By Erin Nyhan, Work Programs Services Director

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

It’s easy for anyone to get caught up in the details of Summer Work  Travel processing:  applications, insurance, DS forms, embassy or partner needs, flight and visa information, and participants who are mere ID numbers in need of employer placements.  Thankfully, I was afforded the opportunity to rekindle the flame of actual participant interaction during the CCI Work & Travel Job Fairs in Istanbul, Turkey and Amman, Jordan this season.

I have been working with the CCI Work & Travel Program for nearly 10 years, attending a myriad of industry tradeshows, conferences and job fairs, among countless other opportunities.  As usual, it was hard to get out the door on time to catch my flight into Istanbul as I was buried in deadlines, staffing needs, and the random daily issue or emergency that tends to surface.  In fact, I had not thought much about the fact that I was headed to Istanbul, one of my favorite cities, and then off to Amman, for the first time.

Even though I am a seasoned, veteran traveler, I am thrilled to say that I was blown away by the quality of applicants, professionalism of our partners, but most of all, the hospitality of our host countries.  It has been a true learning experience, exciting, humbling and magical all the same.

In a world where tensions grow high on an unfortunately regular basis, I have been reminded and refreshed regarding the good work we do.  Hosting our beloved employers in these countries was a great pleasure for me, and I believe they shared this wow factor: a passersby offering a light of a cigarette, friendly conversation and directions, or simply the fact that our overseas partners dropped everything to showcase their city, food, and customs to give us a true sense of their culture.  It was overwhelming and humbling to enter a room of 300 patiently-waiting participants and to shake their shaky and sweaty hands as they got their turn to job interview in English, with a real live American.

I am very proud to consider each of our participants an ambassador of their home country and find that welcoming participants this summer from predominantly Muslim countries will equally benefit the employers, families, and host communities.  The work, academic, and volunteer experience of the applicants was exponentially higher than I’d expected and I believe we will enjoy truly successful, high-quality programs, as well as increased participation in our Greenheart Club activities.  I believe we’re all fortunate to be able to experience this fundamental value of exchange, where participants and their American counterparts are equally affected by the value of the personalities behind the ID numbers.