As an avid Cleveland Browns fan, I was raised to lookdown on, nay; hate the Steelers and Pittsburgh, the city itself. It’s a rivalry that’s transcended logic (the Browns are forever terrible, but we have hope now in Believeland!). However, on my recent and first visit to the Steel City, I was more than amazed, I was floored. I went to visit our latest and greatest employers in the ‘Burgh, including Courtyard by Marriott GM, Dawn Roberts and Regional Director, Michael Roberts, and walked away with a fresh perspective on the city, their company (and great GM’s!) and international college students from Brazil.

Courtyard by Marriott already had several students from Brazil, including CCI J-1 Work & Travel student Victor. He arrived the very day I had come to visit. I asked him what he thought of Pittsburgh and he said, “This is a dream. Look at this (pointing to the window overlooking the river). It is like a dream. It is so nice here.” Right next to an IMAX theatre, Dave & Busters, Target, Best Buy, Improv Comedy Club and a million restaurants, the location is nothing short of ideal for students who want a crave a real taste of America and people who make it up.

Dawn Roberts, Victor, Michael Roberts & Bill Duffy

The people of Pittsburgh deserve a pat on the back, not to mention the vibrant city and awesome skyline. While us Cleveland folk have been throwing disdain at their city, they’ve been sitting back laughing and winning championship. However, the biggest surprise of all was how nice everyone was. It didn’t matter if I was from Ohio (which I kept reminding people to see what they’d say : ) or like the students, from Brazil. The people were crazy helpful, polite and extremely generous. I knew all of this about Dawn & Mike, the poster children for impressive hospitality and generosity, but didn’t know the city itself was made up of the like.

Dawn Roberts, Marcos, Mike Roberts, Roger and Jay Cruz

As the only non-profit, green J-1 visa sponsor in the U.S., CCI-Greenheart’s marriage to Courtyard by Marriott, Mike and Dawn in particular, was a natural one – they are leaders in green management and construction (opening first LEED-certified Marriott in the Summer). This summer, students working at their properties will also participate in the Greenheart club and performing eco projects to give back to the local community and our world.

In the end, I gained so much from this trip and the wonderful people and international students I met on it. Pittsburgh, you win – I’m in love and soon, the rest of the world will be too (Brazil, in particular!).