Summer Work and Travel Participants Visit the University of Tennessee

By Leslie Corn

Cultural Component | #CENETJ1

KNOXVILLE, TN– On June 21, the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK) hosted a one-day campus visit for CENET’s Gatlinburg-based Work and Travel students.The participants were given a university tour and granted access to the on-campus museums and exhibits. In addition, UTK faculty members provided the participants with the following academic lecture series: An Immigrant’s Perspective of the U.S. Government, Choosing an Applying to a Graduate Degree Program, and The 2016 Presidential Race.

The event was coordinated between CENET and Dr. Jim Hamrick, Director of the English Language Institute (ELI). Dr. Hamrick has been involved in ESL/EFL for more than thirty years. He has taught English in Japan and China and has trained teachers in Poland and Saudi Arabia. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina, a master’s from Georgetown University, and a doctorate from the University of Michigan.

I’ve been aware of the short-term, J-1 participants in the local resort/tourism sector—but I’ve never had a chance to meet many of them or learn how their experiences are arranged. Hosting the CENET group gave me an opportunity to learn more about this population of students– and I think it’s a good way for our campus to reach out to the broader international community in our area.

-Dr. Jim Hamrick

Anwar Accawi presented An Immigrant’s Perspective of the U.S. Government. Mr. Accawi is an ELI instructor emeritus who has been an ESL teacher for thirty-two years. He has taught in the U.S. and in Lebanon at the National Evangelical Institute, Sidoon High School, and the American University of Beirut before coming to UTK in 1979. Mr. Accawi is a published writer whose work has appeared in books, literary anthologies, reviews, and college textbooks in the U.S. and abroad.

I have had the pleasure of addressing many groups before, but this particular one stands out in my mind because every single young man and woman impressed me with their attentiveness, open-mindedness, and desire to learn! It was a treat for me to be in the presence of such vitality and energy.

-Anwar Accawi

Yvonne Kilpatrick, Assistant Dean and Director of the Office of Graduate Admissions, presented Choosing and Applying to a Graduate Degree Program. Ms. Kilpatrick earned her bachelor’s degree from Freed-Hardeman University and her MBA from UT Chattanooga. Currently, she is in her dissertation phase of the Doctor of Education degree in learning and leadership at UT Chattanooga.

We had the exciting opportunity to provide participants of the Work and Travel program with valuable information about the process of applying to graduate school. Many fields are now requiring graduate credentials, so it is important for undergraduate students to consider pursuing graduate education. It was an honor to speak with these individuals who expressed such a strong passion and interest in learning.

-Savannah Ladage, Office of Graduate Admissions

The final lecture, The 2016 Presidential Race, was presented by Dr. Andy Ray, International Student Recruiter. Prior to his role at UTK, Dr. Ray served as in the Peace Corps. in Costa Rica. Dr. Ray has earned graduate and post-graduate degrees in Spanish Language and Literature.

Dr. Ray’s presentation provided a general overview of the U.S. election process, followed by a mock election.

Personally, I thought the students were fantastic! They had great questions and they weren’t shy to think collaboratively. Plus, the CENET students were fun! Although brief, it was a wonderful experience that did what so many nations yearn to do: help their citizens learn new cultures and perspectives in a peaceful and respectful manner.

-Dr. Andy Ray

Several CENET participants shared their feedback about UTK visit:

Nathaneal, Jamaica

It was a great privilege for me to visit the University of Tennessee. My favorite part of the experience was the tour of the McLung Museum where they have extraordinary exhibitions on American, Egyptian and Chinese history. I liked the presentations, especially the one that was given by Anwar Accawi, where he gave a vivid description of the United States government from the eyes of an immigrant. In his presentation, he explained how the U.S. government differs from the governments of other countries, including my home country.

I also enjoyed the lunch we had together in the I-house Great House. Thank you CENET for organizing this trip. This is an experience that will be well remembered for years to come.

Xian, China

It’s truly a wonderful experience to visit the Tennessee University. My favorite part was the presentation about the 2016 presidential race. The U.S. university setting is different from the universities in China. Tennessee University has many sports halls—it’s really great. I enjoyed the visit!

Khushal, Afghanistan, 

My favourite part of the experience was to see University of Tennessee and their excellent professors and doctors, that I haven’t seen up to now in my all academic life. I became in love with their speech and their lectures, and that’s why I recorded some of their lectures on my iPhone.

In the event, all things were  new and amazing for me, and it’s attracted me to learn so many things.I learned too many good things, but one thing that I will never forget is the how good the teachers are with their students– like the presentation of sir Anwar Accawi and the others.

