Spirit Cultural Exchange recently hosted the first Okoboji International Student Outreach Program (ISOP). ISOPs are common in regions that host a large number of J1 international students such as the Wisconsin Dells, Outer Banks and Ocean City. As the number of J1s placed in Okoboji continues to grow, the ISOP aimed to bring together sponsors, employers, and community members that support the many J1 students that spend their summers in Okoboji each year. A representative from the US Department of State, Henry Scott, also presented at the meeting to discuss their role in the participant’s program.
At the meeting we discussed important terms and what they mean to the J1 program in the Okoboji area including “participant,” “agent,” and “sponsor.” The agent is located in the participant’s home country and facilitates the visa process with the sponsor, such as Spirit. We also discussed the importance of the cultural exchange attribute of the program. The J1 program is an exchange program with a work component, which means that cultural activities should be a high focus, especially for the members of the ISOP.
We talked about the best practices that employers and community members utilize to help the participants be the most successful, and also the challenges that Okoboji faces, including finding short term affordable housing.
The Okoboji ISOP was a great step in making Okoboji an even better place for students to spend their summers. Moving forward, an introduction to Okoboji website and handbook for participants is being created and will be available for distribution shortly. We’ve also created an online forum for all Host Companies, community members, sponsors, and participants to join and share information.
We appreciate all the help and cooperation as we launch this group aimed at helping the J1 community in Okoboji! For more information on the Okoboji ISOP, click here to check out the great coverage of the meeting from the Dickinson County News.