News

Spirit CEO comments on outlook for U.S. immigration regulations

Feb 10, 2017

February 10, 2017

Dear Cultural Exchange Community,

The USA is definitely in a period of self-assessment about our immigration and visa policies. While the immigration issue is complex and multifaceted, Americans largely agree that international cultural exchange is positive for our country and the world. The J-1 Visa is an important part of that cultural exchange system. The J-1 Visa is not an immigrant visa but rather a cultural exchange visa providing various opportunities to work, intern, study, travel, or teach while exchanging cultures and ideas with Americans. As a J-1 Work/Travel, Internship and Trainee Program sponsor, Spirit provides an opportunity for future leaders from around the world to learn about our culture and values. We encourage young people to experience the United States in a way that is educational for them and productive for the USA. These young people experience the USA up close, develop a strong understanding of our culture and values, and return to their home countries to profess an honest, positive view of our country. In fact, in a recent industry-wide survey of J-1 Work/Travel participants, 90% of participants reported having a positive experience with Americans and the American workplace.

Some of our host employers, international agents, and program participants have expressed concern that recent Presidential Executive Orders might affect the Spirit J-1 programs. What I can tell you is that Spirit has received no information that would suggest an imminent change to program regulations. The J-1 Work/Travel regulations have been strengthened over the last several years and the result is a stronger program that better serves and protects our program participants. Spirit expects that those regulations will continue to evolve to meet changing conditions and program needs. When appropriate, Spirit actively provides feedback to the Department of State regarding proposed regulations.

What is most important now is that we do our jobs well. The   J-1 Program will continue to thrive if we live up to the ideals of the program and deliver a high quality cultural exchange experience to our participants, which will enhance their lives as well as the communities they visit.

Spirit is excited for the coming year and looks forward to welcoming our participants to the USA!

Warm Regards, 

 

 

 

 

Rich Baader
CEO
Spirit Cultural Exchange

Spirit CEO discusses the USA election and its impact on Spirit’s exchange programs

Nov 10, 2016

November 10, 2016

Dear Participant,

The recent Presidential election in the USA was a historic event. A new President was elected and with him a new set of policies and priorities. Some of you may have questions about how these new policies might affect your cultural exchange program through Spirit. Please rest assured that you continue to be warmly welcomed in the USA on Spirit’s program. All active visas remain valid and your program will continue to completion. All visa applicants are being processed by Spirit as usual and US Embassies continue to process visa applications.

The President Elect will select his Secretary of State and senior staff over the next few months in preparation for his official inauguration on January 20, 2017. Spirit will closely monitor these steps and will advocate for exchange programs. Fortunately, international cultural exchange has support in Congress from both political parties and the Department of State recognizes the public diplomacy value of these programs. Our cooperating employers and host communities also recognize the value of international cultural exchange and are eager to welcome you.

At Spirit, we know that our exchange programs build international friendships and help achieve the goal of long-term international peace and understanding. We thank you for being a part of our programs and look forward to providing you with a rewarding cultural exchange in the United States.

Warm regards,

 

 

 

Richard Baader
CEO
Spirit Cultural Exchange
 

Spirit Staff Sees Secretary of State Speak

Nov 1, 2016

On October 26, 2016, Spirit staff members heard U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak at a Chicago Council on Global Affairs event. Secretary of State Kerry emphasized the importance of diplomacy for improving the global economy, promoting peace efforts in areas of conflict, and finding international solutions to climate change. Cultural exchange programs, like the J-1 program, contribute to U.S diplomacy efforts.

Work and Travel and U.S. Diplomacy

Oct 31, 2016

After attending the Alliance for International Exchange’s Annual Meeting, I left feeling (re)inspired about our field –that our collective efforts are an important part of U.S. diplomacy, and our work leads towards a more peaceful world. During a time in which anti-immigrant sentiment has infiltrated both left and right political sides in the U.S., Europe and other nations, I believe that international exchange plays a vital role in fostering greater understanding between individuals and across nations. The participants who come on our programs are the motivated ‘movers and shakers’, who go home and take with them a positive view of the U.S., impacting future relations between our countries.

All of us at Spirit joined the international exchange field because of that - we were significantly impacted by our own exchange experience and came home with a changed worldview. International exchange has provided me with immense personal growth, impactful professional opportunities, and vastly changed and improved my life. And I – along with all of us at Spirit – are wholly committed to providing these opportunities for others. We are extraordinarily lucky to get to give that experience back to others, impacting the hearts and minds to the future leaders of the world.
 

-Alison Gold, October 2016

2016 Civic Leadership Summit inspired students to be Changemakers

Oct 25, 2016

In addition to the Summit meetings and programming, the participants spent time exploring Washington D.C.

“This was my first time visiting Washington D.C, first time touring the capitol and visiting the White House, needless to say, this trip was filled with a lot of firsts for of me,” said Ackime T.

“The city tour in one of the most grateful city in the United States, Washington, D.C., has exceeded my expectations! I am extremely grateful for these colorful and very intense three days in the US capital, which will be remembered forever,” Viktoriia P. adds.

It’s obvious by their own accounts that the Civic Leadership Summit had a positive impact on Ackime and Viktoriia’s summer in the USA, and was an experience that will not be forgotten.

“The staff, team leaders, presenters, participants and most importantly the different sponsors all pooled in and made this a life altering experience.  The only problem we had was saying goodbye on the last day,” said Ackime T.

“I left United States not only with newly gained knowledge on American culture, politics and law but also with a broader, more open minded and greater understanding of other international cultures. And of course coming back to your own country inspired and full of energy and make the change that you want to see in the world,” said Viktoriia P.

