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International Visitor Program in Reno will Suffer With Gov't Shutdown

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Political wrangling over the budget in Washington, D.C. is already affecting a local program that brings international visitors to northern Nevada on behalf of the U.S. State Department. "We have been told that if the government shuts down, that all of the October and November groups will be either canceled altogether or delayed," said Carina Black, Executive Director of the Northern Nevada International Center, which is based in Reno.

This week the NNIC is hosting six educators and politicians from Armenia, Italy, Russia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom-- as part of the International Visitors Leadership Program, which partners with the U.S. State Department.

Monday the visitors met with local Democrats and Republicans to talk about politics in America. The delegates couldn't to speak to us directly, so we asked the hosts what they discussed in terms of the potential government shutdown.

"One of the visitors asked 'Where are we? Is this really America?'" said Black. They said they were surprised that American politicians have been unable to come to an agreement in Washington. Another visitor asked how a government shutdown, a lack of compromise, can actually happen in America. "They're pretty surprised about how this process has actually played out," Black continued.

Eugene Vricella is a Language Officer hired by the State Department to translate for the group. He also heard questions about politics from the visitors who read about American politics in their local press. "They're leaders in their own society, but when they come here they see it in real life," said Vricella.

If the government does shut down, it will impact future visits to northern Nevada said Black. "Any groups scheduled for the new fiscal year would be canceled or delayed."

Vricella says the program does more than just bring international visitors to northern Nevada. "Not only does it bring value in understanding," he said. "But there's also an economic value. Visitors are given money to spend for restaurants, hotel nights are purchased in each state where the visitors go."

Organizers say learning about America first-hand is important for diplomacy with other countries. "I tend to think the visitors learn so many positive things about America. Today and tomorrow they might also learn how democracy can be messy sometimes," said Black.

The delegation also visited Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania and New York before landing in Reno.

Written by Jennifer Burton

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