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.

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