I see a lot of differences between the universities of my own country and USA. To compare the universities of Afghanistan and USA, unfortunately Afghanistan universities are very backwards, not developed, not improved like the universities of USA( Tennessee). If I find a chance to take my master degree and phd degree in the USA, I will know how from everything that I learned here.  I like the event from the start point up to the ending point.

Jundi, China

My favorite part was the presentation about the 2016 presidential race. I learned about voting. The teacher, Andy Ray, is funny and amazing. He has been to China. He knows a lot about China. Thank you so much for taking us to the University of Tennessee

Berk, Turkey

I enjoyed the presentation by Anwar Accawi on “an immigrant’s perspective of the U.S. government.” I also increased my network at the event.

Desiann, Jamaica

My favourite part of experience was visiting the Museum of Natural History! From the lectures, I learned this: do not try to fit into a tertiary institution, let it fit you. I also noticed the U.S. university setting is huge!

Mingming, China

I enjoyed lunch together and the presentations. UT is very beautiful and I learned some views of the professors about current events. I learned that the American university is not a copy, but a reaction of the European institution. It also seemed U.S. universities give more space to students.

Anastasiia, Ukraine

Thank you for great opportunity of visiting the University of Tennessee. I enjoyed all part of this experience, but the most remarkable were meetings with Anwar Accawi about U.S. government and with Andy Ray about presidential race in U.S. I learned a lot of new different things, especially about university programs for immigrants from Yvonne Kilpatrick. This experience was really interesting and exciting, thank you so much!

Special thanks to the University of Tennessee Knoxville and the incredible faculty and staff members who took part in this special cultural activity. 

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.



What is the J-1 Visa?

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | #ExchangesImpact

What is the J-1 visa? Why does the U.S. have the J-1 program? Is the J-1 visa bad? Does it hurt America? Answers to these questions and more can be found in this J-1 visa overview.

The J-1 visitor program is a non-immigrant visa that allows future leaders from around the globe to experience a temporary cultural exchange program in the United States. Each year, approximately 300,000 future leaders from more than 200 approved countries and territories come to the U.S. on a J-1 visa.

J-1 Visa Quick Facts:

  • All J-1 visa categories include an educational or training component while participants temporarily reside in the United States.
  • The program promotes cultural exchange between the U.S. and other countries.
  • J-1 exchanges support U.S. National Security.
  • J-1 exchanges help the U.S. Engage with countries key to U.S. interests.
  • J-1 exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities:
    • 83% of participants are under 30.
    • 31% are 21 or under.
    • 53% are women or girls.
  • The J-1 visa strengthens the U.S. economy.
  • J-1 cultural exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • J-1 exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities through program dollars and participant spending while in the U.S.
  • J-1 exchange participants stimulate innovation & cultivate entrepreneurship


The J-1 visa is a public diplomacy program that increases U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding.

To learn more about the J-1 visa, check out the J-1 Visa Overview.

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.


Cultural Exchange Network Awards Foreign Language Scholarships to Local Students

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community|#CITC #GlobalCitizen

Recently, CENET partnered with Concordia Language Villages (CLV) to provide summer camp scholarships within CENET’s local community. The four full-scholarship winners will be transported to Bemidji, Minnesota to engage in foreign language immersion programs.

Maggie Shelton, 17, of Jackson, MO, will participate in a 4-week Arabic program. With over 300 million Arabic speakers worldwide, this opportunity will enhance future opportunities in terms of university admittance, military service, and employment within the public and private sectors. Additional scholarships were awarded in both the Portuguese and Chinese programs.

Since 1961, Concordia Language Villages have prepared young people for responsible global citizenship through their world-language and cultural education programs.

CENET and CLV look forward to partnering in the future to provide additional opportunities for young people in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.

To learn more about the scholarship winners, please visit the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Cultural Exchange Network (CENET), a nonprofit based in Cape Girardeau, has awarded four scholarships to local students for summer language study, the organization announced today.

CENET awarded the scholarships in cooperation with Concordia Language Villages (CLV) in Bemidji, Minnesota.  CLV is one of the world’s premier immersion language learning programs.

Students receiving awards include:

  • Maggie Shelton, 17, of Jackson, MO, who will study Arabic for four weeks.
  • Jake Shelton, 12, of Jackson, MO, who will study Portuguese for two weeks.
  • Chance Earles, 11, of Carbondale, IL, who will study Portuguese for two weeks.
  • Mariena Collins, 11, of Jackson, MO, who will study Chinese for one week.

