End of Program Reflection: Summer Work and Travel Summer 2019

The busy summer season has concluded for our summer work and travel program and our participants are settling back into their home countries. We asked all our participants to reflect on their program and share their experience with us through photos and a mini-essay. As always, we received so many fantastic submissions! We’re happy to announce our winner: Diana Borja! Additionally, we loved Nicole Barriga’s photos, so we’ve selected her as a second place winner!

Diana Borja / Ecuador

Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

My trip to the United States was one of the most important experiences I have ever had, and which I would remember for life. I made a lot of memories, and I also had the opportunity to travel near Orlando, be in new places like Miami, Clearwater, Kissimmee, Hollywood, and New Smyrna Beach and meet many people. Furthermore, I tried new food that was different and delicious.

Even though all those experiences are good, I had others that helped me to see how life works when you live alone. You have a lot more responsibilities, so you have to be organized. I think this was not too much difficult for me because my parents taught me how to be responsible, but when you are alone things change. This is one of the things I learned from the program. To be responsible, to go to work on time, so you can earn money to pay for your housing, food, and medicine. In that way, you appreciate the value of money and hard work.

In addition, you learn how to get involved with different cultures, talk to others and be able to understand their culture. Orlando is one of the places that I have visited in all these years with the most variety of people of all over the world. You can find people from Latin countries and Europe and also be related to Americans and their culture. Something surprising was that I met knew friends from the exchange program who are Turkish, which I have never imagined to meet before. I appreciate a lot the way you can practice English to communicate with others and understand everything. Learning English is an opportunity not everyone has, so that you can meet other cultures. It is amazing how we can understand each other in another language. That is why I think cultural exchange is very important in our lives, so that we can have more opportunities all over the world.

By speaking and writing in English you have a great tool to live anywhere in the world. This opens doors so you can get a good job in any country. To achieve that, you have to be persistent and keep learning and practicing it. I think the exchange program is one of the best ways to do it. Apart from the cultural diversity you experience, you work in another place where you have to learn new things and different ways to handle them. You have to be more responsible and follow all the new rules. Moreover, you have to do all those things by speaking other language that is not yours.

One of the things I loved was to try the delicious food in Orlando. It is completely different from mine, but I think every country has its own typical food. I have tried an extended variety of food in the buffets, seafood in restaurants and beaches (Clearwater, Hollywood Florida, Miami Beach), hamburgers in specialized places like Millers’ House and in Universal and Disney World some exotic dishes, that for sure you can only find there. I do not regret any of the things I ate; loved them.

In my opinion, every young person that can have the opportunity to go in an exchange program should do it, since it is a life changing experience. In a short period of time you can learn lots of things that may change your life forever and mark you in different ways. Not only the people, the relationships you have and your job, but also the food and the experience of living alone. You will remember it forever, all the good things you took from that time and the relationships you have made. Go for it!

Nicole Barriga / Ecuador

Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

Is hard to be far from home, isn't it?

It all starts long before getting on the plane, it all starts the moment when you decide to begin a new experience.

It is said that adaptation is the key to any circumstance, but it seems to me that adaptation is only the first step, everything else is about living and feeling every moment as if it were the last of your life.

It's hard to be away from your comfort zone, your family, friends, food and pets. It is hard to have to pay your rent, prepare your food, adapt to new language and lifestyle, make new friends and go to work almost every day. But it is much harder to stay in your house wondering what life will be like out there.

My name is Nicole Barriga and I'm 22 years old, this was my second work and travel program and I have to admit it was tough. Participating in this summer program changed my life, I can assure you it was an experience I will never forget. Because it's not just about getting to know a new country and making new friends, it's about striving every day, being kind, being happy and being grateful for life, because after all it's not your turn, it's what you chose. I learned many things, I met many people and places, I tried a lot of new food and I can say that all these things that are part of the cultural exchange make you grow personally and mentally, teaching you that you can achieve anything if you really strive to have it. Be in Hollywood, the Grand Canyon, Malibu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and more was only part of the experience, what has been lived in each place is what really counts, and I cannot tell it because each person should go out and live it.

In the end it is not so hard to be away from home when you live an unforgettable experience. And as my fortune cookie says “ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST”.

Thank you to everyone who entered. View some of the other submissions below!

