Spring is here! As we are well into 2019, we continue to be committed to high-quality cultural exchange experiences for your business and our participants. This past year, we saw a measurable jump in participant satisfaction rates – up eight percentage points from the previous year. I want to thank you for your role in this. We could not do any of this without you, and we truly believe we work with the very best host employers!
As we jump head first into 2019, we will continue to strive for this high level of excellence. CIEE is continuing to support participants who may not otherwise be able to participate on our program though Access Scholarships. Also, we remain active and involved in the health of the program through various advocacy efforts.
With it being a new year, we have some resolutions and exciting initiatives on the horizon as well:
As always, thank you for your continued commitment to cultural exchange. We could not do it without you!
Yumer Mestan is like most students interested in the Work & Travel USA program. On paper, his resume looks similar to other participants: he enjoys drawing, reading books, and is eager to experience living and working in the United States. But there is one difference: Yumer is deaf. Yumer applied for the program having strong written and reading English language abilities. However, having never been in an English-speaking environment, his learning curve was reading lips in English, a unique challenge that most participants do not face. Despite this, Yumer was determined to make this program experience a reality. Thanks to Atlantic Management Holiday Inn Express in Bethany Beach, Delaware, he was able to! Through his Work & Travel USA job placement, Yumer got to experience the American way of life: from his first Pride Parade in D.C., to seeing the Washington Monument, to a job opportunity that allowed him to feel proud and independent. Below, we hear from his host employer on why their participation in the program means opening their doors to students from different backgrounds and cultures…and disabilities.
Atlantic Management Holiday Inn Express Bethany Beach:
Why Work & Travel USA?
We get to bring students from different backgrounds, makes us more culturally aware, I believe it’s something that our guests accept and enjoy. We get to learn about other countries and they get to learn about the United States before they go onto their other careers.
Can we explore the positives for hiring a participant with a disability such as Yumer?
With Yumer’s situation, he was here earlier than other students, so I got to know him better and he was very open and gave me a lot of background information about how he has been disowned by his family because of being deaf and his sexuality. We gave him the weekend off and he got to go to DC to experience Pride weekend. He told me that was the happiest he has ever been in his whole life. He brought back pictures and he brought me back a bracelet. He has pictures in front of the Washington Monument and he told me that was the moment that he finally found his sense of self. I was so happy for him and he literally smiled for two days straight and told me he had never been able to experience somewhere where everyone was like him and no one judged him because of his disability. He said that he also might have never been able to experience that at home and it took coming to the United States to have that life changing opportunity. It’s not the normal there and it is the normal and accepted here.
Where there any challenges you have faced?
Yes, with employees and guests. There was one situation with a guest that was trying to get his attention in the hallway and didn’t even realize he was deaf. She complained to me and I explained to her why he did not respond. The guest did feel bad about it because she was being very rude but understood. I had to tweak his employment then because he was in housekeeping. I thought maybe he would be better in laundry. He still had a lot of interaction because our laundry department is centralized, and everyone comes in and out through the department. That was a good fit for him and he still gets to go upstairs and do his thing but has less pressure of rude guests.
What does it feel like to have Yumer on your team?
I am proud of it and I feel he is a good fit for us. He comes every day with a positive attitude and a huge smile on his face, works very hard and that is what I need on my team. He is a team player and there is no negative to having Yumer as part of my team.
Any general statement that you want to say about the program?
I am a true advocate of the program. We do have some negativity from guest utilizing the students, but I don’t pay attention to the guests. These guest regardless…some people you just can’t make happy. I explain to them that unfortunately sometimes there are language barriers, but they are not trying to ignore you or being rude, but they can come down and ask us to get done whatever they need. We communicate with the students daily, so we will get done what the guest needs.
Yumer returned home, after a busy travel period (he told us he enjoyed New York City)! He now has great stories to tell about inclusion and opportunity for all in America. People with disabilities face hurdles in Bulgaria but, according to Yumer, “…In the United States, people accept me for who I am and do not look down on me. …I had the opportunity to do this by myself, I feel proud and independent. The advice I would give would be for people to not be afraid, it is an experience that you have to try.” Be on the lookout for more of Yumer’s story on CIEE’s Exchanges blog.
It’s participants like Yumer that remind us how access to this program is so vital towards our mission of inclusion, diversity and access to exchange to achieve public diplomacy. This is one of the reasons why CIEE is proud to continue our CIEE Access Scholarships. Generous donations from employers and individuals like you make this program possible. Please consider donating so that Access Scholars – high achieving international students from all over the world – have the opportunity to gain skills, competencies, and the experience necessary to contribute positively to our global community.
