Summer Work and Travel Participants Attend Leadership Workshop at Missouri State University

By Leslie Corn

Cultural Component | #CENETJ1 #CENETBranson

SPRINGFIELD, MO- On July 18, Missouri State University (MSU) provided a 1-Day International Leadership Workshop for 36 J-1 participants spending their summer vacations in nearby Branson, Missouri.

The J-1 participants were chosen based on host company nominations and an additional CENET selection process.

The International Leadership Workshop opened with a lecture titled “Leadership in an Interdependent World,” presented by Brad Bodenhausen, Director of the International Leadership and Training Center. A panel discussion followed, with an emphasis on International Leadership; the panel was led by MSU staff and student leaders from Chile, France, Ghana, and China. Additional activities included a campus tour, a luncheon, and a closing reception for the J-1 participants, attended by students, faculty, staff, and department guests of the Office of International Programs.

By utilizing faculty, staff, and international student leaders, MSU provided the J-1 participants with not only a dynamic educational experience, but also a holistic look at campus life. MSU representatives shared their feedback on the International Leadership Workshop:

I recently had the opportunity to attend a CENET program hosted by the Missouri State University International Leadership and Training Center (ILTC). I was very impressed with the students sponsored by CENET as well as by the high quality presentation and discussion that took place between the students and ILTC staff. The discussions centered around cultural differences and how to better understand and appreciate those differences. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on leadership. The students were very engaged and brought their own unique perspectives to questions such as:  How is leadership defined?  What does it mean to be an ethical leader? Is it possible to be a bad person and still be a good leader?  What impact does cultural perspective have on how leadership is defined? What I truly enjoyed was listening to the students from different countries sharing their diverse views on leadership.  I left the meeting hoping that the program will become an annual event at Missouri State University.

-Dr. Jim Baker, Vice President for Research & Economic Development and International Programs

I personally really enjoyed the group of J-1 students. I got to know some of them individually during the campus tour. They were fun and brilliant! I was impressed by their English skills and global perspectives. It was such a great opportunity for us too, because we learned so much from them. It was especially great to see that at the reception, all of the students were  interacting with international students leaders and faculty and staff from MSU. What a great example of effective cross-cultural communication!

Yi Winnie Wu, International Leadership Training Center

I had a wonderful experience participating in this event. I think the J-1 students were amazing and I loved that many of them participated in the panel by asking questions. As an international and graduate student, I believe that it is very important to share knowledge to connect the world and understand the different cultures of each country.

 Natalia Arcaya Cortina, International Student Leader

Several CENET participants also shared their feedback after the International Leadership Workshop:

First of all, I want to thank CENET and MSU for having chosen me for this experience and also for always keeping in touch with us. My favorite part of the day was the campus tour. It’s a beautiful place with awesome buildings, especially the recreation center. The event was interesting. We learned about leadership and also we had the chance to share with international students of different countries. In the panel we learned a little bit of the background of the students and their opinion of what is leadership.

-Michael Joaquin, Dominican Republic

I was so excited about visiting Missouri State University and I can tell you with confidence that it was one of the most interesting days I’ve had in America. As my major is English, at my university we are trying to investigate all cultural phenomena and also we were speaking about American campuses. So it was one of my dreams to see the differences between pictures and videos that I have seen and the real American university. The most interesting part for me was, of course, the tour around campus and also the motivating speeches of lecturers. Now, I know that after coming back home my life will never be the same. I met some interesting people and had an opportunity to speak with teacher of German language and to know about methods that she uses in her work. American campus has nothing to compare with Ukrainian one. Yes, in Ukraine we have an opportunity to study for free and get a scholarship, but I have never seen such appliances at home. Maybe because of bad financing but who knows. But here, everything is new, renovated. Magnificent gym, pool. I am in love with this place. Thank you for this wonderful opportunity to see all this beauty.

-Valeriia, Ukraine

My favorite part of the experience were the talks about cultural differences between China and England. At the event, I learned about communication to promote understanding. The presenters also shared that traveling is a good way to learn different cultures. I noticed differences between the American campus and the Chinese campus. Americans will say hello to strangers who meet on the street. But we do not. If I have a next time in America, I want to communicate more with local students and join a class.

-Yiwen, China

My favorite part was when we were sharing ideas about “what is leadership?” I learned that we have to be a leader, not a boss, and show each other who we are and what we really want. We also must be helpful. I learned that everyone has a different way to see things and everyone wants different things. We each have goals and objectives. I think it is fundamental in every person to know what you want and to understand the value of things. I liked the event because I got to meet people, share about our cultures, and I liked the way as they received us at the university.

-Yerlin, Dominican Republic

It was awesome!! I liked the university. I have never been in such huge university before! I wish I could study there. I liked the lecture about leadership. Overall it was fun and I hope CENET keeps organizing more events like this!!

