By: Haldis Toppen, Work and Travel Cultural Outreach Coordinator

On March 24th and 25th, three J-1 Summer Work Travel sponsors gathered at CCI Greenheart headquarters in Chicago to discuss the cultural component of the program and share best practices. It was a successful workshop of bright minds and creative ideas on how the SWT program can achieve further success for the future.

In attendance were four representatives from Cultural Exchange Network (CENET), eight representatives from Spirit Cultural Exchange, eight representatives from CCI Greenheart, and Michael McCarry, the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange. These three sponsors were chosen to be a part of the first workshop of this kind, because the location of their headquarters (all close to Chicago), availability and voice in the industry.

All sponsors were asked to share some of their cultural best practices to use with participants. One sponsor shared how they created an outing to a professional sports team, and then met with important officials in that community. Another sponsor shared their experience of going to a cultural landmark, like the capitol building of the state, and having a fun day around the capital. Then CCI Greenheart shared their experience of the Greenheart Club, and how volunteerism has become a popular American pastime for the J-1 participants and employers.

recapturedAfter sharing successful activities and events, all sponsors were then asked to create a new cultural initiative that could be put into practice regardless of sponsor or employer that would help the larger international community recognize the importance of the J-1 SWT program. Some of the ideas discussed included: BBQs, field days, and even a day dedicated to the film industry. After sharing some incredible ideas, it was decided that the three cooperating sponsors at the workshop would dedicate one day this summer to the J-1 program in three cities in the United States. It would be a day of fun, American culture and volunteerism for not only the J-1 participants, but also everyone in these three cities.

As the next steps are planned for this new initiative, all sponsors left the workshop excited and reinvigorated for the Summer 2014 season. Keep your eyes open for new and fun cultural opportunities in your area!