General Program Questions
Question: What is Spirit Cultural Exchange?
Answer: Spirit is a J-1 Work and Travel, Internship and Trainee Program sponsor, designated by the U.S. Department of State. Our programs offer international university students and young professionals the opportunity to experience the benefits of cultural exchange while taking part in work and bona fide training programs in their field of study in the USA.
Question: Do I have to work with a sending agency in my home country to participate in Spirit’s programs?
Answer: J-1 Intern and Trainee applicants may apply directly to Spirit. At this time, Spirit only considers Work and Travel applicants who apply through a sending agency.
If you need help contacting a sending agency in your country, please fill-out the Get Information Form. Spirit will forward your inquiry to a sending agency close to you.
Question: What is the cultural component of Spirit’s programs?
Answer: Cultural activities refer to the things you do in your free time that expose you to the life and culture of the United States. Many participants engage in cultural activities without even recognizing it! Examples of cultural activities include:
- Gathering with American friends for meals, games, or movies etc.
- Visiting a museum or historic site
- Touring a US city
- Visiting a national park
- Volunteering in the local community
- Attending an American sporting event
Question: How many cultural activities should I complete each month?
Answer: As a requirement of Spirit’s programs, you must participate in at least two cultural activities per month. However, many participants complete many more cultural activities throughout their program. Participants who engage in more cultural activities than the minimum tend to have a much more enriching experience in the USA.
Question: What if I need help or have any questions during my program?
Answer: Before arrival in the USA, participants should contact their home agency with any pre-arrival questions. After arrival in the USA, participants may contact Spirit at 1 (800) 390-0978 during office hours, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Central Time, Monday - Friday. We can be reached in an emergency 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by calling 1 800-390-0978, ext. 399 to reach our emergency answering service.
Work and Travel Program Questions
Question: Where will I work in the United States?
Answer: Spirit places J-1 Work and Travel participants across the United States to work for employers in entry level hospitality jobs (hotels, restaurants, theme parks, national parks, retail, etc.).
Question: How many hours will I work per week?
Answer: Participants work an average of 30 hours per week.
Question: Can I work more than one job?
Answer: Yes, however J-1 Work and Travel participants who wish to work a second job must submit required paperwork and receive approval from Spirit before starting any new employment. Second jobs should not interfere with the work schedule at your primary employer.
Question: How much will housing cost in the United States?
Answer: Housing cost depends on the area and availability. Most housing for J-1 Work and Travel participants ranges from $250 -$500 per month.
Internship Program Questions
Question: Are internships paid?
Answer:Participants must bepaid stipends equal to American interns in the same position which in most cases is at least federal or state minimum wage. Some short-term, non-hospitality internships may be unpaid if certain conditions are met, including the U.S. Department of Labor's "Test For Unpaid Interns".
Depending on the conditions of the internship, the stipend or wage may not cover all expenses, and proof of additional personal funds will be required during the application process.
Question: How do I begin to develop a Training or Internship Placement Plan (T/IPP)?
Answer: T/IPPs for the J-1 Intern and Trainee Program must meet specific regulatory requirements and it is critical that each phase of the training or internship build on the previous phases. Contact Spirit to receive specific guidance.