My time in USA was so amazing, I got a lot of friends with many countries and differences of culture. I’m so happy to join this program. Moreover, I went to the place that I was dreaming to go when I was a kid, which is Alaska. I would like to say thank you to all of you that make this program for us. I really appreciate for everything.  Thanat Kasayapanand / Thailand  Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

My time in USA was so amazing, I got a lot of friends with many countries and differences of culture. I’m so happy to join this program. Moreover, I went to the place that I was dreaming to go when I was a kid, which is Alaska. I would like to say thank you to all of you that make this program for us. I really appreciate for everything.

Thanat Kasayapanand / Thailand

Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

It's my first time to leave my family for so long time. I try to deal with everything by myself. And I did it. Also, I make so many lovely friends there. We talk about our different kinds of lives. That's a great way for us to know other different culture. I love them.  Caiying Liang / China  Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

It's my first time to leave my family for so long time. I try to deal with everything by myself. And I did it. Also, I make so many lovely friends there. We talk about our different kinds of lives. That's a great way for us to know other different culture. I love them.

Caiying Liang / China

Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

During my summer work experience I found myself as a person, I was looking for a break, a journey and a temporal job all at the same time that could leave a mark not only in my mind but also in my heart. Going to Missouri wasn't on my list of possible states for summer work but I guess destiny brought me there for a reason and I can now say that is not the state that you pick for your summer, is not the job that you got is how you take advantage of the place where you are and make it your home for the next 4 months.  My favorite cultural activity was 4th of July fireworks show, for a moment I felt it was New Year's Eve, but is actually how American celebrate independence, very patriotic and inspiring. My advice for all the students is to do the summer work at least once in your life, you won't regret and it’s not only about the money you can make, is also the people you might meet there and the adventures you can enjoy. Live, love and travel while you are young and able. Traveling alone will be scary but is going to be the most liberating experience and is going to change your life forever. Thank you!  Anabel Calcano / Dominican Republic  O’Reilly Hospitality Management / Springfield, MO

During my summer work experience I found myself as a person, I was looking for a break, a journey and a temporal job all at the same time that could leave a mark not only in my mind but also in my heart. Going to Missouri wasn't on my list of possible states for summer work but I guess destiny brought me there for a reason and I can now say that is not the state that you pick for your summer, is not the job that you got is how you take advantage of the place where you are and make it your home for the next 4 months.

My favorite cultural activity was 4th of July fireworks show, for a moment I felt it was New Year's Eve, but is actually how American celebrate independence, very patriotic and inspiring. My advice for all the students is to do the summer work at least once in your life, you won't regret and it’s not only about the money you can make, is also the people you might meet there and the adventures you can enjoy. Live, love and travel while you are young and able. Traveling alone will be scary but is going to be the most liberating experience and is going to change your life forever. Thank you!

Anabel Calcano / Dominican Republic

O’Reilly Hospitality Management / Springfield, MO

The favorite thing of mine, I would say that I was live in the house with ten people. I shared the hose with other J-1 students. In my house, there are three people from Romania, three people from Turkey, one from Russia and three people including me from Thailand. I love every time that we spend the time together. No matter it is when we finish working or in our day off. We did share about our each day, work or something that we met in each day. Sometimes we were exchange language, culture, life style in our country. Sometimes we did cook our food and let them try. I did try many food from different countries also.  Chattavee Jitjaratpohn / Thailand  Eagles Beachwear / Myrtle Beach, SC

The favorite thing of mine, I would say that I was live in the house with ten people. I shared the hose with other J-1 students. In my house, there are three people from Romania, three people from Turkey, one from Russia and three people including me from Thailand. I love every time that we spend the time together. No matter it is when we finish working or in our day off. We did share about our each day, work or something that we met in each day. Sometimes we were exchange language, culture, life style in our country. Sometimes we did cook our food and let them try. I did try many food from different countries also.