-Mohamednoman, India

My favorite part of the event was the tour they gave us so we could see the whole university. I also liked what was explained by some of the panelists: the student life, shop, library, pool, gym and more, as well as the fun activities they had for us. I learned so much about leadership. I didn’t know there was more than one kind of leadership, like servant leadership. The two kinds of communication and differences between American culture and some others present in the room. I noticed Americans are very punctual which is a good characteristic, and some other cultures are very relaxed about time. American universities are way bigger in structure than Dominican universities, and they also have so much variety, like gyms, pools, shops, more rooms, and normally students live in the university during the semester. The event was very entertaining! I wish I could tour another American university.

-Laura, Dominican Republic

My favorite part of the experience was the tour. I learned that everybody can be a manager, but not everybody can be a leader. The leader helps others to grow. From the presenters I learned we need to follow our dreams. Also that the first step to learn a language is listening to it, understanding the behavior of the people who speak that language, then practicing. I noticed the U.S. university is bigger and you can practice more sports and activities. I loved the event!

-Ypacaraí, Dominican Republic

When I was hanging out at the university, I heard a melody. It was coming from a tower. I have never seen anything like in a university. At the meeting, I learned about leadership. There were some students from different countries there. They talked about life experience and Master’s degrees. I think being a student at Missouri University is so good. I am interested in Master’s degree. Maybe after I graduate from my school I may come back for a Master’s degree.

-Berat, Turkey

My favorite part of the experience was the presentation. I learned the world is diverse so we have to think critically. And meeting people from other countries is enjoyable and instructive. From the presenters, I like the idea from the girl of Dominican Republic. She said money and fame can make you a manager, but not a leader. I agree with that. I noticed differences in the U.S. university setting. In the U.S. strangers will greet each other but in China they won’t. It’s quite funny because when I first started my work I don’t know we should greet others and people said “how are you ” to me I don’t know what to say so I reply them just like the textbook of English told me” I am fine thank you and you?” But in the U.S. I haven’t heard people say this word “fine” because actually it is not always a good word. It may represent that you are not so good. Overall, I liked the event.

-Ziqiu, China

I am very excited about the experience in the International Leadership conference. I learned about what I have to do to be a leader. It isn’t just telling others what they have to do. I liked the tour and the things that we did there, and I learned a phrase from Rye Barcott, “Experience isn’t knowledge unless you take time to process it.” This phrase inspired me to think “what is the best way to do something?” My favorite panelist was Fanny because i liked how she learned about life even if she was in a different country with another language and culture. In my country to be a leader the trouble is that there aren’t too many opportunities for the new generation of leaders. Thank you for selecting me for this wonderful experience.

-Carla, Dominican Republic

My favorite part of the experience was hearing other J-1 students share their experiences of being in the U.S., and also hearing the other international students (the panelists) that have being in the U.S. and different countries share their experiences as well. I learned communication is the major equipment needed to fully understand a different culture. I also learned Culture Diversity: Based on how you socialize (culture) in your country, it can cause some amount of misconception/misunderstanding to someone of a different culture. I noticed there is a great difference with the U.S universities and the ones in my home country as the U.S universities are much bigger and it has a lot of things to facilitate learning and recreation for students. In my opinion, it make students way more successful as resources are readily at hand. All in all it was a great experience, very interesting and informative. Interested to the point that I’m think about applying to Missouri State University someday.

-Rushanda, Jamaica

The best parts were hearing what makes a leader and the tour around the campus. Things between Dominican Republic’s universities and Missouri State are really different. First the capacity, the equipment and education. Thanks for the experience. I really enjoyed being there.

-Miguel, Dominican Republic

Special thanks to Missouri State University and the fantastic faculty, staff, and student leaders from the Office of International Programs. Thank you to our participants and MSU for taking part in the J-1 International Leadership Workshop!

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.


Summer Work and Travel Participants Celebrate Thanksoween

By Leslie Corn

Cultural Component | #CENETJ1 #CENETBranson

BRANSON, MO– On July 12, over 200 J-1 participants, CENET staff, and community members gathered to celebrate Thanksoween. This merging of iconic holidays, Halloween and Thanksgiving, gives Summer Work and Travel participants a taste of American, fall traditions in the middle of July.

The festivities included a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, game show style contests, and a costume competition.

The success of Thanksoween is largely due to CENET’s incredible community partners, Branson Bank and Skyline Baptist. Branson Bank donated the food and several prizes, Skyline Baptist provided the event space and food preparation, and CENET supplied transportation and additional prizes.

Special thanks to the Skyline Bapstist and Branson Bank volunteers who helped prepare and serve the food; CENET’s Branson Coordinator, Abigail Palmer; and lastly, community advocates and CENET support staff, Rick & Debra Chastain.

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.



Work and Travel Participants Volunteer After Natural Disaster

By Leslie Corn

Volunteerism | #CENETJ1 #GlobalCitizen

Recently, a group of Summer Work and Travel (SWT) participants experienced a natural disaster when flash flooding sent their host community into a state of emergency.

