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 hosted its 3rd annual trip to Madison, Wisconsin. This trip was open to Spirit J-1 participants working in the Wisconsin Dells area. Spirit representatives took two groups of participants on a tour of the Madison State Capitol Building and a campus tour at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The capitol tour began with a meet and greet session with State Senator Luther Olsen. Senator Olsen described what he does for his district of Lake Delton and Wisconsin Dells and how he came to be elected. The students introduced themselves and had the opportunity to ask questions. One participant from Ukraine asked Senator Olsen if he could build a footbridge from Lake Delton to Walmart so it would be safer and faster for participants to go shopping during their Work and Travel programs. Senator Olsen explained the necessary steps in order for this request to take place to the participants. First, participants would have to make a request with the Lake Delton local government. Then, the local government would vote on the bridge and bring the issue to the Senator if they needed help funding the project. Lastly, Senator Olsen would present the issue to the State Senate to vote it into the State Budget. The participants appreciated this breakdown by Senator Olsen and left with a better understanding of how local government functions.
During the capital tour, the participants enjoyed learning more details about the U.S. system of government and were excited to sit in the same chairs of Wisconsin’s leaders. Over the hour long tour, hundreds of photos were taken by the participants. After completing the tour, participants climbed up to observation deck to take pictures among the beautiful backdrop of downtown Madison. After completing the tour, participants walked over to the UW’s campus.
During the hour long campus tour, participants were most interested in seeing the difference between their universities and American universities. They were shocked by the cost of tuition for American universities but began to understand it once they saw all the extra resources and services that are offered to American students, including a rock climbing wall, movie theater, bowling alley, many restaurants, 42 libraries, etc. Participants also learned the difference difference between the term “college” and “university” in the U.S. and explained that Americans use the words “school,” “college,” and “university” interchangeably, despite the different definitions.
Participants were very excited to walk through the buildings and see the classrooms for the American equivalent of their majors. There were many Engineers and Business majors on our trip so we visited the Engineering School and Business School. During our walkthrough, the group stopped at a lecture hall and discussed the variety in class size, ranging from 5 to 500 students in American universities.
Although we repeated the trip on two days, groups had different tour guide for both the state capital and university tour. All of our guides were very excited to give such a unique tour and be able to meet the participants – they had never been exposed to the J-1 program before. Many of the participants enjoyed taking pictures with their American tour guides and were eager to explain the program to them. Participant Ozan Gultekin from Turkey said of the trip, "We went to Madison with a shuttle full of J-1 students; it was my first time in Madison and I really had a great time."
Learn more about the J-1 experience in the Dells by clicking here!