I thoroughly enjoyed the IVP (as it was called then) that I was able to join in 2002. The program was on E-Commerce, and it brought together a group from a lot of professional backgrounds: Government and Industry, as well as professional associations, coming from many European countries. This was actually one of the great “hidden” benefits of the experience, getting to know people from these diverse backgrounds and spending considerable time with them. I still have contact with the majority of people in our program, and we have since done a reunion, independently.
What really impressed me in the program itself was the openness and trust all around: from getting the budget in the form of cash and traveler cheques, to the really honest people we met, who addressed difficulties in the local economy (think post-industrial Detroit), to great local hospitality.
The coolest example of this, was unplanned, and happened in Salt Lake City: Our ELO team had the night off and sent us on the bus to a family for a small reception in a nice suburb. We arrived, saw a nicely decorated open house and joined the party. Only after about 90 minutes did we realize that this was a send-off party for a young mormon to go on his mission – at a different family! So we wrapped our conversations, and went on to our real hosts next door … we, as well as both of our hosts, had a blast, and we were able to enjoy a true example of American openness and hospitality.
Since 2002, I keep telling everyone that whenever they hear the abbreviation IVLP uttered in their presence, to go ahead and raise their hands quickly, go and enjoy this truly great experience!