Another Year of Cultural Exchange: a student’s perspective going from J-1 to F-1 program

By: Emlina, Greenheart Exchange High School Participant from Cambodia

Emlina is a Cambodian student on Greenheart’s F-1 Program. Emlina started her journey with Greenheart last year in Kansas on the J-1 Exchange Program and decided to return to the US for her last year of high school. Now, Emlina is a Senior in Phoenix, Arizona and preparing to graduate from high school. We asked Emlina to tells us about her experiences on the J-1 and F-1 programs!

My name is Emlina, and I am an exchange student from Cambodia. I am 18 years old and currently living in Phoenix, Arizona on an F-1 program. I was an exchange student last year on a J-1 program to Kansas. This is a photo of me visiting the snow in northern Arizona this week and making my FIRST snowman.




Why did you decide to come back of the US?

I decided to come back to the US again this year from a J-1 visa to an F-1 visa because during my first year in America last year, I was able to find what I was looking for. In my country, there are limited careers, and it is hard to accept what I cannot do when I grow up. When I came to America, I’ve seen the bigger picture and the bigger opportunities in my dream career. That is when I decided to come back here to the US to continue on taking a step when I have the opportunity to.



This was my birthday last year in Kansas where we celebrated at the bowling alley with some of my school friends!


What was it like to move from Kansas to Arizona?

When I decided to move to Arizona for my F-1 program after living in Kansas last year was not a hard decision for me because I was so determined that I will do well and make the goals in my life happen. I believe once you are able to handle something, you can easily do it again next time.  After I’ve spent my J-1 program in Kansas and moved to Arizona for my F-1 program, I felt like I’m in a new different country. There are farmlands and small towns in Kansas, but when I arrived to Arizona, I wondered “I’m I really in America?”. Everything was so different: the environment, the people, the weather, food preference, and especially how many people are here! Phoenix is a really big city, and there are way more things to do here.


What has been your favorite part of your experience on the F-1 Program?

My favorite part is experiencing and learning new things. I am grateful to my coordinator that she took me to places and events that I never thought would exist, and all of these places were awesome. My other favorite part is having new friends and always experiencing something different and new every day.



Volunteering to pack food for the starving children in Guatemala for ‘Feed My Starving Children’. This is one of my best experiences so far in Arizona.


Why did you decide to come back to the US with Greenheart’s F-1 Program?

I decided to stay with Greenheart because I love how Greenheart provides us with any help we need, and most importantly, lets us experience and understand what it’s like to volunteer, what it’s like to do something good for the world and for the people. I always feel proud whenever I volunteered because it seems like I have found a new meaning in helping someone in need.


As of 2023, Greenheart is no longer offering an F-1 program.  Please do check out our J-1 programs for High School Exchange students.