All the students will study at CLV’s camps in Minnesota, where students live in a single foreign language village, and attend classes and engage in traditional camp activities such as sports and crafts, all in the target language.  The food in each village is geared to the culinary traditions of each country.

Robyn Walker, Executive Director of CENET, said, “We are thrilled for the first time to be able to offer these scholarships to students from our area.  One of our goals is to equip students in our region with the skills and knowledge to succeed in a world that is rapidly globalizing.  Developing knowledge and enthusiasm about foreign languages is a critical part of that effort.  We are grateful to Concordia Language Villages for their support of this initiative, and are confident that our four students will have a great educational experience, and a lot of fun.”

CENET strives to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.

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Michael McCarry: Cultural Exchange makes friends for the U.S.

Participant Experience | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

Michael McCarry, former Executive Director at the Alliance for International Exchange, recently penned a letter in support of the J-1 visa program; on June 4, The Cap Times in Madison, Wisconsin published his letter.

The piece focuses on the experiences of a J-1 Work and Travel participant.

The full text of the letter may be found below.

Dear Editor: As they have for over 50 years, summer work-travel students are arriving in resort areas like the Wisconsin Dells and Door County for an American adventure and to help with summer staffing needs.

Recently in China I met student named Haomin, who adopted the name Zack for his summer in the Dells. Zack told me this story.

One Saturday evening, Zack noticed young musicians busking on the street. An aspiring musician himself, he decided to get his guitar and give it a go.

Within minutes, a police officer asked Zack if he had a permit. Very nervous, Zack admitted that he had no idea he needed a permit. The police officer explained what was necessary, and took Zack to the station. Within an hour, Zack was back on the street, playing “Like a Rolling Stone” and earning a few bucks.

Think about this: A student from an authoritarian country — where a conversation with a police officer is rarely sought or welcomed — received from a Wisconsin policeman not a hassle, but help to navigate an unfamiliar government process.

When I met Zack in China months later, he retained a sense of wonder about this experience. All his friends and family know this tale. That Wisconsin police officer, just by being a nice guy and doing his job, shaped forever one young man’s views of the United States.

That’s the power of cultural exchange, and but one example of how this program makes friends for America.

–Michael McCarry


Michael McCarry

With over 37 years of international experience– both as a Foreign Service Officer and the Executive Director of the Alliance for International Exchange– Michael McCarry is a leader within the exchange community, with distinct insight and knowledge in policy, foreign affairs, and public diplomacy.

For more news and updates about CENET, please visit our Facebook Page.


Alumni Spotlight: Stefan Arnautu

By Leslie Corn

Breaking Down Barriers | #CENETJ1

It is not uncommon to have preconceived notions about foreign cultures and people. We carry prejudices and biases based on filtered snapshots we’ve received from the media and entertainment. Whether positive, negative, or neutral, the best way to challenge these stereotypes is through cultural exchange. By experiencing a different culture firsthand, we may truly appreciate our differences, and find unity in our shared humanity.

J-1 participants are future leaders taking advantage of a unique cultural exchange opportunity in the United States.  These participants temporarily reside in American cities, while receiving an educational or training component.  J-1 leaders are able to experience the cultural nuances of the United States, while sharing their unique cultures with American counterparts. Though the exchanges are temporary, the positive impact is permanent.

Recently, CENET Alumni were asked what surprised them about American culture. Stefan Arnautu, a J-1 participant from 2014, shared how a simple greeting from a stranger marked the beginning of his changed perception of the United States.

SWT | Global Citizen from Romania | #CENETJ1
pic2_editedGood Morning

What surprised me the most about the U.S. was how friendly the people are and how they are interested in where I came from and how things are back home in Romania.

A nice example is when I went to travel and see the neighborhood (I stayed in Fire Island, New York and I took a ferry to the mainland and walked alone for the whole day just sightseeing). I was walking on the sidewalk and a lady passed by me and she simply said “Good morning!”, I replied politely and afterwards a stupid smile remained on my face.

That experience made my day and I soon realized that it is the usual custom. It was surprising for me because in Romania we don’t usually say “hello” to people we see randomly on the street. I have many similar stories but that one struck me the most.

Spending a summer in America really changed my view on life and opened up my mind to new experiences.

I met a lot of different interesting and crazy people and simply trying to describe what I felt while being there, I find myself at a lack of words.

In my opinion everybody should have a similar adventure abroad.

— Stefan Arnautu, J-1 Alumnus

Stefan is a rare millennial who does not take selfies, enjoys traveling, and is perhaps affably greeting a stranger in Romania at this very moment.

CENETJ1: The Stories Behind J-1 Exchanges

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