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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