Chattavee Jitjaratpohn / Thailand

Eagles Beachwear / Myrtle Beach, SC

I think it's a meaningful time for me in USA. I learned a lot as an EV like be independent and patient. It let me be opened to the different cultures, and I like this feeling. I think the more I learn from each other the more I will be humble and appreciate for what I have now. The most favorite cultural activities is the exchanging culture. Because it's let me make many friends from the all over the world and learn a lot from each other. I think I should travel a lot all over the world so that I can keep be humble to the world and myself keep trying work hard to be a better me. Thanks for everyone I met in this journey and thanks for your guys accept me and teach me a lot by telling your stories. At last, enjoy your life journey and believe in you. Just do it! You never know how better you could be!  Yujie Liu / China  Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

I think it's a meaningful time for me in USA. I learned a lot as an EV like be independent and patient. It let me be opened to the different cultures, and I like this feeling. I think the more I learn from each other the more I will be humble and appreciate for what I have now. The most favorite cultural activities is the exchanging culture. Because it's let me make many friends from the all over the world and learn a lot from each other. I think I should travel a lot all over the world so that I can keep be humble to the world and myself keep trying work hard to be a better me. Thanks for everyone I met in this journey and thanks for your guys accept me and teach me a lot by telling your stories. At last, enjoy your life journey and believe in you. Just do it! You never know how better you could be!

Yujie Liu / China

Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

Everybody has its own path in the life, and he or she gets it through different type of experiences. To find true potential of ourselves, we have to see various faces of life in our story. So the main contribution of this program is to let us know how we overcome the problem we have never met before. In the first sight, the word of “problem “ sounds scary, however we have to accept that life is all about ups and downs. And the things we figure out by ourselves today lead us to be strong enough tomorrow.  At the pool, I meet everyday different kind of people who have so much to teach me about life and everything. There are people from different generations, and with the help of this job I am able to talk to them and compare them with people from my home country. They are a part of American society, so I believe that the experiences from conversations with American citizens are going to be very helpful for me in my future life.  And my very memorable day about this summer is to travel New York with my friend in one day which is planned just 5 hours before trip. Even though it was exhausting to go there and back in a day, it was too much fun. To me life requires this kind of excitement from us to live happily.  The last but not least about this summer is about making friends which is my favorite part. Actually I planned this Work and Travel with my friend. Unfortunately he couldn’t get visa and I had to come alone. Before coming I was upset for being by myself in USA, however I met here very cool people on my ages with whom I am sharing the apartment. I am really thankful for meeting those all guys to Sunset Pool. I get homesick, demotivated, sad, tired etc. , nonetheless when I will look back to my life in the future, I am sure I will understand the remarkable effects of this summer to me. We make money, we make memories, and we become a member of Sunset Family. Thank you for everything!  Javad Jabbarli / Turkey  Sunset Pool Management / McLean, VA

Everybody has its own path in the life, and he or she gets it through different type of experiences. To find true potential of ourselves, we have to see various faces of life in our story. So the main contribution of this program is to let us know how we overcome the problem we have never met before. In the first sight, the word of “problem “ sounds scary, however we have to accept that life is all about ups and downs. And the things we figure out by ourselves today lead us to be strong enough tomorrow.

At the pool, I meet everyday different kind of people who have so much to teach me about life and everything. There are people from different generations, and with the help of this job I am able to talk to them and compare them with people from my home country. They are a part of American society, so I believe that the experiences from conversations with American citizens are going to be very helpful for me in my future life.

And my very memorable day about this summer is to travel New York with my friend in one day which is planned just 5 hours before trip. Even though it was exhausting to go there and back in a day, it was too much fun. To me life requires this kind of excitement from us to live happily.

The last but not least about this summer is about making friends which is my favorite part. Actually I planned this Work and Travel with my friend. Unfortunately he couldn’t get visa and I had to come alone. Before coming I was upset for being by myself in USA, however I met here very cool people on my ages with whom I am sharing the apartment. I am really thankful for meeting those all guys to Sunset Pool. I get homesick, demotivated, sad, tired etc. , nonetheless when I will look back to my life in the future, I am sure I will understand the remarkable effects of this summer to me. We make money, we make memories, and we become a member of Sunset Family. Thank you for everything!

