Cenet Co-Hosts First International J-Day

#CelebrateJDay #ExchangesImpact #EatPlayGive #ExchangeOurWorld

In 2014, cenet, Spirit Cultural Exchange, and Greenheart International piloted J-Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange. Over the last several years, J-Day events have occurred in cities across the United States, bringing community members and exchange participants together to “eat, play, give.”

This year, cenet partnered with Smaller Earth to host the first international J-Day in Liverpool, England. The event welcomed alumni from the Exchange Visitor Program (J-1 visa) and their families.

Cenet’s Senior Director, Leslie Corn, spoke on the background and significance of J-Day. Smaller Earth’s Co-Founder, Dave Robinson, provided a welcome address and shared about his first exchange program in the 1980s, a life-changing experience in New York City. After Dave, various alumni told stories about how their exchange experiences impacted their lives for the better.

The event included a prosecco reception, dinner, games, face-painting and coloring stations for children, live music, and a charity drive for the Liverpool South Food Bank resulting in £225 in funds raised. The leftover food from the dinner was donated to the local YMCA.

Below are a few stories shared by program alumni at J-Day Liverpool:

I 100% would not be who I am today if it wasn’t for going on an exchange to the U.S.

Before heading out, I had a little ‘Art Studio’ at home – well I say art studio but it was a cupboard with a light plummed into it (Harry Potter style!). I would spend all my free time here and wouldn’t really socialise. After my first summer abroad, my family and friends saw a huge difference in the person who returned home. This newfound confidence just grew and grew each year.

I was lucky enough to be be made the Speciality Director in my last year on the program, this meant I was helping in 9 activity areas and assisting many staff in these areas. This was a very challenging summer, there’s no doubt there. But, not only did I develop strong leadership skills, but I was able to help give other exchange participants incredible summers and was able to watch them all grow, much like I did in my first summer.

I also wouldn’t have gotten the job I have now if it wasn’t for my confidence and the belief I have in cultural exchange programs. It changed my life and I love knowing I’m able to help change lives of others through cultural exchange.

–Imogen C., Exchange Visitor Program 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017; Field of Study: Advertising and Brand Management; Current Position: Social Media Specialist 


I was at Camp Lincoln as a member of the sailing staff. The place was unlike anything I had ever experienced. One morning I was up at 5am and I saw Sam carrying the water coolers around, ensuring they were full of iced water for the day ahead. Here was a guy who owned the camp, owned another across the lake, and owned 2 high-end holiday resorts, employing hundreds of people and he was up at 5 making sure the kids had access to cool water for the day ahead. 

Down at the dock I met Lafe, he ran the sailing program. We had 30 boats, some were up to 28 foot long. He would raise them up on a lift and spend hours scrubbing the hulls to ensure they moved through the water with minimal drag. No kid would ever notice the incremental benefit of this, but he ensured that everything was the best possible. Of the 60 activities at camp, sailing was by far the most popular.

Camp taught me the value or hard work, the conditions for success were set up and I did better than I had before. 

I was brought up in the an environment where children were told what to do. Where shouting was okay, as a member of the boys brigade we believed that discipline was key, and a louder voice meant results. I took this to camp and one day a kid was playing around on the dock when they should not have been. I shouted at them, they ignored me. Lafe the guy running the sailing program walked up to them, sat down next to them and spoke to them.

They listened to him and did as he asked. Throughout the summer I learned how to create an environment where children (and adults) could flourish. This people based approach has stayed with me ever since. Discipline is not something done in the moment, it is a environment created to ensure people succeed.

At camp in 2006 outside the dining hall, I met Sophie. She smelt of horses. It was really bad. She looked great in her denim shorts and white t-shirt, I spent the summer learning about horses, and we have now been married for 10 years. Our camp values based relationship has set us up to succeed.

I met all kinds of people in the U.S., from the maintenance guy Ron, who lived in a trailer and survived the cold winters with all kinds of woes, to Sam who owned camp and more. These experiences and connections mean that when I hear of opposing political views coming from America about current politics I can connect to each perspective because I know people on each side of the argument.

I have been lucky enough to further develop these skills. Thousands of young people go to the U.S. and have a similar experience, and they, too, have positively impacted the communities they have visited in the U.S, and then their communities at home.

