Our 2019 Winter Photo Contest

Mar 20, 2019

The 2019 Winter Photo Contest marks our 3rd annual photo contest for participants on the winter Work and Travel program, as well as the Intern and Trainee programs. For nine weeks in the winter, we announce a different weekly photo theme for anyone who wants to participate. To enter, participants must be following us on Instagram (@spiritexchange) so they can tag us. They must also use the hashtag #ShowYourSpirit. It's as easy as that!

At the end of the nine weeks, we announced our final Grand Prize Winner - Ana L. from Hotel Terra Jackson Hole! She received a GoPro camera (and plenty of bragging rights!). We hope you enjoy viewing the winning photos and getting a taste of all the cool things our participants have been doing!

Week 1 - Holiday Celebrations

Winner: Irish I. from St. Louis Union Station Hotel in St. Louis, MO

Week 1 Winner

Week 2 - Your New Friends

Winner: Twitchelle Z. from The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, WV

Week 2 Winner

Week 3 - At Work

Winner: Maria M. at Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI

Week 3 Winner

Week 4 - Winter Fun

Winner: Ivaylo A. from Rainbow Leather in College Point, NY

Week 4 Winner

Week 5 - Your Town

Winner: Ana L. from Hotel Terra Jackson Hole in Teton Village, WY

Week 5 Winner

Week 6 - Keeping Warm

Winner: Ricardo I. from Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI

Week 6 Winner

Week 7 - Dinner with Friends

Winner: Cristiano S. from Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells, WI

Week 7 Winner

Week 8 - Your Boss or Coworkers

Winner: Cede G. from Azabu Miami Beach in Miami Beach, FL

Week 8 Winner

Week 9 - Your Favorite Memory

Winner: Javier T. from Safeway in Frisco, CO

Week 9 Winner

Congratulations to all of our 2019 Winter Photo Contest winners! Thank you for sharing your adventure with us. Keep exploring!

Spirit Attends Advocacy Day 2019

Mar 14, 2019

Advocacy Day is hosted by the Alliance for International Exchange as “a distinct opportunity for Alliance members to come together and educate Members of Congress about the value of international exchange in their respective districts and states.”

Day 1 of this two-day event focuses on educating attendees on the nuts and bolts of advocacy work as well as the challenges facing the Educational and Cultural Exchange programs designated by the State Department. The evening reception is spent networking with one another and learning about the international exchange work of other Alliance members. This year, speakers included Marie Royce, Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, and French Hill, a U.S. Representative from Arkansas. They each spoke highly of the value of cultural exchange and the international exchange programs that promote it across the U.S.

Advocacy Day Reception

On Day 2, attendees were broken up by state into groups of two to four. Christina joined “Team Illinois” in meeting with various staff members of Sen. Dick Durbin, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, and Rep. Danny K. Davis. At these meetings, Team Illinois spoke with staffers about international exchanges and ways that the Members of Congress can support the work of educational and cultural exchanges. Staff members were invited to local celebrations for Exchange Day, which will take place August 5, 2019.

Team Illinois: Christina (Spirit Cultural Exchange), Bonnie (Greenheart International), and Russ (Hostelling International)
("Team Illinois": Christina from Spirit, Bonnie from Greenheart, and Russ from Hostelling International)

Overall, the staff members were supportive of international exchange programs, understanding the value that international exchange brings to the economy and to national security.

This is the sixteenth year that the Alliance has organized Advocacy Day for its members, and Spirit is grateful to have been part of this event for the fifth year in a row.

Special thanks to the Alliance for International Exchange, and especially Ilir Zherka and Sue Yang, for organizing such an educational and enjoyable event!

Interested in learning more about advocacy for international exchange? Click here for resources!

Spirit Celebrates International Women's Day

Mar 8, 2019

According to the International Women's Day website, this is "a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity."

With the help of our international partners and U.S.-based Host Companies, we at Spirit are committed to bringing cultural exchange to young women around the world. We're proud to provide these women experiences that will transform them into the world's future leaders, teachers, and creators.

