Exchange like a pro

By: Ahnika Kroll, Marketing and Outreach Intern

While on the J-1 Summer Work Travel program, you will be faced with many new experiences that expose you to the culture of America beyond your workplace environment. Get the most out of your cultural exchange program abroad with three easy steps!

 “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” – Mary Tyler Moore

Cultural exchange is a great learning experience, but there are some lessons you don’t have to learn the hard way! Use these simple guidelines to get the most out of your time abroad and to have a successful program.

 Step 1: Set goals and challenge yourself

Your time in the United States can get away from you easily. So while you are here, it’s important to challenge yourself to participate in your community, to travel, and to enjoy this new country as much as possible. One of the best ways to do this is by setting goals for yourself! Create authentic experiences by engaging in parts of American culture that are different from your culture at home. It may even be helpful to make a ‘bucket list’ of everything you want to do while you’re abroad. Do a bit of research on the internet and go through the resources provided by Greenheart Exchange to get to know your new community before you get there. Some great things to note include specialty stores, historical landmarks, or popular areas – and then plan to visit them. By doing the research before you arrive, you can set yourself up for success!

 Step 2: Keep a journal

Reflection is an important aspect of getting immersed in a new culture. Documenting what you do – both the exciting and the mundane – will prove to be a priceless reminder of your time in America. After you leave you’ll want to look back on the discoveries you made and the connections you created. This doesn’t need to be a big commitment either – all you need are a few minutes a day to write out what happened. You might choose to document the highs and lows, your feelings about being away from home, or what exciting new things you tried. Your journal can also be a great place to include keepsakes from your time in America – such as tickets, photos, or notes. It can even be a place where you keep track of your goals or the places you still want to visit!

 Step 3: Bring a reminder of home

Missing home is very natural and even something you can expect while on a cultural exchange program. After the honeymoon period wears off, you might start to realize that America is very different from your home country! Even though you might not need it, it’s a good idea to bring along a little reminder of home such as family photos or familiar trinkets (but don’t choose something super valuable, as you don’t want to lose something irreplaceable). Think of this as your insurance policy for some inevitable feelings of culture shock. The adventures you’ll have while on the Summer Work Travel program will provide you with some of the best experiences of your life, but it’s also natural to experience feeling sad, lonely, or scared. The best way to prepare yourself is to know that these feelings are very common and to ensure they don’t hold you back from enjoying your time abroad.

You are in control of making sure you have a successful exchange experience. Keep these tips in mind to make the most out of your time in America, and enjoy the ups and downs that come with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! Do you have some other questions or thoughts on how to make the most of your time abroad? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Are you interested in traveling to America to expand your global perspective? Check out our cultural exchange program and discover how you can get involved.