Summer camp is where young people get to take responsibility for things other than themselves, they get to take on challenges they would not face at home in a safe environment where everything else (food, accommodation, planning what to do and more) is taken care of. They get to succeed at a higher level than previously possible.

J-1 cultural exchange makes our society richer, it helps us understand American society properly, and by opening this opportunity to the world, it creates a huge ripple effect.

Here’s a toast to Camp Leaders, CENET, the J-1 Program, the U.S. Department of State, America and participants & hosts!

Mark H. Camp Counselor Program: 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009; Field of Study: Hazards and Geoscience; Current Position: Director of Growth and Development


I’ve met some of my best friends through the program. I’ve learned a lot about myself and others, and I have become a lot more confident. The program made me want to help others have the same experience as me.

Gabor S., Exchange Visitor Program 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016; Field of Study: Paramedics; Current Position: Travel Coordinator 


My summer J-1 program impacted me in a way I could never have imagined. I had everything I could wish for at home, including my dream job in London. But due to a burning desire to go to the USA, I took the plunge and went during my second year of University. Fair to say I loved every single minute. I gained the nickname “smiler” that first summer as I just couldn’t stop beaming from ear to ear the entire 9 weeks. The friendships I made were unlike any other that I’ve had in my life. They were deep, honest and we just connected in a way that I hadn’t done with anyone else. I went for my second summer and it still was the best place I’d ever worked. Upon returning home, I got the blues but was then offered my dream job at MTV in London. I was thrilled – yet a part of me still yearned to be in the U.S. with friends from all over the world, doing what I loved. My boss could see it in my eyes and when I sat her down to tell her I didn’t know what to do – she told me I had to go back for another summer. Decision made – 3rd Summer here I come. I qualified as a lifeguard and I developed a love for the water. By my 4th Summer I earned a Waterfront Director position and my life was changed forever.

I was lucky enough to be offered a full time job with Camp Leaders in ’08 and moved up to Liverpool to begin this journey – which I’m still on 10 years later.

It’s hard to put in to words how cultural exchange can impact and change your life, but my god is it important that we all allow ourselves the opportunity to experience its wonder.

Kim H., Exchange Visitor Program: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012; Field of Study: Dance and Professional Practice; Current Position: Head of People and Culture

Special thanks to our partners and friends at Smaller Earth for collaborating on the first international J-Day! 

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.Cenet Logo_Black

Alumni Spotlight: Utku Feruz

Alumni Network | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

Utku Feruz, J-1 Alumnus, participated in a trainee program between June 2010 and December 2011. During his program, Utku was able to improve his English, experience U.S. culture, and enhance his skills and expertise in Information Technology. In recent years, Utku has worked for one of the biggest consulting firms in the world, then moved on to work with one of the top mobile operators in Ukraine. Utku credits much of his success to the invaluable experience he gained during his J-1 cultural exchange program. Utku shares his impressions on his program and cross-cultural exchange below.

 I definitely see the value in cultural exchange. First of all, this experience introduced me a new vision in the IT area. I also had a chance to extend my professional network. I made friends from all around the world by joining this program. I would say that this program helped me to become a citizen of the world.

My exchange program improved my opinion of the U.S. and its people. I met one of my best friends while I was in U.S. and he is American. It was a nice opportunity to get to know the American culture and people.

I was also able to share my culture while on my program. There were a lot of people in my host company from all over the world. This is very unique and important experience in today’s world.

After my program in California, I moved to Ukraine and worked there for 3 years as a software developer. I believe training & living in U.S. brought this opportunity since the company was looking for a software developer with a high English level and experience working abroad.

After three years in Ukraine, I decided to experience something new and found a chance to work for Accenture which is one of the biggest consulting companies in the world. Again, it was really important to have strong English and business skills to be part of Accenture, and I believe my U.S. experience played a major role in my Accenture experience. I worked for Accenture 2 years in Izmir, Turkey as a Software Engineering Team Leader.

I moved back to Ukraine recently and I am working for one of the biggest mobile operators in Ukraine as a Software Engineer.

My primary expectation from my exchange program was to gain American business life experience which would be a huge plus for my career. It was also a good opportunity to meet with people from different cultures.

