Cultural Exchange is the cornerstone of our J-1 program. We plan for at least 2 cultural activities a month, which means we have thousands of participants across the United States experiencing local culture. Cultural activities increase in the participant’s emotional ties to the community they’re living and working in, strengthens the relationships with their colleagues, and introduces Americans to invaluable experiences from the participant’s home culture.
We invited our J-1 participants in Illinois to watch a Chicago White Sox baseball game at U.S. Cellular Field with our staff on Monday, August 10. None of the 13 Spirit participants in attendance had ever watched an American baseball game. Our participants live in the suburbs of Chicago, Tinley Park and Des Plaines, and have become very comfortable navigating public transportation to visit Chicago on their days off. Participants either took the Metra or Red Line to meet Spirit staff members at U.S. Cellular Field. Two of our Chinese participants visited China Town before meeting us at the stadium. They purchased many souvenirs but admitted that the food back home was much better. Many of the participants received a free White Sox t-shirt when they arrived as part of the stadium’s promotion.
Participants took their seats alongside Spirit staff members and asked questions about the basics of baseball prior to the game. Spirit also provided participants with informational sheets about the rules of baseball. Within the first few innings of the same, the Chicago White Sox had scored three homeruns and the stadium was bursting with loud fans and fireworks. The participants grew very excited and began asking more questions to further understand the game. Participants were treated to all-beef hot dogs and popcorn – American baseball stadium food staples, of course. Throughout the game, participants chatted with Spirit staff members, took plenty of pictures and explored the concourse area.
Just two weeks before, three of the participants had also volunteered with Spirit staff members for the Rock the Night 5K Race at Soldier Field and were excited to recognize so many faces. Before leaving the stadium, the entire group took pictures together with the Chicago skyline as a backdrop.