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WVU students benefit from international learning exchange

a group stands in on a deck outside

The 2019 WVCIP cohort at WVU stands at Dorsey's Knob with Paula Martinelli, president of WVCIP, far right front, and Cindy O'Brien, far right.

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Students at West Virginia University have the opportunity to enhance their cultural intelligence through the visits of educators, engineers, healthcare workers and urban planners from all over the world who have traveled here for professional development and integration into community life. 

The exchange, facilitated through the West Virginia Council of International Programs, this year brings professionals from Africa, South and Central America, as well as Europe.

“One woman is currently working at a daycare center and is teaching her students what it is like to be a child in Germany,” said Amber Brugnoli, assistant vice president for global strategies and international affairs.Another is learning new nursing techniques while also providing care to patients in our local hospitals. Opportunities to work with programs like CIP are invaluable, to hosts and participants alike.”

Nicole Ibler
Ibler has been a state-approved educator in Germany for more than 25 years. She spends her time teaching in after school programs. Ibler first learned about the WVCIP for her work supervisor and saw it as an opportunity to refresh her profession. 

“I saw this and thought ‘that’s the right program for me’, because the United States is very interesting, and it has good teachers,” Ibler said. “I am really excited that I’m here and I’m looking forward to the rest of my program.”

She will work with Melissa Workman at the WVU Child Development Laboratory.

Omowunmi Olabode
Olabode is a psychiatric nurse from Nigeria and has been working in the field for 12 years. Olabode says she never thought about participating in a program like the WVCIP until her friends went through the program. She says after looking into WVCIP for herself, she knew it was for her.

“I joined because I still need to learn, to improve my professional skills, to see how other cultures view mental health, to learn their perspectives, and to then go back home to be a culturally competent nurse,” she said.

During the program, Olabode will work at WVU’s School of Nursing with Dana Friend.

Frederike Wiedemann
Wiedemann has a background in special needs education and has been working as a school social worker in Germany for four years. After her supervisor told her about WVCIP, Wiedemann decided that becoming part of the program would help her develop her understanding of the United States social system and learn how nonprofit organizations work with America’s youth.

“I hope that I can get new ideas here for my job in Germany, so I can enjoy my job in a different way; with new impressions and more confidence in working with international pupils,” she said.

She will work at the Human Resource Development Foundation, under the supervision of Amanda Filippelli.

Sina Vogt

Vogt has been a social worker on the western side of Germany for seven years. Like many other participants she learned about the program from her supervisor and says she has always wanted to spend a long period time learning abroad. Without knowing where the program would take her, Vogt applied for the WVCIP.

“I want to learn about how other cultures are dealing with the same things we are at home because we have a totally different social system in Germany than the United States,” Vogt said.

She will work for Danny Trejo at the Morgantown Area Youth Services Project.

Luisa Gabriela Espinoza Rosales
Since graduating from college, Espinoza Rosales has been interested in coming to the United States to improve her professional skills. She is currently an industrial engineer from Bolivia. During her work in her home country, Espinoza Rosales noticed that her English could be improved.

“I have communication difficulties with suppliers, such as emails taking me a long time to write if they’re not in Spanish,” she said. “My main objective through this program is to improve my professional English.”

Espinoza Rosales will work at WVU’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering with Victor Mucino.

Rafael Vial
Vial is a self-employed architect and urban planner from Brazil, but says he is looking to expand his knowledge and experience in urban planning. His aunt, a former WVCIP participant, showed Vial the program and thought it would be a great opportunity for him.

“We have the bachelor’s degree in Brazil for architect and urban planning, but it’s really difficult to find a field close to urban planning, and that’s a field I love to work in,” Vial said. “I want to get enough experience here around transportation and planning to get back to Brazil and do my master’s thesis.”

During his time in the program, Vial will work with Chris Fletcher at the Morgantown City Planning Board.

Estefania Lopez
After studying international relations and business administration and working full time in Mexico for two years, Lopez decided it was time to start her own business. She is a personal shopper for residents in her home country and delivers their groceries to their homes. Now, a year after starting her business, Lopez is looking for ways to expand.

“I want my business to be more automated,” she said. “It’s working in an old way now, like ‘send me your email, send me your order’. I want to make it more efficient, maybe an app to make it easier for my clients. I’d like to develop more of my business while I’m here.”

Lopez will work with Sonja Jewell Kelley at the WVU LaunchLab during her time in the program. 

The Council of International Programs was founded in 1955, and expanded into statewide placement programs in the 1970s. In 1971, the first group of CIP participants came to Morgantown, making Morgantown the smallest town to receive CIP participants at the time.

Today, the WVCIP is a community-based program that is overseen by WVU’s Office of Global Affairs.



CONTACT: Henry Oliver
WVU Office of Global Affairs

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