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.

 

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
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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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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:

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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.