Spirit Cultural Exchange is proud to be one of the founding sponsors of Exchange Day, a nationwide celebration of the power of international exchange. Since 2014, communities across the country have hosted events that bring international exchange participants together with American community members for a day of sharing customs, giving back to the community, and fun!
While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly affected the past two years of festivities, Spirit is excited to say that Exchange Day is back and more exciting than ever.
For Exchange Day 2022, we hit the road to visit Work and Travel participants on-site in communities throughout Wisconsin, our neighboring state. Six Spirit staff members took time over the past two weeks to meet our participants in person and treat them to everyone’s favorite summer treat – ice cream! You can read about our various Exchange Day visits below.
Exchange Day 2022 in Wisconsin Dells
On Exchange Day 2022, three Spirit team members traveled to the Dells to meet with Host Employers and participants. They met and talked with participants at eight different Host Employers across the Dells and toured the Host Employer locations and housing sites. We met participants from Mongolia, Columbia, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Spain, the Philippines, and Thailand.
Everyone is enjoying making friends with both Americans and other participants from around the world. They all shared how much fun it is to learn about other cultures, practice speaking English as well as other languages and how much they look forward to visiting their new friends in their home countries.
We also met American staff who work with the participants. They expressed how much they loved learning about the participants’ countries and cultures and how invaluable they are to the Dells community. They laughed that they have learned about countries they did not know existed before working with our participants.
On Monday evening, we invited participants to join us for ice cream at a local restaurant. Spirit’s team members loved hearing about the participants’ experience on the Work and Travel Program. Many participants told us how confident they have become conversing in English and how independent they have become. Two participants said it was the first time they earned their own income and how gratifying it was to buy something with their own money.
We met several participants who have participated on the program for multiple years and been promoted to supervisory roles and expressed that this experience has changed their perspective of the world and themselves. They were very grateful for the Work and Travel program and the opportunity it provided them to not only improve their English and make American friends, but to grow as individuals and expand their horizons.
Celebrating Exchange Day in Madison
On Wednesday, August 3, Chelsea and Rachel traveled to our Host Employer in Madison to tour participant housing, meet our participants and their supervisors, and take the participants out for ice cream to celebrate Exchange Day 2022.
Chelsea and Rachel met with participants at their worksite and walked with them to Madison’s famous State Street, where Chocolate Shoppe Ice Cream is located. Participants enjoyed their favorite ice cream and enthusiastically posted their photos on Instagram.
Chelsea and Rachel met eighteen Spirit participants in Madison: two from Colombia, one from Jamaica, and fifteen from Thailand. All participants were given American flag sunglasses and Spirit stickers, with enough for participants to bring back to their friends who couldn’t attend.
It was a great day, and it was wonderful to see the participants talking about their new international friends and all the cool things they’ve done in Wisconsin. The participants were also happy that they got to live in such a cool city. Chelsea and Rachel were happy to celebrate Exchange Day with delicious ice cream, fun conversation, and new memories!
Cultural Exchanges in Eagle River and Minocqua
On Monday, August 8th Katie drove to Eagle River, Wisconsin to meet some of our Work and Travel participants who have been working there this summer. She chatted with each of them, took some photos, and left Spirit stickers behind for the participants. The ones she met were from the Dominican Republic, Turkey, Thailand, Jordan, and Colombia.
Katie then drove to Minocqua, Wisconsin to tour more Host Employers and meet participants. One of the participants, “Gio” from Jamaica, couldn’t make it to the planned ice cream outing but still wanted to chat with Katie. They talked about the program and sports. This was Gio’s third time on the program, and his favorite sport is cricket.
The ice cream outing was at Hoggie Doggie’s in the evening. Twelve participants from Turkey and Mongolia joined Katie for ice cream and brownie sundaes.
Katie talked with them about their travel plans after their program end date, what they were studying, how they’ve liked the program so far, their pets at home, and more! The participants have big plans and want to visit LA, New York, Orlando, and Yosemite! They don’t have anything booked yet but are very excited to travel. They’re also studying a variety of subjects back home including engineering, teaching, and medicine!
At the ice cream outing, they got a pair of sunglasses and a bike light if they wanted. It was great to see so many participants and celebrate the spirit of Exchange Day 2022 by treating them to free ice cream and learning about their cultural exchange experiences.