Participating in cultural exchange programs empowers young women, providing them with a better understanding of themselves and the world around them.

At Spirit, more than half of our participants are female, and each year we help many young women take part in the training opportunities of their dreams in a number of professional environments. Many of them excel in fields that have traditionally been dominated by men.

We look forward to a future, more gender-balanced world where women have the opportunity to contribute fully in creating a "spirit" of international peace and understanding.

Click here to watch our video celebrating what cultural exchange means to women.

International Women's Day Video

International Dinner at YMCA of the Rockies

Mar 5, 2019

Each year, YMCA of the Rockies hires staff from all around the world, and this winter, there are four Spirit participants who have been living and working in Estes Park and experiencing all that Rocky Mountain life has to offer.

According to their website, “To celebrate all of the different and unique cultures and traditions of the staff, the YMCA of the Rockies hosts an International Dinner every year. The International Dinner gives the staff the opportunity to cook a traditional meal and share their traditions from their home country.”

YMCA International Dinner

This year, eleven countries were represented at the International Dinner, from China to Brazil. J-1 participants at the YMCA cooked traditional dishes from their home countries and even shared a piece of their culture by performing traditional dances for the attending community members.

In fact, there were over one hundred guests from the Estes Park community who attended this event and got to experience their own “trip around the world.”

The participants enjoyed interacting with the community and sharing the richness of their home countries with Estes Park. Dishes included Colombian Ajiaco soup and Meringues from Chile, and the United States served tapioca pudding!

YMCA International Dinner

J-1 Interns at the YMCA ran the International Dinner, acting as the evening’s MCs and using the skills they’ve been learning to host the successful event.

Overall, it was a great night, and we loved seeing both the local and international communities interacting and learning from one another.

Check out more photos below:

Winter Trip to the Wisconsin Dells

Feb 21, 2019

2019 Alumni Event with Yero

Feb 18, 2019

Spirit Announces New J-1 Teacher Program

Jan 29, 2019

Spirit partners with accredited K-12 schools across the USA to help match them with qualified international teachers for a period of 1-3 years. Spirit’s international teachers bring both their expertise in teaching and the rich history of their home culture to the Host School and community.  Formal cross-cultural events and virtual classroom exchanges are arranged during the program to familiarize the school and community with the teacher’s home culture and its citizens. The J-1 Teacher Program is a wonderful way for American Host Schools to bring the world home to their students and communities!

Placements for the 2019-2020 school year are available for experienced international teachers with at least two years teaching full-time in the areas of Spanish, Mandarin, or Special Education.  Accredited K-12 schools in the USA interested in hosting an international teacher are also encouraged to contact us for more information at

Want to learn more? Click here to download our information flyer!

Volunteer Event with Gloex

Jan 24, 2019

Giving back to the community is a powerful way to bring people together from around the world. Thanks to the efforts of Gloex staff and Spirit representative Colleen, as well as representatives from Noah’s Ark Water Park, YMCA of the Rockies, and Wilderness at the Smokies, our service project in the Dominican Republic was an enriching experience for everyone involved, including the local community.

Twelve Gloex and Spirit Work and Travel program alumni showed up to help clean a local beach that was unfortunately covered in trash from the nearby rivers. A group of young boys were playing baseball near the site and were curious enough to come over, ask questions, and ultimately offer their assistance in the beach cleanup effort.

Local authorities noticed as well, and they explained that the rivers carry trash from all over the community and deposit it at the beach. While they do the best that they can to keep the beach clean for the public, it is a constant effort, and they were very happy to have the extra help, taking pictures with all of the volunteers.

The attending employers and past participants liked interacting with each other on a personal level. They learned a lot about what the alumni have been up to since the completion of their Work and Travel program. One young woman mentioned that she has begun studying to be an engineer!

