By: Heba Qtafan, StationCom Programs Director

As a sending partner, there is no better feeling than realizing you have made an impact on the lives of those who participate in the Summer Work Travel program. I see this impact when my participants return from the United States and converse with me – it’s like I’m talking to a native English speaker! Everything about them has changed by the time they return home – their personalities, their plans for the future, and their language skills. The Summer Work Travel program truly gives its participants the keys to the universe!

While abroad, participants experience the culture of the United States and other new, foreign cultures in their fellow workers. I love sitting with these participants with a cup of tea upon their return home and listening to the adventures they had over the summer. I think it’s very important to ask these participants to reflect on the relationships they made while abroad. Staying in touch with their friends, coworkers, and supervisors from the United States will allow them to build an even deeper connection with these people once they return home. It’s also important for them to reflect on the entirety of their experience: what they did, what challenges they faced, what was hard about adjusting to the United States, and even what was hard about returning back to life at home. This reflection keeps them motivated to cherish their experiences in the United States and allows the summer to have the biggest possible impact on their life.

When we start holding meetings for participants for the new season, we always invite alumni a to share their experiences. It’s very important for the participants to have some exposure to those who have been through this program before – to give a firsthand account and alleviate any worries. At these events, we become a family, not just a participant and a sending agency!

A million different stories come from alumni, and they inspire us to do our best to continue improving the program and ensure its continuation! I want to share some of the stories from our alumni that have meant the most to me over the years.

We recently got a call from one of our 2011 alumni.  He is now a Human Resources manager at one of the biggest hotels in Petra and a father. He was eager to thank us for the program, and its role in helping him to improve his English. He explained that he’d become a manager at the hotel because of his English proficiency.

We also recently had a visit from Jalal, a SWT alumnus from 2012. He is now a business owner for a tourism agency in Europe. He told us that SWT changed his life and his future plans forever!

One of my favorite memories was receiving a wedding invitation from a manager at a refugee camp in Jordan. He went on the Summer Work Travel program in 2011. He reported that he got his current job because of his dedication to volunteering—something he learned the importance of from the volunteer events in the U.S. held by Greenheart Exchange.

We’ve also had a visit from a returning participant, Abed Alrhamn, with 40 of his friends! They came to the office together to apply for the program because Abed had spoken so highly of his own experience and the changes he felt.

Finally, Zeyad is an athlete on our national basketball team. He is a 2015 Summer Work Travel alumnus who was recently contacted by the U.S. embassy in Amman to speak at an event about his experience in the United States. Many of the other speakers gave beautiful speeches, but Zeyad’s was the most touching. He told us he was speaking from his “Green” heart, and it was Greenheart’s program that gave him the self-confidence to improve his English skills.

These interactions with past participants show me how important cultural exchange is in shaping global leaders. When these alumni return home, they bring with them lessons they have learned abroad and a new way of thinking that has been shaped by a different culture. I believe this is an invaluable experience that everyone should have.

Are you interested in improving your English and gaining valuable work experience to launch you into a global career? Check out the J-1 Work and Travel program to have the opportunity to live and work in the United States.