We hope that your InterExchange Career Training USA J-1 Intern or Trainee program has been a meaningful professional, personal and cultural experience. Whether you spent two months in the U.S. or 18 months, you are returning home with a new perspective on American culture—evidenced through photos you have taken, friends you have made and places you have seen. By using the tips and ideas below, we encourage you to continue your exchange experience by sharing your thoughts and memories with those around you.
Write about your experience
Similar to a travel journal, a blog is a way to publically (or privately) document or share thoughts and stories from your experience interning abroad. You might think you will remember the specific details and moments from your journey and how you felt, but unfortunately that doesn’t always happen. Keep a written record of these memories not just for the entertainment of others but also for yourself! A few years down the line when you’re reminiscing about your time living in the U.S., you will be happy to have something that will help you remember your experience and that could also be useful for others about to embark on a similar one.
Many blogging websites are free and make it easy to write and post articles. Perhaps you already started a blog to share your experiences while you were in the U.S. Why not continue and write about topics that are of interest to you? A few notable blog hosting websites are WordPress, Blogger (run by Google) and Tumblr. You can jot notes in bullet form or write longer essays. In most blogs you can embed photos or videos to add a whole new level to your articles and really entertain your readers.
Create a Photo Album or Scrapbook
You’ve probably heard the American phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Put together a photo album or collage (on paper or electronically) to chronicle your U.S. experience. You can include photos of the places you have seen and people you have met. Are you the type of person that keeps everything? That ticket stub from your visit to the Empire State Building belongs in a scrapbook! This is a great way to organize the pictures and various odds and ends that you may have accumulated during your time in the U.S. Sit down with family and friends upon your return and do not just tell them, but really show them what you’ve seen and done.
The Internet also makes it easier than ever to share your photos online. You could make an album on Facebook with funny captions or use a photo-sharing website and give the link to anyone who might be interested in learning about your expereince or the U.S. and its culture.
Flickr, Shutterfly and Snapfish are three great sites for storing and sharing your photographs. Instagram is another creative way to share photos since you can add effects such as filters and borders to enhance a photo. You can also add the location so your followers will know where you were when the photo was taken!
Read news, blogs or literature about the U.S.
There is no better way to stay connected to U.S. culture upon your return home and to connect with others who have similar interests. Reading American news articles and sharing them with friends and colleagues, especially via social media, is a great way to demonstrate your interest in American culture. You could recommend books about American culture and even start a book club. Plus, reading in English is a great way to keep up your English language skills!
Join a club, interest group, or American cultural organization
Your city, town or university may have clubs related to American culture or for American expats living abroad. Do some research! An international exchange club is a great way to connect with others who share your interests. If a group like this does not exist in your area or on your university’s campus, start your own. Get some friends together and plan events or meetings to share your experience.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassies or Consulates in your home country may have their own events to teach others about the U.S. and engage the local community. Contact them and see if they have any resources for you. Often times they might be looking for volunteers to help with cultural events or contribute to a project or exhibit relating to U.S. culture. Another idea is to join or start an English conversation group. Many of these are free (unless you wish to take classes) and allow you to practice your English.
Host an event
Share your experience by hosting a themed event or party. There are so many different routes you could go with an event like this. You could cook and serve American foods and desserts and talk about your many experiences or play a slideshow showcasing the photos you took during your international experience. The event is a great excuse to get together with friends and bond over your recent experiences (perhaps your friends did internships in other countries) and/or a way to encourage others to partake in a trip to the U.S.
Another way to share your recent cultural exchange experience is to celebrate an American holiday in your home country. You could dress up for Halloween as you may have done while in the U.S. or host a Thanksgiving dinner for family and friends. Hopefully you brought back recipes for some of your favorite American foods that you might not have access to in your home country! Check out some of these recipes for traditional American foods. And here are local recipes from all 50 states!
Volunteer at your school’s study abroad office or office for international students
Upon your return home, get involved! Contact your university’s study abroad office and ask how you can help out your fellow students as they consider opportunities abroad. Current or former students are always the best resources, since they have actually participated in these programs. Other students will appreciate your first-hand knowledge of American culture and will feel comfortable asking you questions. What’s better than getting to talk about the great times you had in the U.S. and helping people at the same time?
Another option would be to volunteer with the office that helps international students coming to your country. This would give you the opportunity to connect with Americans who are living abroad in your home country. This is always a great way to ease the transition back home; if you’re feeling homesick for American culture, assisting Americans with their own international exchange experience might help you, too.
You should also consider volunteering at internationally-focused events, such as abroad fairs or culture days. Your school or community may even have a specific day or week dedicated to sharing cultures. You could get involved with one of these events, whether by simply attending, helping to organize it or having your own booth with friends. You could even think about presenting about your experience in the U.S.
Promote international internships and cultural exchange opportunities
Why not connect with the career services or career advising office on campus? Usually these offices are looking for students to share their own experiences with fellow students. You could host a presentation on campus about interning in the U.S. and talk about how to find an internship, how to apply and how much you’ve learned about the U.S.
Another way to promote opportunities in the U.S. and U.S. culture in general is to look into doing a presentation at local schools. You could plan an educational presentation (make sure to include photos from your trip!) and a fun activity to teach children about U.S. culture and the benefits of international travel.
Connect with your fellow alumni
Make contacts, network and socialize with others who have done the program or had a similar internship/training abroad experience. You should join the InterExchange Career Training USA Alumni Group on LinkedIn and visit our Alumni Resource Center for other ideas and opportunities to connect and share.