Through my program, I found out that I can work abroad, make contributions to the host community, and create a new life in a country where I did not live before.

Cultural exchange is one of the most effective ways for people to integrate with foreign communities. I believe cultural exchange will be a necessity in the future rather than an option because the world we are living in is going to be an entirely different place in terms of technology, art and humanity due to the effects of the globalization on our daily lives.

As the borders between countries are get thinner day by day in today’s globalized world, It is necessary to get rid of the borders in our minds in order to understand the future of the humanity. Being a world citizen plays the major role in this manner because we are the ones who would influence the people around us by sharing our cultural exchange experiences. We represent the idea that cultural differences actually enhance a community instead of destroying it. Diversity is what we need to understand each other.

Utku Feruz

Software Engineer | J-1 Alumnus | Global Citizen 

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Utku Feruz

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.

J-1 Success Story: Sarah Sampaio

Alumni Profile | #CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

In September 2012, Sarah Sampaio traveled from Brazil to participate in a 1-year cultural exchange program in the United States. Due to a chance encounter during her J-1 trainee program, Sarah was inspired to pursue a career in academia. Today, Sarah is a PhD student in London; her research revolves around women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil and changing gender roles. Sarah was recently awarded a grant that will enable her to return to South America to conduct research and collect data. In her contribution below, Sarah Sampaio shares the meaningful impact cross-cultural exchange has had on her life.

I decided to participate in the J-1 program to obtain more professional experience and learn about practices and culture in the United States. To me, the idea that I could have cultural and life knowledge along with professional experience in one program really attracted me to the J-1 status.

The program showed me that I was a lot stronger than I had given myself credit for. It also made me more independent and proactive in my learning and professional experiences. It gave me the opportunity to build rapport with people from different cultural, socio-economic and professional backgrounds and it inspired me to learn from my colleagues and build a solid work relationship and even friendships. Since my J-1 program completed in 2013, I am still in contact with the friends I made in Salt Lake City, UT while living there, even though I’ve been living, pursuing my PhD and working in London for the past 2 years. I made friends for life and learned so much.

There is absolute value in cultural exchange. It’s not just about improving one’s professional or language skills – it’s about growing as a person and broadening one’s horizons. Meeting other cultures, different traditions and customs transforms your life as you start seeing things from a different angle, by other people’s perspectives. You return home a better, more complete person because a cultural exchange makes you realize that the world is big and you can explore it, change your life and maybe change someone else’s life in return. And a hopefully, when your cultural exchange is over, your experience can motivate others to get to know other cultures, travel and leave their comfort zones.

My program improved my views of the U.S. and its people. I made so many great friends during my program in Salt Lake City. They treated me like family and made me feel less homesick, more welcomed and like I belonged there. They always listened to what I had to say and made me feel valued, made me feel like my culture and experience mattered.

I was also able to share my culture during my program. From Brazilian food to teaching them Portuguese, my friends and colleagues were very eager to learn about my country, my family, our customs and traditions. We had great fun!

Since January 2016 I have been pursuing my PhD in Business at the CEEDR – Centre for Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Research at Middlesex University London. After a long and thorough application process with interviews and PhD proposals submissions, I was awarded a scholarship and a stipend to pursue my PhD at Middlesex University in London. I am also a member of the Royal Geographical Institute and the Regional Studies Association here in the UK and also teach modules on Business and Entrepreneurship here at the university.

My research revolves around women’s entrepreneurship in Brazil, the business/household nexus and how the business-venture is changing gender roles in the household. I’m in my second year and have presented my work at several academic conferences and institutions across the UK. This year I have also been awarded a grant by the University of Barcelona (INCASI program) to go to South America for 2 months to do my research data collection in August 2017.

I truly believe that the only reason I am now pursuing my dream and building a solid career in academia was due to my international experiences. Without my first summer camp in Canada when I was 15 and years later my J-1 program in Salt Lake City, UT through CENET, I probably wouldn’t have achieved everything I have so far, simply because my horizons would be so limited without those opportunities. I’ve met people, friends and professionals that taught me so much, not only work-related matters, but life lessons. I improved my language skills, my professional skills and grew as a person, with more independence and strength to face the world and its many challenges. The friends and my boss from SLC are still in contact, we talk quite often. I know their families and was I part of many barbecues and dinners and those memories will stay with me forever.