CENET visited the community and checked in with the participants regularly; the participants were safe, but their routine had been disrupted. They had been evacuated from their housing and they were temporarily unable to work due to the condition of their host company.

Instead of complaints from the participants, CENET received messages of compassion, hope, and a deep sense of community– a sense which led many of them to volunteer in the wake of the disaster.

A sampling of their messages may be found below:

I am working as a volunteer and  I am more than happy to help  restore the life in White Sulfur Springs. I think this is what we should do after such a disaster.

-Vera, Hungary

I miss working in the hotel, but that will change when they reopen hotel. It´s my pleasure to help people who were affected by flooding.

-Lukas, Slovakia

We are glad to help. We are all doing well.

-Phuong, Hungary

I am really good now. It has been a great thing to help the others who are suffering now– those who lost their houses and those who cannot live in their own houses. For me, it was a little bit hard to see the sad eyes and some people were crying and asked me for hug, I am so sorry for them. But I am so happy as well to help them and make their day a little bit better! I really appreciate the help my host company gave to the local people. My host company gave them a home, food,everything. It is wonderful. I am happy that I can work here.

First of all, volunteering has a lot of benefits, like making contact with other people, helping those who need it, and the most important: it really contributes to you personally. I am sure those who serve as a volunteer will appreciate things more than they used to. They can learn how to work in a group and how to cooperate with others. As I saw, if a community has serious problem, like now in West Virginia, people help each other no matter what is happening. When you take part in that kind of volunteering, you will realize you can be in this situation as well. If it were you, you would need help as well.

I am the kind of person who likes helping. I always try to do my best and I am able to feel their emotions. I am a really emotional person. I can be sad when I look at the faces , but I am happy as well when I can give them a hug and they become more happy, however it is just a hug, it means a lot for them.

My personality has grown a lot from this. I learnt how to accept each other, how to be more patient. Not just see people, but listen to them. I got to know more people who have a similar personality as I have,  who are willing to be there all day in order to help — and not for pay. This is the real,unconditional  love. I am really really sure I am not going to forget this disaster and the volunteering! I hope I can help others in future, too.

-Petra, Hungary

There are many different benefits to volunteering. For example, it allows you to develop yourself as a person, through growing your confidence and creating a feeling of well being in knowing that you are helping others. Also the benefit of volunteering is for people you are helping, as it allows them to feel better knowing people care about them and want to do all they can to help.

It is important to unite in the wake of a natural disaster for many reasons. This includes that through uniting following a natural disaster, it allows gives the opportunity to bring people closer together through helping as many people as possible with the rebuilding process. This may include helping those who have lost loved ones or whose homes have been destroyed by the disaster.

Uniting is also important as it generates the opportunity to create equality among everyone. This may include bringing people together from different cultures or religious backgrounds. Uniting creates teamwork and leadership, in order to help discover the best way possible to help with the situation people are placed within.

The flash flooding hit the state of West Virginia USA and severely impacted the town of White Sulfur Springs. This is where I was living and the event has led to great personal growth for me. This includes volunteering during the cleanup effort following the flood. I have been put outside my own personal motivations in order to help others. For example, when I saw the devastation firsthand it hit me with great emotion to think about those who have lost their lives or homes. However, I managed to overcome this by thinking to myself that I must help as many people as possible because of how greatly it would be appreciated.

I did this by walking around town and asking people if they needed help. Through doing this it allowed me to meet many people who said they greatly appreciated my help, which therefore helped me to feel better in myself.

Following the natural disaster which struck my host city, it has allowed me to feel more connected to my host city for a number of reasons. This includes that it has touched me greatly, through experiencing the community coming closer together to do all they can to help each other even if they have been affected themselves.  It has allowed me to meet many different people from different organizations such as both the National Guard and the American Red Cross, many of whom have worked tirelessly to help with the cleanup effort.

Following the flash flood I have had many stories which have been shared with me which I will never forget. This includes meeting a pensioner who was stuck on the first floor in her friend’s house and had to wait six hours to be rescued, because of how dangerous the rising flood waters were. During the rescue the vehicle she was being rescued in nearly fell into the flood waters and she thought she was going to die. When telling me this story she got very emotional and I had to comfort her. I also met a husband and wife whose cat was left in the house during the rising flood waters as they had to escape quickly but miraculously it managed to survive.

There is great community spirit here whereby people have come together to help those in need. I have seen this especially when volunteering in my host community and going around to help those in need. Through doing this it has also allowed me to meet some amazing, courageous people who I now keep in regular contact with. This experience has also allowed me to learn of some incredible stories– many of which I will never forget. I have also learnt the importance of working together.

-Ben, United Kingdom

Although an ideal program excludes natural disasters, the empathy, humanity, and spirit of volunteerism our participants showcased are qualities we hope are fostered within all participants during their J-1 exchanges.

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.