Work & Travel USA Hosts Share their Stories!


5 minutes

Lexie H. and participants visit local govenment officials.
Lexie H. and participants visit local govenment officials.
Image courtesy of Lexie Hernandez

Cultural exchange is at the heart of hosting.

As Idalia K. explained, “I feel very fortunate to have experienced the cultural awareness that our students have brought to us. We are so profoundly changed by our experience with the students and I believe that our students will be taking back a different perspective of Americans back to their homes. It has been a pleasure to be a host and I will continue to do it in the future.”

We are so profoundly changed by our experience with the students and I believe that our students will be taking back a different perspective of Americans back to their homes. It has been a pleasure to be a host and I will continue to do it in the future.

Our hosts have found the experience to be rewarding.

Brandon D. said that “The J-1 exchange program breaks down barriers by teaching students from all over about Americans, and Americans about other cultures.”

Meanwhile, Dave R. enjoyed having participants around for the summer. “I am 67 and feel that I have four more grandchildren in my life who have told me all about their countries and their life’s experience,” he said.

Dawn K. enjoyed teaching these participants a good work ethic, and also “that a boss can also be a friend.”

I am 67 and feel that I have four more grandchildren in my life who have told me all about their countries and their life's experience.

The cultural exchange element of the program allowed hosts to see their cities in new ways! As Lexie H. mentioned, “The most rewarding part of our host experience has been seeing the students experience our lovely town and surroundings. We did several things while the students were here and we had so much fun.”

International participants have really added to American businesses!

As one of our hosts remarked, “Our J-1 students are some of the friendliest and hardworking employees. Knowing that offering them employment helped them to secure J-1 visas to have such an incredible experience this summer is awesome.”

So many stories have come out of this experience!

Gary F. even had one of his participants leave his summer clothes behind when he went home! “We have kept in touch with many of the students. We have had four come back for a second year! One young man left his clothes behind when he went back to Turkey. ‘I will be back next summer’, he explained. He did, indeed, come back this summer from Turkey! He is a very nice young man, and we would have him back any time. He is very well-spoken and gets on very well with our guests and fellow workers.”

One young man left his clothes behind when he went back to Turkey. 'I will be back next summer', he explained. He did, indeed, come back this summer from Turkey!

Meanwhile, Brandon D. has made a habit of playing pranks on new employees, along with Mihail from Bulgaria. “He has returned for three years, and takes such an interest in my business and getting to be friends with all year-round locals in Inlet, New York. We put all new students through a ritual by Mihail hiding in an inoperative chest freezer, and sending the student to retrieve an item from the freezer, where Mihail is hiding in. It almost scares them home, but they are ‘in’ after that.”

However, it’s not all pranks. Some participants are even sharing religious traditions! As Dave R. explained, “Valerie, from Belarussia, had a strong interest in Judaism. She wanted to visit a synagogue. I made arrangements with a friend in Margate, New Jersey. We drove there to go to a Friday night service, met the rabbi. It was the first time I have been to synagogue in 45 years. After the service, we toured the synagogue and then went to my friends home for Sabbath dinner. We said the prayers over the candles, the bread, and wine. It was an evening to remember.”

Our hosts have formed special bonds with participants!
Our hosts have formed special bonds with participants!
Image courtesy of Mary Ellen Dutton

And some of the stories are just silly. One of our hosts explained, “The first time it was a bit chilly, one of our Irish J-1 students went on and on about how he needed a jumper and our American employees were so confused.”

And some Dominican participants acheived their dream of ice skating … even though they were in the desert. “I was lucky to have two students from the Dominican Republic and coming to New Mexico, they had never seen snow,” explained Lexie H. “The closest I got them to snow was our ice skating rink in Albuquerque. They were so in awe about the whole experience and couldn’t wait to get on the rink. Their reaction to having to wear jeans, gloves and jackets in the desert was so funny to them. As soon as they got on the rink they had a few falls and quite a few laughs, but overall the best memory we made together.”

“Do it.” The advice is straightforward!

Asked for what advice hosts would give other potential hosts, one of them said, “Do it! Don’t even hesitate.”

Host employers enjoy a scenic drive with participants.
Host employers enjoy a scenic drive with participants.
Image courtesy of Deb and Skip Windemiller

Other hosts have more nuanced advice. They recommend Skype-ing with candidates and making sure their English level is high enough to perform the job. They also recommend talking about the local culture and the area, discussing where the particpants will live and how much they will earn. “If the English level of the student is not adequate, it makes it not only difficult on the host but is a major negative for the student because they must struggle to understand what you want of them,” observed one host, “and therefore, it is an overall negative experience for all.”

InterExchange was so helpful and made things as easy as possible for our students. I will continue being a host for as long as I can.

“To someone considering being a host,” Lexie H. concludes, “I would say it was completely worth every minute. I enjoyed my time with our students and I loved sharing our culture and summer life with them. InterExchange was so helpful and made things as easy as possible for our students. I will continue being a host for as long as I can.”

Stephanie Willhide Stephanie Willhide

Stephanie started her career working for a cultural exchange program that supports English language learning in Chilean public schools. She came to InterExchange's Au Pair USA program in 2013, and now works as the Web Developer.

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