Volunteer service is emphasized when participants are in the U.S. on the Work and Travel program as a meaningful way to engage with their local communities and learn about the importance of volunteering in American civic life. Spirit participants frequently participate in service projects during their time in the U.S., so it was important to make sure that we joined them in giving back to their own hometown in the Dominican Republic.

The staff at Gloex, led by Wally the General Manager, has a passion for bringing awareness for environmental issues. A beach cleanup project was the perfect way to bring a local community together toward the wider goal of environmental protection across the globe.

Overall, the project was a huge success with over twenty bags of trash collected!

It was a great way to learn more about the environment of the Dominican Republic and to get to know our former participants as they use their tools from the Work and Travel program to achieve an exciting future.

Special thanks to Waly from Gloex for getting the word out locally, and a big shout-out to the alumni who were so excited to come out and spend their morning with us!

Want to see more from the volunteer event? Check out this awesome video from Gloex!

Global Educational Exchange Video

See more photos below:

Exchange Visitor Welcome Night in Frisco, CO

Dec 28, 2018

CCUSA, a U.S. State Department Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor, and the Frisco International Student Outreach Program (ISOP) group recently held the third annual J-1 Welcome Night in Frisco, Colorado. Any J-1 participant in the area was invited to attend, as well as their sponsors and employers.

According to the J-1 Visa government website, ISOPs are "community support groups that provide support to Work and Travel exchange visitors and assist in providing a safe and successful experience for those exchange visitors who temporarily live and work in their local community, building a sense of comfort and belonging. These community groups identify systemetic issues and concerns in their area, find solutions, and coordinate forums to educate the community and businesses regarding the Work and Travel program."

There are 29 groups throughout the country in multiple states. These community organizations are led by local businesses, charity organizations, churches, individuals, or the chamber of commerce, and they are often partnered with a sponsor.

Because Spirit is part of the Frisco ISOP group, representative Austin went to the welcome event to meet our participants, help out where needed, and check in to see how the program is going. This event allowed exchange visitors in Colorado to enjoy free food while meeting other exchange visitors in the area. It's also a great way to provide participants with local resources. Thanks to fellow sponsors like CIEE, the night was a huge success with a total of 200 attendees.

During the evening, there was a raffle, and the grand prize was a two-night stay at a local hotel. With events like this, the Frisco community is able to support participants in a way that is fun as well as informative. Spirit is proud to be part of such a lively and helpful community.

Spirit Partcipants at the Welcome Event

Thanks to CCUSA and the Frisco ISOP group for organizing such a great event!

Click here to learn more about Work and Travel Community Support Groups.

Spirit's #IEW2018 Happy Hour!

Nov 15, 2018

Here in the U.S., people across the country are dusting off their favorite homestyle recipes, preparing the kitchen, and getting excited for the flavors and scents of Thanksgiving Day next week. Many households will be indulging in "All-American" dishes like stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and of course, apple pie.

This week at Spirit, however, we indulged in a different kind of feast. As a way to celebrate International Education Week, the office enjoyed an #IEW2018 Happy Hour. Staff members were encouraged to bring their favorite international dishes to share, and everyone spent the end of the day sampling treats from around the world.

International Happy Hour at Spirit

Whether it was food from our favorite local restaurants or a dish from a favorite family recipe, the office kitchen was filled with flavors from all around the world. Our International Happy Hour included:

·         Kugel (eastern European)

·         Polish sausage

·         Wine

·         Dumplings (Chinese)

·         Baklava (Greek)

·         Cheeses (French)

·         Taquitos de frijoles (Mexican)

·         Tim Tams (Australian)

·         Pastelillos de guayaba y quesitos (Puerto Rican)

·         Paczki (Polish)

·         Sticky rice (Thai)

Some Spirit staff picked their dish based on their own nationality, and others brought favorite foods from their time abroad. It was a great way to learn about the cuisines of a variety of nationalities, and we spent the hour sharing family stories, travel experiences, and enjoying each other's company.

At Spirit, we always love a reason to learn and to celebrate!