Javad Jabbarli / Turkey

Sunset Pool Management / McLean, VA

About this summer, Life can be so unexpected! Sometimes we make many plans that end up not being accomplished at all, and a totally different thing comes up for the best. That’s the one thing I learned this summer, that, and also that great experiences come with bad experiences as well. At the end of the day, we are the only ones that can decide how to describe our own adventure.  Mine? It was great! To begin with, I got to see with my eyes places that l could have never imagined. It was more like a dream that you see on TV. The Grand Canyon and the city of Las Vegas were definitely the most amazing places we visited, as well as San Diego, Hollywood and LA. While I was in every place, I kept thinking how close-minded people can be sometimes and I was so grateful I had the opportunity to be there. The majesty of the cities and the beauty of nature left an impact on me and I definitely will never forget those days.  Maria Paula Estrella / Ecuador  Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

About this summer, Life can be so unexpected! Sometimes we make many plans that end up not being accomplished at all, and a totally different thing comes up for the best. That’s the one thing I learned this summer, that, and also that great experiences come with bad experiences as well. At the end of the day, we are the only ones that can decide how to describe our own adventure.

Mine? It was great! To begin with, I got to see with my eyes places that l could have never imagined. It was more like a dream that you see on TV. The Grand Canyon and the city of Las Vegas were definitely the most amazing places we visited, as well as San Diego, Hollywood and LA. While I was in every place, I kept thinking how close-minded people can be sometimes and I was so grateful I had the opportunity to be there. The majesty of the cities and the beauty of nature left an impact on me and I definitely will never forget those days.

Maria Paula Estrella / Ecuador

Six Flags Magic Mountain / Valencia, CA

It was so fun for me. I met with people from all around the world. I learned new foods,songs,instruments dances and more. Also i learned so much about working ethics how to behave to a guest etc. I had so much fun at theme parks. I spent most of my free time at theme parks. I made really good friendships that going to last forever. I have experienced so much thing that i have not experienced before. I was curios about hurricanes and i had a chance to see one and had so much while i was staying at Hard Rock Hotel. I went to the beaches and lakes around. It was also so much fun.  Utku Mehmet Sugurtin / Turkey  Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

It was so fun for me. I met with people from all around the world. I learned new foods,songs,instruments dances and more. Also i learned so much about working ethics how to behave to a guest etc. I had so much fun at theme parks. I spent most of my free time at theme parks. I made really good friendships that going to last forever. I have experienced so much thing that i have not experienced before. I was curios about hurricanes and i had a chance to see one and had so much while i was staying at Hard Rock Hotel. I went to the beaches and lakes around. It was also so much fun.

Utku Mehmet Sugurtin / Turkey

Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

Hello dear WWCE family, I was at Orlando when I work. I met a lot of people. I learned american culture at the same time I shared my Turkish culture.It was awesome summer for me. I am at Turkey right now but I still feel perfect. It was unbelievable experience. When I work, I saw American job life. Everything has a perfect rules. I learned a lot of things from USA. Then, after work I went Las Vegas , Los Angeles, Arizona, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Boston and New york. All places it was super funny. I wish I came with WWCE. When we has any problem you helped everytime. I feel like my home when I was at Orlando. I improved my english skills and I still study about that. I can say easyly it was best Summer in my life. I hope see you somewhere else again. I am so happy. Thanks for everything.  Mustafa Kaplan / Turkey  Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

Hello dear WWCE family, I was at Orlando when I work. I met a lot of people. I learned american culture at the same time I shared my Turkish culture.It was awesome summer for me. I am at Turkey right now but I still feel perfect. It was unbelievable experience. When I work, I saw American job life. Everything has a perfect rules. I learned a lot of things from USA. Then, after work I went Las Vegas , Los Angeles, Arizona, Grand Canyon, San Francisco, Boston and New york. All places it was super funny. I wish I came with WWCE. When we has any problem you helped everytime. I feel like my home when I was at Orlando. I improved my english skills and I still study about that. I can say easyly it was best Summer in my life. I hope see you somewhere else again. I am so happy. Thanks for everything.

Mustafa Kaplan / Turkey

Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

It was the most amazing summer in my life. I felt every feeling, happiness, hunger, being broke, feeling rich. I worked hard and travelled hard. Went through both east and west coast. Left my heart in San Francisco and loved the DC nights. Pier in San Francisco - never seen anything more beautiful. Hotels and night life in Vegas felt like living in another dimension. Los Angeles, it has the both beach and city life in it. I went to a football match in LA, was amazing. Washington DC really had the feeling of the capital, with lots of museums and georgeus buildings. Virginia was a bit calm and had really nice environment; it felt really safe and sound. New York is whole another world. Being in the empire state building, seeing the square, seeing the central park live… it was like a dream came true. And Miami, my favorite spot. If someone could describe the heaven, it has to be something similar to Miami, with a beautiful beach and warm people. This summer was quite an experience.  Kaya Serhan Satana / Turkey  Sunset Pool Management / Arlington, VA

