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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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

For more Alumni news and updates, please visit the following:

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Alumni Network Spotlight

By Leslie Corn

J-1 Intern | Global Citizen from the Philippines

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In 2014, Rex Fernando began a 1-year hospitality internship in the United States. Today, Rex is back in the Philippines where he owns his own pastry shop. He also serves as a part-time instructor for aspiring chefs. Rex credits his J-1 program for equipping him with the skills and knowledge necessary to operate his own successful business, and to teach emerging hospitality professionals in his home country.

Through CENET’s Alumni Network, Rex shared the following details about his J-1 experience in the United States:

The J-1 internship program greatly influenced my career up to now because the training was very helpful in making me more knowledgeable of the industry I’m in. An example would be my creative pastry work that has been strongly influenced by the best chefs I trained under.

The program changed me in a sense that I feel that I’m more sensitive to
different cultures now than I was before. It change my inexperienced life to
see more and to have more understanding. It was a significant time for me.

I believe it’s a necessity to familiarize yourself with different cultures
in a way that allows the harmony of relationships to be present because of the clarity
of different backgrounds. To see one’s self in the other more by
going deeper with conversations.

I would definitely recommend the J-1 program to others. I want them to experience
the journey of becoming independent, and all the fun first experiences they will surely
remember. You must lose yourself to know yourself.

For more Alumni news and updates, please join CENET’s alumni network:

https://www.facebook.com/J1Alumni

https://www.linkedin.com/groups/8484954

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.