Education and people-to-people engagement are important priorities of U.S. foreign policy and President Obama has called the U.S.- India relationship one of the “defining partnerships of the 21st century”. Yet, the pool of Americans ready to manage the growing political, economic and cultural ties between the U.S. and India is small. This is in part due to limited opportunities for American students in India. In 2009-2010, only 2,690 American students participated in study abroad programs in India while at the same time, 104,879 Indians studied in U.S. institutions Passport to India seeks to dramatically increase the number of American students with first-hand experience in India by expanding the menu of study abroad options to include internships. The initiative will promote business internships linked to student’s academic interest areas, summer scientific research internships and service learning internships in India. Promoting specific opportunities and funding sources for underrepresented students to participate in internships in India is a key focus. Passport to India interns will not only work on joint projects, they will also develop important connections that can result in future collaborations and benefits for both countries.
Demand for such programs is growing. Internships are becoming an integral part of the U.S. college experience and many colleges offer credit for them. At the same time, companies recognize the value of internships as a way to ensure a valuable stream of potential employees with the skills needed to make them competitive in the expanding global economy.
This effort complements successful existing study abroad and language study efforts by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
Unlike those efforts, however, Passport to India relies fully on private-sector philanthropic support. The Passport to India initiative works with foundations and businesses in two ways: by encouraging the funding of existing internship programs in India that are seeking to expand, and by encouraging companies to commit to sponsoring American students for internships in their own India-based facilities.
For more information, please contact Dr. Molly Teas at PassportToIndia@state.gov. Dr. Teas is Senior Advisor for Education to the Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.