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 Hosts Culture in the Community Benefit

By Leslie Corn

Culture in the Community | #CENETJ1 #CITC

ALTO PASS, IL– On April 27, 45 community members attended “Taste of Sweden,” a culinary and wine event benefitting CENET’s local program, Culture in the Community.

The event was held at Hedman Vineyards, operated by Swedish natives, Gerd and Anders Hedman. Each ticket included a 3-course dinner with wine pairings and a welcome drink. Guests were provided with a brief overview of Culture in the Community by CENET Executive Director, Robyn Walker, as well as a menu description by Gerd Hedman. A former Rotary high school exchange student, Amelia Blakely, also shared about her exchange experience in Sweden.

Proceeds from a “Taste of Sweden” will be used to provide scholarships for area students to attend the world-renowned language immersion programs offered by Concordia Language Villages. 

Thank you to the community members who supported “Taste of Sweden.” Special thanks to Secutive for sponsoring a portion of the evening, and to Hedman Vineyards for donating the event space.

To learn more about Culture in the Community or to be added to our mailing list, please contact CENET.

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.

 

CENET Volunteers at Community Event in Wisconsin Dells

By Leslie Corn

Community Support Groups | #CENETJ1

CENET recently traveled to Wisconsin Dells to volunteer at a local event for Work and Travel students and to attend The Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum.

Prior to the forum, CENET volunteered at a community event that attracted approximately 360 Work and Travel students. The event provided ice skating and dinner, at no charge to the participants. Volunteers from Bridgepoint Church, community members, and several sponsor representatives helped make the event a success.

 

The following day, CENET attended The Wisconsin Dells Annual Employer and Community Forum. The morning began with a welcome address from Mayor Brian Landers, followed by a presentation from Department of State official, Shelia Grant; Grant’s session included a program overview, regulatory updates, and suggested best practices. After the presentation, breakout sessions took place, emphasizing cultural events, safety & transportation, social security, and the community support group.

The local media covered the forum; the piece may be read here.

To learn more about the event, or to inquire about a J-1 community support group in your area, please contact CENET  

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.

Culture in the Classroom Provides Presentations for 200 Local High School Students

By Leslie Corn

Local Impact | #CITC #CENETJ1

SIKESTON, MO– On Wednesday, March 29, Culture in the Classroom visited the Spanish classrooms at Sikeston High School.

Approximately 200 students were provided authentic, international education, with a focus on Costa Rican culture. CENET staff member and native of Costa Rica, Brayan Rueda, shared about the geography, language, and customs of his home culture. A highlight of the visit included a sampling of gallo pinto, a Costa Rican cuisine, paired with fresh limeade; the culinary addition fit into the classroom’s recent unit on foods.

The students were attentive and energetic, and the hosting teachers expressed gratitude to CENET. One teacher shared, “My students loved it…thank you so much! I definitely hope we can continue to do more presentations in the future.”

Culture in the Classroom is part of CENET’s local program, Culture in the Community. The programs utilize Southeast Missouri State University’s exchange students, local residents from other countries, and CENET staff to provide authentic, interactive education about world cultures. Each Culture in the Classroom program offers tailored curriculum to match the needs of the specific school or group. If you are interested in booking a session or learning more about the program, please email cenet@cenet.org or call 573-335-7111 during regular business hours.

CENET will also be hosting an upcoming culinary and wine event, “Taste of Sweden,” an authentic Swedish experience. All proceeds will benefit Culture in Community. For more details or to purchase tickets, please visit: https://tasteofsweden.eventbrite.com

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 Participates in Advocacy Day

By Leslie Corn

Advocacy | #ExchangesImpact #CENETJ1

On March 8-9, approximately 120 representatives from over 40 sponsor organizations gathered in Washington, D.C. to advocate for U.S. State Department exchange programs. The Alliance for International Exchange facilitates Advocacy Day annually; the 2017 event was the largest gathering to date.

The schedule featured educational sessions, messaging training, networking opportunities, and a Congressional Reception. The culminating event occurred when participants visited over 170 congressional offices on Capitol Hill.

There were various objectives for the congressional office visits, but ultimately participants asked elected officials to support and protect Department of State exchange programs.

Each year, over 300,000 exchange visitors come to the U.S. on privately funded exchange programs, representing 200 countries; U.S. Department of State provides funding for an additional 55,000 exchange participants. The U.S. needs both federally and privately-funded programs to have a comprehensive, balanced approach to international exchanges. Conversely, over 313,00 Americans study abroad for academic credit and 10,000+ Americans travel abroad as exchange participants (source: Department of State).

J-1 cultural exchange programs serve as a public diplomacy tool that supports U.S. national security, strengthens the U.S. economy, and increases mutual understanding between the U.S. and other nations. Additional program benefits include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Exchanges help the U.S. engage with countries key to U.S. interests. Exchanges target demographics key to U.S. foreign policy priorities (U.S. Department of State).
  • 565 Current & former heads of foreign governments are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 82 Nobel Prize winners are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 58 ambassadors to the United Nations are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • 89 members of U.S. Congress are exchange alumni (U.S. Department of State).
  • Exchanges bring resources to U.S. communities. International students contributed 32.8 billion to the U.S. economy and supported over 400,000 jobs during the 2015-2016 academic year (NAFSA).
  • Over 1.6 million hours of community service were completed by exchange participants and U.S. hosts (source: U.S. Department of State Evaluations).
  • 94% of students from Muslim-majority countries reported having a deeper, favorable view of American culture after their year in the U.S (U.S. Department of State evaluation of the Youth Exchange and Study (YES) program).
  • A review of 29 reports on public diplomacy revealed that the most common recommendation was to increase funding for, and opportunities to engage in, exchange programs (Congressional Research Service [CSR] Review).
  •  EVP exchanges occur at virtually no cost to the U.S. taxpayer.
  • U.S. Ambassadors consistently rank exchange programs among the most useful catalysts for long-term political change and mutual understanding.

To join CENET and our colleagues in our advocacy efforts, please email or call the CENET office: cenet@cenet.org or 573-335-7111.

Thank you to Mark Taplin, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and Kevin Saba, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange, for participating in the Congressional Reception; thank you to their Department of State colleagues for attending as well. Special thanks to the offices of Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McCaskill, Representative Smith, Representative Long, and Senator Alexander for meeting with the CENET staff to discuss the positive impact of international exchange programs. 

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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CENET Attends ACA Conference

By Leslie Corn

#CENETJ1 | Camp Counselor

On February 21-24, CENET staff attended the American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Through ACA sessions and networking opportunities, CENET gained valuable insight that will further strengthen its J-1 Camp Counselor program. Special thanks to officials from the U.S. Department of State for participating in a panel discussion regarding the J-1 Camp Counselor program category, followed by individual meetings with designated sponsors. Per the ACA website , the following Department of State representatives were in attendance:

  • Diane Culkin: Diane is the Division Chief in the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation.  The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Jacqueline Chisolmn: Jacqueline is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Program Administration.  The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Deena Pinckney-Cooper: Deena is the Lead Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation. The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.
  • Jennifer Nupp: Jennifer is a Program Analyst with the U.S. Department of State Office of Private Sector Exchange — Office of Designation. The Department oversees and administers the Exchange Visitor (J) non-immigrant visa which includes J-1 Summer Work Travel and Camp Counselor visas.

*Lauren Grimes was also in attendance and participated in CENET’s sponsor meeting.

Check out photos from CENET’s week at ACA 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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