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.
Spirit took two participants to Six Flags Great America Amusement Park in Baltimore, Maryland. The participants' employer had given them free tickets to the amusement park, and they visited the park with their representative, Jessica Jackson, who provided them with free transportation to the park.
During the drive to the amusement park, the participants spoke about their experiences in the United States so far and their future travel plans. Mircea Moisoiu, a Romanian participant, was especially talkative and spoke about all of the different kinds of people he’s met while working the cash register at a fast food restaurant. He mentioned that earlier in the summer he lost his passport and had to go to Washington DC to get a new one. He said, “I’m glad I lost it because I never would have gone to DC otherwise. It was amazing!” He spoke about getting lost around the National Mall and getting to speak with Americans who were eager to help him with directions. He also said that once his program is over, he has two goals: 1) Visit Las Vegas and 2) Sit in an American muscle car.
Neither of the participants had ever been on a rollercoaster, so they were very nervous upon arrival. However, their nerves eventually turned into excitement and the participants rode every ride at the amusement park and water park! Mircea kept referring to how friendly and helpful everyone at the amusement park was. He said, “This is what I want to bring back to Romania. In Romania, no one smiles or talks to you.” Both of participants loved the American super hero theme of Six Flags and took several pictures of themselves all over the park.
At the end of the day, the two participants seemed a bit overwhelmed by the whole experience. They were exhausted and sad that the day was over, but very thankful for the experience. Ugur Korkmaz, a Turkish participant, said, “This was the best day of my entire program!” To which Mircea responded, “Program? This is the best day of my life!” They thanked Spirit and their employer profusely and said they couldn’t wait to brag about the day to their friends.
After this event, we received the longest Monthly Check-in report in Spirit history from Mircea in which he detailed every single ride and water slide. At the end, he wrote:
"Well dear Spirit, this happen at Six Flags and thank you for the amazing adventure! It was a really cool day and the best day so far in United States of America. What an amazing adventure! I’m happy that I finally know how what it is to ride a roller coaster… thank you again. And thank you Jessica [Spirit representative]. I still owe you $1 and I didn’t forget, but maybe in case if you will come to Romania I can repay you with a tour of my city where I live."
This activity, though very small in attendees, was a huge success. The participants had the time of their lives experiencing their first rollercoasters at Six Flags Great America.