I have an interesting story from my J-1 time, a story that defined a moment, when I finally realized that I wanted a career in academia. One evening, during my J-1 program time, I went to have dinner at one of my favorite restaurants downtown SLC. I got a table by myself and was looking at the menu when a North-American lady approached me and asked if the restaurant was worth the wait in the line. We started talking and I offered her to sit at my table. During our conversation and dinner, I learned that she is a famous children’s book author and was in SLC to promote her newest book. During our talk she said, “I don’t know, but it seems like you should be a professor. It seems like your heart is in it. You should go for it.” Our talk opened my eyes about what I wanted to do as a career… and that’s when I decided what my next step would be.

And that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been talking to someone from a different culture, different background in a different country. Those experiences only happen if you are given the opportunity. And CENET and the U.S gave me that opportunity, hopefully they’ll continue to do so for many other across the world.

I would like to thank CENET for all the support and services they provide to students and professionals all over the world. The opportunity I received through my J-1 program was truly remarkable. I am rooting for CENET and other companies that continue their efforts to keep the US a multi-cultural, diverse country. Diversity is vital for a just society and hopefully CENET can continue to provide that to students and companies.

– Sarah Sampaio

PhD candidate at CEEDR/Middlesex University London, Member of the Royal Geographical Society UK, Member of the Regional Studies Association UK

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.

 

CENET’s First 100 Days

Op-Ed By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 #ExchangesImpact

I believe it was the wise words of Alabama that once proclaimed “you can’t keep a good man down.” And that’s exactly what’s happening here. Thanks Randy Owen. I’m not certain the song was written for this moment in time, but it could be. It is, after all, 2017– the year of anything is possible.

Due to events that will not be named in this apolitical post (hint: it started in November), it’s safe to say there’s been some recent challenges presented to the exchange community.

In the midst of adversity, it’s as though Alabama (the band) was singing directly to Missouri (the state), and we got to work. Although it felt like our course became uphill, we continued in forward-movement towards our goals.

Below is a snapshot of CENET’s first 100 Days; 100 days well spent, endeavoring to inspire a safer, more prosperous and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration.


Local:

CENET started the year in our new office, with our new website, with our old staff holding some new titles, and some new staff joining the team. We also welcomed a new J-1 category. It was like we won the lottery. But better because we didn’t get the curse that goes along with all lottery wins (source: the internet).

We also provided Culture in the Classroom sessions for 530 students, impacting 31 classrooms at 3 schools with 9 different presenters sharing their unique cultural backgrounds. A special presentation in Oran attracted media attention from the Southeast Missourian  and KFVS coverage; the session also had support from the offices of Senator Blunt and Representative Smith.

CENET hosted a Welcome Reception in our office space, to share our mission with new friends and long-time supporters. Over 150 community members joined us to sample international cuisine and wine & beer selections from around the world.

On April 27, over 40 CENET supporters gathered at Hedman Vineyards for a special culinary and wine event celebrating Swedish culture and raising funds for Culture in the Community. The funds raised at the event will be directed to sending area youth to the world-renowned Concordia Language Villages for 2017 summer programs.

In addition, CENET hosted a local Chamber of Commerce After-Hours event, presented at the women’s Optimist Club in Jackson, sponsored “Carnaval Night: Welcome to Rio” as part of SEMO of the World, welcomed various visiting partners from around the world, and hosted a Magellan University member from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences.

 


Regional:

In Branson, CENET cohosted the J-1 Community Forum, and the Branson Lakes Area Lodging Association’s monthly meeting. CENET was also selected to present at the County Partnership’s Workforce Summit. Community members in Branson are highly supportive, with the Branson Mayor and the office of Representative Billy Long regularly attending J-1 related events. CENET’s Regional Director, support staff, fellow sponsors, and community members continue to prepare for another successful summer season in Branson.


National:

We began the year with a visit to our west coast partners to provide J-1 education and training on our new website.