Thank you to CIEE for including Spirit Cultural Exchange in this year’s Civic Leadership Summit! Our participants had a wonderful experience, and we can’t wait to see what next year brings.

Read more from Viktoriia and Ackime in their blogs.

Be The Change You Wish To See...

Oct 25, 2016

The purpose of the summit was to empower the participants to make effective changes in their communities.

“The main point of the Civic Leadership Summit was to ‘Be a Changemaker’. During the Summit we went to interactive sessions about discrimination, improving the level of education in some countries, women's and environmental issues,” said participant Viktoriia P., who is from Kyrgyzstan. “During the workshops we discussed the problems existing in our own countries and tried to find causes and solutions for the existing problems. We identified our passions to create change for social issues, and then worked in groups to develop plans for launching our own social ventures in our home countries.”

Jamaican participant, Ackime T., believes that through uniting together, change can be made.

“We belong to the same human race, despite our skin color, nationality, size, or religion and we all face the same social problems. Coming together and creating smart sustainable solutions is to quickest way to make a difference,” he said.

Viktoriia P. said she was inspired by the other participants she met from around the world, and the spirit of diversity that was present at the summit.

“You look at the social justice and civic leadership from different perspectives and will hear the experience of other young leaders from different corners of the world. They inspired me and shared their passion, experiences, lifestyles and culture with me. The Civic Leadership Summit helped me to believe in myself more and gave me a faith that I can be a Changemaker. I will never forget the amazing people who empowered me to believe change is possible.”

Through activities and discussions, participants learned that changing the world can start with something simple.

“In one powerful activity, we had to walk around the room with our heads hanging down, with no eye or physical contact for two minutes.  We were then instructed to look up and without a word, just smile and make eye contact as you walk around the room. And as I walked around the room, everyone started to smile and the spirit of the room lifted. It showed that all it really takes is a small act of kindness, a smile, helping your neighbor to affect a change in the world, to be a Changemaker in this world,” said Ackime T.

Learn more about their experience at the Civic Leadership Summit, and read what Viktoriia and Ackime thought about their once-in-a-lifetime experience in Washington, D.C.

Spirit Sponsors Trips to Madison

Oct 21, 2016

When: July 26th and 27th, 2016
Event: Madison Wisconsin Capitol tour and University of Wisconsin tour
Nationalities: China, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia, and Moldova

This is the fourth year that Spirit has organized a trip to Madison for our participants located in Wisconsin Dells. This July, 36 participants from 7 countries toured the state capitol, met with the state representative and senator representing the Dells, ate in a UW campus dining hall, and took a tour of the UW campus.

On the first day a group of participants met with Senator Olsen, and on the second day a separate group met with Representative Ballweg. The participants had great questions for the elected officials about civics, elections, and America on the world stage. The participants asked questions like “why are there so many laws in America” and “why is America great?” They suggested community improvements for the Dells, such as more public transportation for participants traveling to and from work. The participants really enjoyed the opportunity to speak with local elected officials, and snap selfies together!

During the UW Madison tour, participants spoke with the tour guide about the differences between American Universities and their own universities at home. They discussed the available classes and asked questions about everyday student life, such as living in the dorms. They were surprised to hear how much college costs in America, as most of their education is paid for by their governments. Overall, the trip was a great introduction to the American government and university life.


When: August 30th and 31st, 2016
Event: Madison Wisconsin Capitol tour and University of Wisconsin tour
Nationalities: China, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Russia, and Jamaica

This is the 2nd time this year that we organized a tour of the Wisconsin state capitol and University of Wisconsin Madison campus due to its popularity when we hosted the event in July. On this trip, 31 participants from 7 countries toured the state capitol, ate in a UW campus dining hall, and took a tour of the UW campus.

The participants were surprised by the grand architecture of the capital building and enjoyed taking pictures. During our lunch at the university dining hall, the participants were overwhelmed by the amount and variety of food available to university students. While they liked the food, several talked about how large the portions were compare to what they were used to at home. The Turkish participants also talked about how food in their country tended to be healthier compared to American food (they also commented on America’s love for sweet food).

Everyone enjoyed the campus tour and several participants were surprised just how large the campus was. A few participants even wanted to return for a semester of university classes, through the high cost of tuition was a discouragement. The participants were also excited to hear that 2 graduates of the university now play in the NBA. Overall, it was a great chance for everyone to experience a snapshot of the American government and university system.

2015 International Job Fair: Prague

Jul 7, 2016

Eric Hayes of Spirit organized an independent job fair for a large employer in from January 29-February 1, 2015 in Prague, Czech Republic. The fair included cultural activities such as a tour of Wenceslaus Square, the National Theatre, Petrin Hill, and Prague Castle, and dinners at La Casa Argentina and Potrefena House. 

2015 International Job Fair: Romania, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria

Jul 7, 2016

Jessica Hines of Spirit organized an independent job fair for a large employer in early December 2014 to hire for the 2015 season. The job fair included stops in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania. The first stop was in Cluj, Romania from December 5-7, 2014, where they visited the Salina Turda Salt Mines in Cluj and participated in group dinners. The next segment of the job fair was in Prague, Czech Republic from December 8-10. The participants went on a city tour of Prague, visited a Christmas market, and took a boat trip on the Vltava River. In Sofia, Bulgaria, from December 11-14, participants took a city tour and had lunch at Pod Lipite. 

2016 International Job Fair: Prague, Czech Republic

Jul 7, 2016

The last job fair of the season was in Prague, the Czech Republic from March 2-5, 2016. Employers enjoyed a chocolate truffle course in Prague, and one employer hired employees at the fair. 

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