On August 5th, Spirit Cultural Exchange joined organizations and communities all across the United States in celebrating Exchange Day 2019. This nationwide event celebrates the power of international exchanges and provides an opportunity to raise awareness of educational and cultural exchange programs. This year, Spirit hosted an Exchange Day event in Okoboji, Iowa, and attended other events in Chicago and the Wisconsin Dells. You can read more about this amazing day below!
Exchange Day in Okoboji
Under the motto “Eat. Play. Give.” our event in Okoboji provided international exchange program participants and their hosts an opportunity to enjoy American food, share fun cultural interactions, and give back to their local communities.
To fulfill the “Give” mission of Exchange Day, participants were asked to bring a $5 donation or a canned food item for the Dickinson Outreach Center to attend. As students signed in for the day, we asked for their donations and made sure to explain how their donations will help the center.
Throughout the day, we had a steady supply of sandwiches and snacks for participants to enjoy as they got hungry, representing “Eat.” We also led different lawn games during the day (“Play”). If they won a game, participants could win their own American flag beach towel! Some of the favorite games were the water balloon toss, basketball, and giant Jenga table game. We also had temporary tattoos of various world flags, as well as a face painting table, which was a big hit with the participants.
It was a fun group of international exchange participants, who enjoy living in Okoboji and were happy to celebrate Exchange Day with us. They all said everyone in Okoboji has been helpful and friendly throughout the program. Overall, it was a great day that gave participants an opportunity to relax on their day off and learn about American lawn games and the importance of a food pantry to the community.
Special thanks to community members Sheila and Bob Ove for supplying us with items and running the sign in table!
Exchange Day in Chicago
In Chicago, an exciting Exchange Day event was hosted by Greenheart International and held at HI Chicago Hostel. This event was geared towards community members and other parties who were interested in incorporating cultural exchange opportunities into their own lives.
A number of panelists—including Megan Arzbaecher of Traverse Blog and Shop, Cara Miller Brytan of DePaul University, Natalie Felton of Peace Corps, Jennifer Grove of Swissotel Chicago, and Brian Peckrill of WorldChicago—talked about the J-1 program and, more broadly, the value of travel.
Leena K., a Spirit trainee at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, attended the event with her language partner. She really enjoyed the panelists’ discussion, as well as the selection of complimentary hors d’oeuvres and beverages provided to all attendees.
For the “Give” portion of the Exchange Day motto, Greenheart invited attendees to bring gently used clothes for a clothing drive. At the end of an evening, there was an opportunity to select a new piece of clothing to bring home; anything left over was donated. It was exciting to see such a diverse group crowd spanning all ages come together over a shared interested of cultural exchange!
Exchange Day in the Wisconsin Dells
The Wisconsin Dells community celebrated Exchange Day at Camp Wawbeek, a local campground operated by Easterseals. Spirit representative Kailei attended the event to meet our Wisconsin Dells participants and help out with the volunteering project.
The main theme of this event was “Give,” and participants spent the day pulling weeds and other gardening tasks at the site. Everyone especially enjoyed taking photos with Officer Hess, a friendly figure in the Wisconsin Dells international exchange community.
In the afternoon, everyone arrived at a local park to enjoy pizza together. Overall, the attendees had a great attitude that day, and it was exciting to see the impact that Exchange Day can have on a community through volunteering!