This year is Spirit’s 20th anniversary as a designated BridgeUSA J-1 visa sponsor. To celebrate, Spirit is sharing inspiring alumni stories submitted to our “Spirit Alumni: Where Are They Now?” contest, demonstrating first-hand how our participant exchange experiences contribute to a “spirit” of international understanding in the world. This story was submitted by Yusuf Y. from Turkey, who shared his story about his 2019 J-1 Work & Travel experience in the USA. Yusuf made lots of American friends and was promoted to the defense captain at his university’s American football team. Here’s what he had to say:
My Work & Travel Experience in the USA
In 2010, my whole life changed when I watched the first episode of The Walking Dead. That was the time I truly understood how great the United States of America is. Even though it doesn’t show the beauty of the U.S. in the show, it made me research about the country. At first I was just trying to learn about it and improve my English at the same time. However the more I dived into searching, the more amazed I felt.
In high school one of my teachers talked about how we can go abroad to get better education and learn about different cultures, how different they live and behave than us. That day I stumbled on a website about Work And Travel program and saw Spirit Cultural Exchange! I remember after seeing that I have to be an undergraduate student to apply for J-1 visa I was so sad. I promised myself that at 18 years old, in my first year of university I will go to United States.
Thanks to the Spirit I was able to keep my promise. I was able to go to the U.S. In my first day in U.S., I said to myself, “Yusuf! You made it. You kept your promise. Now go and enjoy this 3 months of experience.” At the end of my program, whole experience was better than my dreams. I made lots of friends, been to the places I only saw in the movies, ate the food I always wanted to eat and had an amazing story to tell to my grandkids!
I was worried about the job, prior to working as cook I had very little experience on cooking. However, the staff personnel made me feel very comfortable and gave me lots of time to figure out the basics of cooking and always helped me when I could not do the dishes as they wanted me to. At the end of the second week, I was able to cook like the other chefs! They gave me enough responsibility to make me feel confident about myself and to not stress me with too much responsibilities. Spirit also called me and asked about how I feel, if my life is on track, etc. This made me feel very comfortable! Staff was very professional and they were very nice to me. After 3 years, I am still talking with every single one of my co-workers.
The cultural difference between us is not a problem, that is what makes us human. That’s the beauty of this program. Learning about different cultures is an amazing experience. I remember being worried about the cultural difference, if this will be a problem and may make me lonely. On the other hand, this is what made me be closer to them. We wanted to learn about each other’s cultures and by doing this I saw that the culture is beyond what they show us in the movies. There are lots of other things that they don’t show to us!
What Am I Doing Now?
I had 1 year of American football experience before going to USA. In the U.S. I met Anthony, a coworker who played football in college league. He gave me lots of tips and advice to improve my abilities. He had lots of experience as he was playing American football since he was a child. We spent hours of talking on how I can become a better athlete and a better player. Two years later now I am the defense captain of my team! I believe going to U.S. and meeting Anthony had a big impact on this because he encouraged me to become a better version of myself in the sport.
After I came to my country, I noticed my English classes became easier! I passed all of my English courses with A! As a third year student this was the best “investment” I made to myself and to my future. This was made possible by Spirit! I can not thank enough to Spirit and to the U.S. Government for this amazing program!
I encouraged all of my friends applying to this program and I am encouraging you! Everyone should experience this amazing adventure!
Thank you, Yusuf!
We think it’s awesome that you got to experience American culture and want to return to the United States. Thanks for sharing with us!
If you are a Spirit Alumni with an inspiring story to tell, please consider sharing your experience with us. Learn more about the “Spirit Alumni: Where Are They Now?” contest.