Week of Welcome - Valencia, California
During participants' first week in America (WOW Week – Week of Welcome), WWCE arranges cultural events and orientations to help them get to know their fellow J1s, WWCE, American culture, and their employer. In Valencia, California, we had three waves of spring arrivals that we helped transition into their new life in America and got excited for the adventure to come!
After picking them up at the airport, we welcomed our participants to their new apartments with welcome baskets (modeled by our SWT coordinator, Yvette, below) that included basic cleaning supplies, granola bars, water, and a guide to the area. In addition, we decorated their refrigerator with a Google Map image of the area around their apartment and an explanation of basic American stores near them, a bold Monthly Monitoring reminder, and an Adventure Challenge for them to complete classic American and Los Angeles activities.
The participants' orientation day was a whirlwind of on-boarding processes, but we made sure they have all their necessary accounts set up – bank, cell, and social security. These large companies/institutions can be daunting, but our long-term relationships with our partners provide a friendly, easy, stress-free experience for the participants. Most importantly, our coordinators give WWCE’s Arrival Orientation presentation that includes comprehensive information about the SWT program, their WWCE arranged housing, and general safety/cultural tips in America. The presentation ends with everyone’s favorite part – a trivia game with the winning apartment receiving a cupcake party! Each apartment faces off on twenty questions about American culture (What are the orange/yellow/white candies we give out at Halloween?), American History (Who was America’s first president?), and the SWT program (What are the steps to getting a second job?). The trivia game is a great way for the participants to learn something new and makes sure the orientation information sticks! Plus, we’ve seen some amusing answers that make our day! For example, in response to naming a photo of Martin Luther King Jr., one group guessed Eddie Murphy.
The orientation was so perfect and informative. We had so much fun because of the games that we had during the orientation. - Anna Catrina Kikuchi
I was really satisfied what WWCE tells/explain to us during our Orientation. It was all about our living while we are here, and not to only work but also to have fun. - Jessa Anjelie Espelita
As of this year, WWCE has introduced a new volunteering requirement to the SWT program. Each participant must complete a volunteering activity over the course of their program. Volunteerism is an important part of American culture, and we want to make sure the participants give back to the community that has embraced them for a summer. In Valencia, WWCE chose to host a volunteering event in Santa Monica, California with Heal the Bay – a non-profit organization that “protects our coastline, revitalizes our urban waterways, and speaks out for smart water policy”. Our coordinators and participants joined together to clean up the beach and collect data to help Heal the Bay better understand what is polluting our beaches. Following the clean-up, participants had time to explore the famous Santa Monica area including the pier and Third Street Promenade.
I liked that we cleaned the beach by picking up plastics or any other kinds of trash. We helped maintaining the cleanliness and beauty of the beach. - Anna Caroline Oliveros
I like [the beach clean-up] so much. We helped the beach and at the same time we had fun. Santa Monica is such a nice place, there's a lot of things to do there especially when you're with your friends. -Jasmin Rudela
I like that we get to help the environment, and I feel like events like these should be repeated more often. - Louise Anne Principe
Unfortunately, our planned quintessential Los Angeles activity – The Hollywood Hike – closed down two weeks before our first arrival group. The old hike was only about 1.2 miles while the new hike jumped up to 6 miles. While our WWCE coordinators love long hikes, we would never subject anyone to that intensity, so we decided to let our participants explore the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood/Highland instead. We do have a number of participants that are excited about the 6 mile venture to the Hollywood sign, so we’ve allotted another day during their program to accomplish that goal! Can't wait!
I liked Santa Monica Pier and Hollywood/Highland. It seems like I'm walking in the cloud nine since I've always wanted to go there. - Charie Louise Cuevas
After a great couple of days, our participants attended processing and orientation with their employer, and began their new lives! We truly enjoy getting to know each participant, and we cannot wait to see their summer unfold.