We have designed this outline for you to use as a guide for your pre-departure orientation. Since this outline is simplified, we recommend that you review each section to confirm that you fully understand each subject listed and are prepared to address any questions that participants ask during the orientation. Include songs, games, conversation exercises, and/or past participant testimonials in your orientation. This outline has been successful with our participants, but you can add your creativity to make it more appealing to those from your country. Find an orientation style you are comfortable with and have fun! If you are enthusiastic about the program, you will pass that enthusiasm on to your applicants. Please make all participants aware that completing our online orientation is mandatory in addition to any pre-departure orientation that you provide.
Introduction – “Getting to Know You”
- Welcome applicants and introduce yourself.
- Give applicants an overview of the day.
- Applicants will be expected to participate in experiential games and group activities.
- Ask a few participants which camp they are going to.
InterExchange, Inc. – “Who is InterExchange?”
- Provide a brief overview of InterExchange, outlining our various programs and 50+ years of experience with international cultural exchange as a nonprofit, mission-driven organization.
- Emphasize the cultural exchange and learning opportunities that are part of the program.
- One office in New York that works with cooperators around the world and camps across the USA.
- Explain the distinction between InterExchange and your organization.
- InterExchange is designated by the U.S. Department of State to sponsor the Exchange Visitor Program. InterExchange is each participant’s J-1 Visa sponsor for the program. The camp is not the visa sponsor.
- InterExchange is the main contact during participants’ programs if there are problems.
- InterExchange is their J-1 Visa sponsor. Other international counselors at camp may have different sponsors.
- Explain the importance of staying in touch with InterExchange throughout the program, including SEVIS monitoring and compliance responsibilities.
The Importance of Cultural Exchange - “Helping Participants Make the Most of the USA”
Cultural exchange occurs when people gain more in-depth understanding and knowledge about another country, its culture, its customs, and its day-to-day practices through person-to-person contact. Our participants as well as our hosts embrace this aspect of InterExchange programs and understand its importance whether they’re part of a camp, a family, a seasonal business, or a professional environment.
The United States is often described as a “melting pot” attracting people from countries all over the world. It is a culture that is continuously being reshaped and redefined as more people from other countries gain exposure to the country. It is also influenced by visitors who share their cultures during their time in the U.S., and by the deeper insights and favorable attitudes about American life they return to their home countries with.
Spending a summer at camp is a great opportunity to learn about American life and be part of one of the most genuinely American traditions. But beyond our participants’ day-to-day camp activities, InterExchange also makes an extra effort to ensure that all our international participants enjoy the full benefits of cultural exchange. We make it a priority to give international visitors the opportunity to learn about U.S. culture by encouraging them to spend time with Americans beyond just their co-workers, explore their host communities, visit unique cultural sites and participate in activities that aren’t available in their home countries.
InterExchange makes it a priority to give our participants and hosts resources to explore cultural learning opportunities together or independently. We’ve created an online guide to U.S. culture, including recommended sites and activities for everyone to enjoy during time spent in the U.S. Everything from which museums to visit to which foods to eat to which performances to see are included. We encourage everyone to discover new places and aspects of American culture, whether they’re visitors or natives!
The InterExchange Inside the USA handbook also contains many helpful recommendations and resources.
Encourage participants to read through these materials and to coordinate activities with friends from their country as well the new American friends they make. Encourage them to ask their supervisors and new colleagues about other ways they can enjoy their time in the U.S. and how they can bring new insights and practices back to their home countries. Most camps have many natural sites and activities that are unique to their areas. Tell participants to take advantage of the opportunities that are all around them!
Positions at Camp – “Counselor and Support Staff Roles”
Remind participants that all camps are different. Explain that they are responsible for finding out specific information about their camps by using the contact information provided to them.
Target your audience. Find out how many students are counselors versus support staff. This will allow you to cover information that is relevant to your audience.
Counselor’s Typical Day
Outline a counselor’s role and go through a typical day. Explain the differences between a general counselor and an activity counselor. Make sure that students understand the differences between the two and that activity counselors are responsible for putting together age-appropriate activities for groups. Here is an example of a common schedule:
|7:30 a.m.||Wake up|
|9:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.||Two to three morning activities. General counselors may accompany their cabin groups to activities and assist the specialist counselors or they may be leading the activities.|
|1:00 p.m. - 1:45 p.m.||Rest period|
|2:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.||3-4 afternoon activities|
|5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.||Shower time|
|7:00 p.m.||Free time|
|8:00 p.m.||Evening activity. This is generally the biggest and most elaborate activity of the day, and may involve the whole camp. Counselors often have a role in planning and running evening activities. Examples: casino night, talent show, camp fire, etc.|
|10:00 p.m.||Get the campers back to their bunks and ready for bed. Some nights, counselors will be “on duty” and will have to supervise campers while other counselors have a chance to have some time off.|
Activity counselors have a similar schedule to general counselors, but they teach specific activities such as tennis, ceramics, or sailing. They may also sleep in cabins with campers and perform general counselor duties.
Support Staff’s Typical Day
Outline the role of support staff at Camp and go through the different areas they could be working in (kitchen, housekeeping, maintenance). Talk about flexibility and willingness to work in multiple areas. Also, take time to point out the physical nature of the position including the long hours (often 10 hours a day). Here is an example of a common schedule:
|6:30 a.m.||Wake up (earlier than the rest of the camp)|
|6:45 a.m.||Prepare breakfast for several hundred people|
|8:15 a.m.||Serve breakfast|
|9:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.||Clean up and start preparing lunch|
|11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.||Time off (maybe an hour, possibly less)|
|12:00 p.m. - 12:30 p.m.||Finish preparing lunch|
|12:30 p.m.||Serve lunch|
|1:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.||Clean up and start preparing dinner|
|3:30 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.||Time off (maybe 2 hours, possibly less)|
|5:30 p.m.||Finish preparing dinner|
|6:00 p.m.||Serve dinner|
|6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m.||Clean up and prepare for the next day|
Remind participants to review their placement offer so they are aware of the stipend they will receive. Inform participants that taxes will be deducted and payment will come from the camp/employer, not InterExchange.
Encourage participants to bring enough money for domestic travel both to their employer and during their 30 day grace period.
Group Activity – “Camp Games and Songs”
It is important that applicants understand that camp is for kids. Applicants must be comfortable in this environment. They may be asked to sing songs, play games, and act in ways that appeal to kids.
- Give applicants a few minutes to socialize and meet someone new. Insist that they speak only English to one another.
- Ask a returning participant to lead a song or game learned at camp.
- Allow your returning staff to provide more personal insights about the day-to-day aspects of life at camp. They may address issues such as homesickness, difficulty with adjustment, long days, and English ability. Encourage new applicants to ask questions of returning participants.
- Try to get feedback from the applicants regarding their reaction to the songs and games.
Go over the various types of housing a participant can expect at camp. Use photos found in the IC resource center as examples.
- Do not trust anyone you meet who tells you they can get you a better job and more money.
- Know your rights and avoid becoming a victim of human trafficking.
- Do not accept rides from the airport from anyone other than an authorized taxi or cab.
- Do not accept accommodation from people you meet on social media or online.
- In an emergency, call 911.
- Thank the applicants for taking the time to be at the orientation.
- Make sure applicants do not have additional questions.
- Outline what will happen next concerning the interview schedule.