There are six key differences:
1. We provide a deeper cultural and language immersion. Our partner organizations are located in provincial centers, which have decidedly less foreign influence and English speakers than Moscow and St. Peteresburg, where most programs are. Moreover, our internships are structured such that the interns work side-by-side with Russians. This challenges the interns to push their language and cultural skills far beyond their existing boundaries.
2. Our interns get more responsibility and acquire more professional skills. We partner with organizations for whom an intern's ability to speak English at a native level creates a competitive advantage. For example, language schools charge more for classes with native speakers. This motivates the partner organizations to give interns real responsibility and to work with them on improving their performance.
3. Application to the program is competitive. Because our interns get real work, we do not take everyone who applies. While direct experience teaching/translating/etc. is not required, we look for strong evidence of potential. We aim for an acceptance rate of approximately 30%. This summer, it was around 40%.
4. We have both a U.S. and local presence, which helps us make the travel logistics worry free. Before the interns travel, we link them with alumni to help them prepare for the experience, and we work with a visa agency to make sure that everyone gets the right type of visa on time the first time (a fairly complicated process). Once interns travel, we have a local coordinator meet them at the airport, take them to the host city, and help them settle in before they start work.
5. Unlike most programs, we support our alumni. Our goal is to encourage alumni to help each other learn how they can use the Crossroads internship to make themselves more competitive in the job market and find next career step. We do this primarily through a closed Facebook group, where alumni interact with one another and where we share advice, job postings, etc. Our alumni have gotten jobs in Russia and the prestigious Boren Scholarship with their Crossroads experience playing a prominent role. Our program fee is much lower than comparable programs.
6. Because our partners earn a profit from having our interns on staff, they cover housing and some other big costs. This allows us to keep the program fee to a minimum.