By: Haldis Toppen, Cultural Outreach Manager

Last year my colleague, Katy Smithy, told everyone to go to Wisconsin if you wanted to meet nice people. And I am here to say… She is still right! Yes, yes, although the United States is full of kind and gracious people, I’m inclined to agree with Katy and encourage you to travel to Door County and see the special sort of niceness that Wisconsin has to offer.

In July, my colleague, Adra Kusnirova, and I traveled to the seasonal community of Door County to visit with participants and employers in the area. As a Chicagoan, perhaps I have a soft spot for this seasonal community, but I have often said that our participants are lucky when they are placed in the area. Not only is a beautiful and traditional American community, the participants have a resource (in addition to their sponsor) in the community outreach group, BRIDGES (Door County Bridges of Friendship to International Students).

This tremendous and gracious group offer fun cultural activities for participants and also connect them with local American families in the area, through a program called “American Connections,” so that they can have the opportunity to build one-on-one relationships with Americans and improve their English. In addition to all of this, they help the support the participants through any issues that might arise.

New this year, the BRIDGES group has been collaborating more with the larger employer community as well with the Door County Visitors Bureau, about education for the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, and providing resources to them as well.

While visiting with employers and participants, Adra and I went to a BRIDGES event that had kites and Segways. I didn’t share photos of us trying the Segways, as it was a pretty sad sight to see, but I can tell you that these participants are having the time of their lives with the Door County community.

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