Our winter CIEE Work & Travel USA students are arriving and our summer participants just experienced a summer they’ll always remember and cherish! The reminders of their cultural exchange experiences are still appearing daily on our social media accounts – such as Instagram where pictures are flagged with the hashtag #CIEEWorkTravelers – as they share their summer with CIEE and the world.
We also had a period of uncertainty about the future of the J-1 Summer Work Travel program (and other J-1 cultural exchange programs). CIEE thanks you, our employers, for your support in advocating for the importance of this program, which is essential to businesses, communities, and lives across this country. The stories you shared, along with your calls and emails to elected officials, have sent a strong message. This program is invaluable to your business and communities and is a highly impactful public diplomacy tool. The outpouring of support for J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed, and while we cannot predict what the future holds, we are optimistic. With this in mind, CIEE and the J-1 community are moving forward. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we also remain focused on providing the best programs and experiences for all our stakeholders – our employers, our International Representatives, the communities we live in, and, most importantly, our students. On November 16, we invited you to join us on a conference call to provide an update on advocacy and the landscape of the program. For those who attended, thank you for joining. If you missed this and would like additional information, please email me and I’d be happy to share the content.
In this edition of Exchanges, you’ll read more about how CIEE is moving forward! You will learn about the industry’s advocacy efforts and how CIEE is educating, training, and preparing our network of International Representatives to recruit the best students and set expectations that will lead to successful programs. We also share how CIEE is engaging our alumni to tell their stories about program impact. Finally, we have information to prepare our winter employers to welcome our participants who are about to embark on their cultural exchange journey.
Thank you for taking the time to read the important updates below, and for your commitment to and focus on the future health of CIEE Work & Travel USA. You are valuable partners and help contribute to impactful cultural exchange programs. We could not do this without you!
Cara Mills, Director, Employer Relations
In August, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Trump administration was considering significant cuts to or elimination of five J-1 exchange programs, including Summer Work Travel. Since then, the broader international exchange community has come together to defend and support the threatened programs. This effort has driven more than 100,000 letters to the administration and to elected officials, hundreds of media stories, and an internationally-trending #SaveJ1 hashtag. The outpouring of support for the J-1 programs has not gone unnoticed by members of Congress and others. While we continue our advocacy efforts, we are optimistic about the future of J-1 exchanges.
As you know, J-1 exchanges enjoy broad bipartisan support in both houses of Congress and in state and local governments across the country. In the last two months, your calls and emails to your members of Congress have led to two significant legislative actions.
Senator Coons (D-DE) and Senator Murkowski (R-AK) cosponsored an amendment to the Senate Foreign Operations Bill that requires the administration to consult with Congress prior to making any significant changes to the J-1 programs. The legislation also asks for an analysis of the impact on public diplomacy and the economy. The amendment is included in the Senate Appropriations bill, which should be finalized before the end of the year.
In the House of Representatives, Rep. LoBiondo (R-NJ) and Rep. Keating (D-MA) cosponsored House Resolution 529 in support of J-1 Exchange Visitor programs. The resolution currently has 40 cosponsors, with additional members continuing to sign on.
Both of these actions send a strong message to the administration that J-1 programs are vital to the U.S. economy and public diplomacy efforts, and should not be reduced or eliminated.
Since the original Wall Street Journal article, more than 400 domestic and international news articles have been published, the vast majority with a positive view toward exchanges. All of the articles, which you can filter by date and state, are posted online at Americans for Cultural Exchange.
In mid-November, J-1 sponsors came together for the Alliance Annual Meeting, which included presentations and panels from U.S. Department of State leadership. This meeting is a platform for the international exchange community to engage in programmatic and policy discussions with representatives from key government agencies. The overall tone of the meeting was positive, and U.S. Department of State representatives emphasized that we are continuing with business as usual for all programs.
For host employers, the best thing you can do is continue to offer participants a great experience. The excellence of our programs and employers are our best defense. For those interested in becoming more involved in advocacy efforts, we encourage you to join Americans for Cultural Exchange. The website includes talking points, a primer for visiting elected officials, and other useful advocacy resources. If you are interested in learning more, please contact CIEE.
On September 18 and 19, CIEE hosted an International Representative Forum with more than 100 attendees from nearly 50 countries for two days of training and meetings with CIEE staff at our headquarters in Portland, Maine. At this year’s forum, there was a focus on J-1 program advocacy and ways to keep student confidence in the program strong for the seasons ahead. CIEE hosts the forum biennially for Work Exchanges’ representatives to keep them unified, engaged, as well as up to speed on the latest program and policy updates. This allows us to set clear expectations for CIEE’s high performance standards.
