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.
On August 28, Spirit organized a tour of the Alaska Sea Life Center for all 11 participants living in the Seward area. This location serves to rehabilitate, release and educate the public about local wildlife. Some of the center’s exhibits include puffins, sea lions; touch tanks, art work and many different types of fish. The group learned about the puffin, which participants were shocked to see dive down in the tanks and swim with the fish. Participants were able to see the animals up close and learn about their presence in Alaska. All of the participants loved watching the sea lion swimming through the tanks and then coming up so close to the glass. The participants compared the types of animals they have in their home countries to the wildlife they have seen in Alaska - the most common was the raven, which is everywhere in Seward!
At the end of our tour, we discussed the upcoming visit of President Obama to the area! Many of the participants are working at a hotel that was preparing for the arrival of Secret Service staff (and potentially the President). We talked about how unique of an experience it is to see the President, as many Americans never have that opportunity. They were all very excited and were hoping to catch a glimpse of him during his trip. Participants purchased souvenirs at the center’s gift shop before traveling home.