An interview with Gazmend Ilazi

I interviewed Mr. Gazmend Ilazi, the Educational Affairs Assistant at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, about his duties at the Embassy, the opportunities the Embassy offers to young people from Macedonia to apply to various exchange programs as well as to Americans who want to study in Macedonia.

Could you please introduce yourself? Who is Gazmend Ilazi? What are your main duties at the American Embassy in Macedonia?

Gazmend Ilazi is the Educational Affairs Assistant at the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia. I administrate educational exchange programs such as Fulbright programs (visiting Fulbright student and Fulbright scholar, U.S Fulbright student and scholar and English Teaching Assistant), Study of U.S. Institutes, Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellow Youth Program, Global UGRAD, Youth Exchange and Study (YES) and professional exchanges. I also manage professional exchanges, including Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program, the prestigious International Visitor Leadership Program, the Community Solutions Program for NGO leaders, Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative Fellowship Program (YTILI), WorldChicago: Tech Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Professional Fellows Program. I do outreach activities for these programs, communicate with potential candidates, guide potential candidates how to draft successful applications, guide them on logistical issues, conduct pre-departure orientation and many similar issues.

One of your missions is to present the opportunities that the Embassy gives to young people from Macedonia to apply to various programs. Could you please describe the way in which you deliver the presentations (are they interactive, do you do them online, through webinars)? Where does this usually take place?

Correct, I do intensive outreach activities, mostly through the American Corners in Skopje, Tetovo, Bitola, Shtip and Struga as well at all the universities in these cities and wider. For the last three years I have also been conducting educational outreach every first Wednesday of the month at the American Corner in Skopje. In these outreach activities I speak in detail about the applications, selection process, visa process and many other issues of interest to potential candidates for our programs. Usually, I am accompanied by alumni and U.S. Fulbright students and scholars. The idea is that we offer to the interested candidates thorough information. While I speak about the application process, the alumni talk about their experiences whereas U.S. scholars about life in the United States.

Are the educational grants fixed to specific fields of study in the US or you have a special focus every year (depending on Macedonia’s needs for the specific year)?

Yes, currently we offer a wide range of scholarships and we cover many profiles from the secondary school student age of 16 to postdoctoral studies. As I said at the beginning, we offer educational and professional exchanges.

You organize pre-departure orientation meetings and you also meet fellows after they arrive back home. Could you please tell us something more about these meetings?

That is correct, we provide outgoing briefings to every single fellow and debriefings upon their return to every alumni. We inform them about everything they should know before their departure to the United States. We don’t want you to be “surprised” there and of course we love to hear from you upon your return. Also, I would like to emphasize that we do keep in touch with our fellows all the time during their study in the United States. The Embassy also offers exchange programs for Americans who want to study in Macedonia. Could you please give us some more information about these programs?

Yes, there are many, Fulbright student, Fulbright scholar, Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, Fulbright Senior Specialist and Speaker program. U.S. Fulbright students come to Macedonia to conduct research in a certain field of interest for their studies. Their grant is up to nine months; Fulbright scholars teach at the public universities and are usually invited by the local universities to teach here. Their grant is nine months; Fulbright English Teaching Assistants teach English Language for students at the elementary, secondary and universities level; Fulbright Senior Specialists are invited by local universities to teach in a particular field of study for two to six weeks whereas the Speaker program offers also expertise in special fields. And finally, what advice would you give to our readers?

YI invite everyone to apply for these outstanding educational exchange opportunities offered by the United States. I am convinced that you will gain a lot and waste nothing. You will gain new knowledge, new experiences, new friends and so much more that is impossible to summarize in a short answer.

Interviewed by Angela Dimitrovska


Bulding bridges of cooperation
between the United States and Macedonia