CIEE currently has a CIEE Work & Travel USA representative network of 93 agencies recruiting in 64 countries and we continue to reach out and expand our network into new markets to further program accessibility, as well as fulfill our mission of reaching a diverse range of participants.
CIEE representatives are our ears on the ground in sending countries; they share feedback with CIEE about student and university system trends, as well as maintain close relationships with U.S. embassies to facilitate positive visa results. Since CIEE International Representatives are the first point of contact for prospective students, it is critical they are well-trained to screen for the best candidates, provide clear and accurate program expectations, and promote the program in a constructive and accurate light. That is why we provide ongoing training to and are in constant communication with our representatives; it ensures they are up to speed on the latest CIEE policies and procedures.
f you mention the word alumni to a CIEE Work & Travel USA participant, you’ll likely be met with a quizzical look. Why? Because this is a new concept to the majority of CIEE Work & Travel USA participants. Fortunately, CIEE is working to change that!
Many CIEE Work & Travel USA alumni return to their home countries and go on to have exceptional careers, working as change makers in their communities and around the world. This is often a direct result of their program participation and experiences. By connecting and engaging with our alumni, CIEE collects stories that demonstrate the benefits of program participation, highlighting the positive impact of our program. These stories add value for students, employers, and communities; they also enhance the importance of U.S. public diplomacy, which ensures program sustainability. As an alum of CIEE Work & Travel USA, our participants understand the power of international exchange: they come from all over the world to America to learn skills and share cultures. Not only do they return home better prepared to make a difference, but they become advocates for international exchange! Their stories matter; their programs matter. That is why engaging with our alumni is so important.
How do we engage?
After the program ends, participants are invited to join the CIEE Alumni Global Network. Here they can network with other CIEE alumni, gain professional experiences and resources, and learn about upcoming local CIEE alumni gatherings and online events. CIEE has a network of over 350,000 alumni from across our family of programs living and working in 170 countries around the world. This includes 220,660 Work & Travel USA alumni. Not only do we reach out to our alumni, but there are several ways they can connect with us, too: the CIEE Alumni website, the CIEE Alumni Instagram account, and the Work & Travel USA Ambassadors LinkedIn group. Even the U.S. State Department has an International Exchange Alumni group.
How can you help?
If your past participants are making change in their world, contact CIEE and also encourage these participants to get in touch with us directly to share their stories! Not only is storytelling a great way to reflect on the program experience, but it gives CIEE the chance to collect and share text, photos, and/or videos from alumni who want to tell others. In fact, to celebrate CIEE’s 70th anniversary, we went out to all our program alumni asking for stories. Atenea Rios Buzo, a CIEE Work & Travel USA participant from Glacier Park, won our video contest! This video speaks to the power of the program and the impact it has on our participants. By engaging our alumni, more stories like Atenea’s can be shared with the world and our program can continue to change lives.
It’s time to lay the groundwork for a successful winter season! Below are some best practices for communicating with your winter students, CIEE, and important program reminders and tips about how to facilitate a lasting cultural exchange experience with your students.
Connect With Your Winter Students
Your students are undoubtedly excited and nervous to meet you! Whether they just arrived or will arrive soon, it is important to open the lines of communication now to ensure a positive experience for everyone. If your students have not arrived yet, be sure to include the following in your welcome email:
Below are a few things to remind students about within the first few days of arrival:
You will also want to check-in with your students regarding these items:
Stay Connected with CIEE
Please contact us at any time; however, it’s especially important to contact us in these situations:
Cultural exchange is the core of the CIEE Work & Travel USA program. As an employer, you have a fantastic opportunity to cultivate this exchange, which will help students understand what makes the United States special.
Here are some winter activity ideas:
Prepare Your Frontline and Domestic Staff
If you did not get a chance to join us for the CIEE Work & Travel USA Fundamentals webinar, please view this 20-minute recording. The webinar provides you, your supervisors, and frontline staff the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders, how to be an impactful cultural ambassador, and discusses the best practices for a successful winter. This is a great opportunity to get your team ready for the busy winter season.
If you and/or your managers would like to have a more extensive training to assist in effectively managing international students, watch our 30-minute webinar: Diving Deeper Into Cultures. Learn how to suspend judgement by adopting a practical tool and resource (D.I.V.E), which can help you and/or your managers become more effective during intercultural interactions.
As always, thank you so much for all that you do!