To connect within the exchange community and to gain valuable insight into the Camp Counselor program, CENET attended the American Camp Association Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Once again, CENET participated in Advocacy Day. CENET and fellow Alliance members visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill to advocate on behalf of J-1 exchanges.

Recently, CENET had the privilege of participating in a volunteer project in Wisconsin Dells, which attracted approximately 360 winter work and travel exchange participants; the following day, CENET attended the Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.


International:

CENET staff members have visited international partners in the United Kingdom, Budapest, Prague, Bratislava, and Warsaw, while also attended hiring fairs throughout Europe and the Dominican Republic. In addition, an alumni gathering was held in the Dominican Republic.

Magellan member universities, Aachen University of Applied Sciences and Zuyd University of Applied Sciences, also received CENET visits.

CENET attended the WETM conference in Munich, Germany.


Looking Ahead: 

As we move forward, CENET will continue to dedicate ourselves to programs that inspire a safer, more prosperous, and compassionate world through international education and cultural exploration. We will also continue to advocate for exchange programs and initiatives that promote global knowledge, cultural sensitivity, peaceful solutions. Should you be interested in learning more about CENET programs or how to get involved, please contact CENET.

And if you aren’t sure what CENET is or how you got on this page, you should probably go watch the Alabama Can’t Keep a Good Man Down video. You earned it.

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.

 

Alumni Spotlight: Chef Maria Mastrangelo

By Leslie Corn

CENET Alumni | J-1 Success Stories #CENETJ1

Congratulations to CENET alumnus, Chef Mastrangelo, on the opening of her restaurant Ambrosia on April 15!

In 2012, Maria Mastrangelo participated in the J-1 trainee program in New York City. Since her program’s completion, she has returned to Italy, where she is now achieving her dream of opening her own restaurant.

Recently, CENET was able to catch up with Chef Mastrangelo; she shared feedback about her J-1 cultural exchange program and its impact on her career.

I participated in a J-1 program because I already had a Master’s degree in hospitality and coming to the USA gave me an opportunity to grow. The program improved my knowledge and opened my mind more than any book or school. I see cultural exchanges as fundamental for growth. Participating in my program improved my perception of the U.S. and its people. It was a dream and an opportunity to live the U.S. way of life. I had chances to speak to friends and colleagues about my culture and different possibilities in life and career.

I am opening a restaurant in Italy thanks to my CENET J-1 program which improved my skills and now I am called Chef.

– CHEF Mastrangelo, J-1 Program Alumnus  

You can check out the Ambrosia website here.

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.

CENET Visits Partners, Participants, and Alumni in the Dominican Republic

By Leslie Corn

Partners| Participants| Employers| Alumni #CENETJ1

CENET had the privilege of visiting two of our valued partners in the Dominican Republic. During the trip, CENET was able to meet many of our future participants and provide orientations for over 150 Work and Travel students. In addition, six of our host companies were represented on the trip, allowing all major program stakeholders to meet in person to lay the groundwork for a successful summer season.

Another highlight of the visit included an alumni dinner with CENET’s former participants.

To check out a video and photos from CENET’s trip, please see the gallery below:

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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Budapest Reunion Draws Over 1100 J-1 Alumni

By Leslie Corn

Resort Leaders | #CENETJ1 #J1Alumni

BUDAPEST– On October 7, 1100+ J-1 Alumni gathered at the Bálna event center in Budapest to celebrate the close of another successful summer. Decked out in a prom-themed dress code, the attendees ranged from first-year alumni to those who completed programs over a decade ago. 

In addition to Hungarian alumni, four other countries were represented at the celebration: Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the United Kingdom. Approximately 100 program staff attended the reunion, including representatives from Smaller Earth USA and CENET.

Live music & a DJ kept the dance floor packed throughout the evening; a photo booth and raffles were also crowd favorites. An event highlight occurred when Smaller Earth CEO, Bastian Weinberger, addressed the crowd before a video played showcasing summer highlights from the newest alumni, freshly returned from their J-1 exchange programs in America.

Special thanks to our partners at Smaller Earth & their Hungarian office (Camp Leaders/Resort Leaders) for coordinating the reunion, as they have done for over 11 years. CENET served as a first-time event sponsor. Several event photos courtesy of Smaller Earth. Thank you for including CENET in such an amazing event! 

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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