It was the most amazing summer in my life. I felt every feeling, happiness, hunger, being broke, feeling rich. I worked hard and travelled hard. Went through both east and west coast. Left my heart in San Francisco and loved the DC nights. Pier in San Francisco - never seen anything more beautiful. Hotels and night life in Vegas felt like living in another dimension. Los Angeles, it has the both beach and city life in it. I went to a football match in LA, was amazing. Washington DC really had the feeling of the capital, with lots of museums and georgeus buildings. Virginia was a bit calm and had really nice environment; it felt really safe and sound. New York is whole another world. Being in the empire state building, seeing the square, seeing the central park live… it was like a dream came true. And Miami, my favorite spot. If someone could describe the heaven, it has to be something similar to Miami, with a beautiful beach and warm people. This summer was quite an experience.

Kaya Serhan Satana / Turkey

Sunset Pool Management / Arlington, VA

I have to say that my time in the USA was great and sincerely a unique experience. Among all the activities that I participated in the most iconic for me was going to the US Open since I am a tennis fan. I would have never thought that I would have the chance to be there, but it was possible firstly thanks to you for sponsoring me and my employer. I feel very happy for being given this opportunity. I also enjoy my visit to Lake Compounce, in CT, there I rode a rollercoaster for the first time in my life and I have to say that it was amazing. I think that cultural exchange is important because that way you get to learn a lot of things about the country you're visiting, not only as a tourist; you also learn how it is day by day for the citizens living there among other things.  Gregorix Joel Acevedo Almonte / Dominican Republic  Century Country Club / Purchase, NY

I have to say that my time in the USA was great and sincerely a unique experience. Among all the activities that I participated in the most iconic for me was going to the US Open since I am a tennis fan. I would have never thought that I would have the chance to be there, but it was possible firstly thanks to you for sponsoring me and my employer. I feel very happy for being given this opportunity. I also enjoy my visit to Lake Compounce, in CT, there I rode a rollercoaster for the first time in my life and I have to say that it was amazing. I think that cultural exchange is important because that way you get to learn a lot of things about the country you're visiting, not only as a tourist; you also learn how it is day by day for the citizens living there among other things.

Gregorix Joel Acevedo Almonte / Dominican Republic

Century Country Club / Purchase, NY

When I was In the United States I feel that I'm independent and strong enough to conquer my fears. This is like a one of a kind experience in my life and also in my family because I’m the first member of our family who will go into USA. It changed me to be a better person because there's a lot of goals to be accomplished and work to be done. In my training, I learned a lot of things especially in making hot and cold drinks. I learned the steps on how to make a coffee, from grinding coffee beans, brewing the coffer grounds, and serving it to the guest. I also learned how to make espressos, cappuccinos lattes, macchiatos and other hot drinks. I also learned how to improve my guest connection and improving handling guest complaint. Working in my department is not that easy but I love my work because I feel that I'm part of the family even though in a short period of time. Cultural Exchange is so important because it will give opportunity to those student like me, learned some knowledge and skills that will help me to my chosen career path and gained some experience that I will be applying to my future work and embracing the American culture and other culture that will help me to understand their lifestyle.  Ernesto Jay Ramos / Philippines  Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

When I was In the United States I feel that I'm independent and strong enough to conquer my fears. This is like a one of a kind experience in my life and also in my family because I’m the first member of our family who will go into USA. It changed me to be a better person because there's a lot of goals to be accomplished and work to be done. In my training, I learned a lot of things especially in making hot and cold drinks. I learned the steps on how to make a coffee, from grinding coffee beans, brewing the coffer grounds, and serving it to the guest. I also learned how to make espressos, cappuccinos lattes, macchiatos and other hot drinks. I also learned how to improve my guest connection and improving handling guest complaint. Working in my department is not that easy but I love my work because I feel that I'm part of the family even though in a short period of time. Cultural Exchange is so important because it will give opportunity to those student like me, learned some knowledge and skills that will help me to my chosen career path and gained some experience that I will be applying to my future work and embracing the American culture and other culture that will help me to understand their lifestyle.

Ernesto Jay Ramos / Philippines

Loews Hotels / Orlando, FL

K.Leigh Furzer