If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it. Different perspectives are so important – a participant, a supervisor, a guest or a community member. We know the impact of this program has a ripple effect and we cannot capture a full story without hearing from our host employers. Please share your stories with us! You can reply directly to the email or contact your International Recruitment Consultant. We look forward to hearing from you.
By Lauren Kelly, Manager, Participant Experience and Sandi Taylor, International Recruitment Consultant
The New Congress
In the final week of December, Congress was sworn into office, which included 111 new senators and representatives. Democrats now have the majority in the House, and elected Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker. Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate by three seats.
With Democrats in control of the House, the makeup of committees has shifted, with Democrats taking chairmanships in all committees.
The CIEE Government Relations team has been reaching out to new Members of Congress who may or may not already be familiar with the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program and the impact of SWT in their states/districts. We continue to focus on building program champions, especially in states and districts where we have large numbers of participants, and members with important committee assignments. With mixed party affiliation between the House, the Senate and the White House, we believe there may be some energy to address immigration policy, which could impact exchange programs, but any major legislation will face an uphill climb.
Spring is appropriations requests season, so in the last several weeks we have been reaching out to Members asking for their support in retaining the Exchange Visitor Program provision in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The provision, the result of our strong collective advocacy efforts in the fall of 2017, acts as a legal safeguard for valuable exchange programs including Summer Work Travel. We helped organize sign-ons for a business support of the provision, and the final letters gathered more than 200 supporters! Thanks to all who signed on. You can see the final letters here: House, Senate.
Maryland SB 526 and HB 1493
In the spring of 2018 a bill was put forward in the Maryland State Legislature that, if passed, would effectively eliminate SWT and other J-1 exchange programs with a work component in the state. Our coalition, consisting of the Alliance for International Exchange, program sponsors, Maryland host employers and host families, Chambers of Commerce and local leaders worked together to advocate against the bill, and it never advanced beyond committees in both chambers.
Anticipating the bill’s reintroduction in the 2019 session, CIEE engaged Cornerstone Government Relations, a consulting company with a strong presence in Annapolis. We laid groundwork following the November election, notifying bill sponsors and committee chairs of the exchange community’s concerns. In January Phil and Erica traveled to Annapolis to meet with the bill sponsors, and learned definitively that they do not intend to advance the legislation in 2019, in large part due to efforts by CIEE and others. They plan to revisit the issue in the 2020 session, so we will continue to monitor and engage as necessary.
Alliance for International Exchange Annual Meeting
2018 marked the 25th year of the Alliance for International Exchange, the public policy and advocacy organization that represents CIEE and other sponsors of the Exchange Visitor Program. More than a dozen CIEE staff attended, representing SWT, High School, Intern and Trainee, and Camp Counselor.
A highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Assistant Secretary Marie Royce, who oversees the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State (ECA). In her speech she outlined the Administration’s National Security Goals and ECA’s bureau strategy to address those goals. These included advancing foreign policy objectives through flexible, responsive exchange programs, increasing Americans’ global competitiveness, and achieving greater efficiency. There is also a strong focus on increasing access to exchange programs for underrepresented groups and individuals, and enhanced alumni engagement. We were encouraged to learn more about ECA’s priorities: we feel that CIEE’s goals are closely aligned with them and will work together with ECA to advance them in the years to come.
The target release date for the SWT Final Rule (new regulations governing the program) was moved to December 2018, (previously targeted for February 2018, then pushed to June 2018), but has not yet been issued. Given this timing, the new regulation is not likely not to impact summer 2019 programs. We will let you know as we learn more.
By Erica Carley Harris, Manager, Government & Public Affairs
Meet CIEE’s International Recruitment Coordinator team! Our team of 6 coordinators and 1 manager is part of the Employer Relations team and works in conjunction with the International Recruitment Consultants to provide high quality service to our Host Employers. In addition to taking the lead on your student in-country issues throughout the season, behind the scenes this team owns many operational tasks which include:
With interviewing and hiring being such a large part of this team’s responsibilities, here are a few impressive stats from last year’s summer 2018 hiring season:
For this upcoming summer season, the team has been busy again with virtual interviews. They have interviewed 800+ participants virtually and this number grows every day. They also have a busy upcoming travel schedule with 60 upcoming days on the road taking them throughout Europe, Asia, and South America to recruit and hire students for your business.
Without this team, your jobs would not be marketed to participants, participants would not be hired, and student in-country issues would not be resolved!
By Sarah Flynn, International Recruitment Coordinator