines of professional meetings are the little moments shared between our staff and the visitors: fun, informal opportunities to exchange culture, engage in dialogue, and at times bond over food. I particularly enjoyed taking a Cybersecurity delegation from Uzbekistan to In-N-Out Burger for the first time, which provided moments of levity and gastronomical cultural exchange that are truly special to me.


The wealth of knowledge that our International Visitors bring to the table and are willing to share reinforces the importance of international exchange and public diplomacy across borders. I can’t wait to see what new highlight moments await the Global Ties San Francisco team in 2024 as we continue bringing the global to the local in the San Francisco Bay Area.