Friendships Formed Over Cookies

By: Kaitlyn Peters, Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel Employer Services Coordinator

In late July, Greenheart Exchange staff traveled to Minnesota to visit participants spending their summer working as concession stand attendants at a professional baseball stadium! These lucky participants had the opportunity to experience a true American pastime – crackerjacks and peanuts, songs and cheers filling the stadium, and a fly ball hitting deep into the crowd, all in the heart of the Midwest.

During the visit, the group completed a volunteer event with an organization that supports local youth, the Cookie Cart. The Cookie Cart receives and fills custom-decorated cookie orders for local businesses, conferences, and sporting events. The organization employs local area high school students for their cookie production operations.  In addition to gaining real-world work experience and learning time management, communication, and teamwork skills, the Cookie Cart also offers various courses to help the students continue cultivating their career goals. Courses such as resume-building, interview practice, leadership development, and conflict resolution were offered as a part of the students’ employment. Once their six-to-nine-month term with the Cookie Cart was completed, students emerged with an amazing first job experience and the confidence to pursue their dreams.

The Summer Work Travel participants had been volunteering consistently with this organization throughout the summer, and it was endearing to watch the friendships that had developed between the participants and the Minnesota kids. While the participants and students worked side by side, they were able to connect over both the similarities and differences in their experiences in the United States and other home countries. For example, Chinese participants reflected on the fact that they are not expected to have work experience during their university years, and part-time jobs are not usually a necessity because of lower university tuition fees. This contrasted with the American kids’ reality: American students typically work part-time jobs to earn spending money, accumulate work experience, or save for university. In this situation, the volunteer aspect of their Summer Work Travel programs not only helped participants to experience volunteering for the first time, but to also truly experience a cultural exchange with their American peers!

Volunteering and cultural exchange are just two of the many amazing benefits provided by the Greenheart Exchange Work and Travel program! Check out the program to learn how your summer can be shaped by amazing new global friendships!