Employers Share Memories of International Exchange Participants

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In celebration of CIEE's 75th anniversary, some employers honored with Bridge Builder Awards shared special memories of international exchange participants.

Learn more about our partner employers and the other champions of global exchange honored by our 75th anniversary awards

“Fifteen years later, my family still talks about him”

“We received a call from our CIEE representative in June of 2005. There was a student in NYC who had his bag stolen. He was alone, had no money, no ID, and nowhere to go.

She asked if we would be able to house and hire this student, whose name was Tolgay. My answer was a swift, 'Of course!'

Desnise Beckson with exchange staff at Morey's Piers 

From that day forward, we felt a special need to ensure Tolgay had a positive experience in America. We didn't want his negative beginnings to color his impression of the United States and its citizens. I believe we succeeded.

One day, Tolgay mentioned in passing that he hoped to someday experience Thanksgiving. I mentioned this to my family, and they sprang into action. We decided that we would have Tolgay over for “Thanksgiving in July.”

Everyone pitched in to cook a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. Tolgay came, met my extended family, (ranging from 15 to 80 years old) and participated in his first American Thanksgiving. 

Participants and and staff at Morey's Piers gather for a shared meal

Fifteen years later, my family still talks about him. He bonded with them. He was so sweet with my grandparents and talked to them about what a wonderful family they “grew” and was inspired by their relationship. In today's terms: #couplegoals.

This was a beautiful, organic experience that I will never forget, and it inspired us to add an employee event at work focused on Thanksgiving. We hold it in July, and we have traditional Thanksgiving food, the Macy’s parade broadcasting and American football instruction, complete with photo props.

But most importantly, we share what we are thankful for and enjoy exchanging traditions with our staff from all over the globe." 

Denise Beckson, Morey's Piers and Beachfront Water Parks

"This program is doing exactly what it was intended to do"

My most special experiences are from meeting up with students from prior seasons in their home countries. 

Often this means meeting up for a tour of their city or to grab a drink, but sometimes they will sit with me at hiring fairs and want to participate in the hiring. 

Participants at Whitefish Mountain Resort

The pride they have in sharing their experiences at Whitefish and encouragement for others to participate in the program has affirmed that this program is doing exactly what it was intended to do: creating citizen ambassadors across the world

The Work and Travel program is important to Whitefish Mountain Resort because it allows us to ramp up to meet the needs of our guests during our busiest months both in the summer and the winter when it would be otherwise difficult to fill those positions. 

We also highly value the cultural component of the program and appreciate sharing our passion for skiing and riding as well as learning about exchange students’ culture and traditions.

Kristi Hatchett, Whitefish Mountain Resort

"she told me it had been the best summer of her life"

“I think everyone who works with the program has many special experiences with exchange participants, so narrowing it to just one is hard. For me, it’s watching the growth that participants have during the season.

Work and Travel exchange staff at Cedar Fair

I once worked with a student who upon arrival was very shy and questioned whether she should go back home. I asked her to give it two weeks and then decide. She ended up staying for the full season and flourished in her role, eventually being promoted to supervisor. 

She stopped by my office before she went home and told me it had been the best summer of her life and how happy she was that she stayed.

– Anji Anderson, Cedar Fair Entertainment Company

Participants at Cedar Fair celebrate their home culture

Learn more about the CIEE work, travel and exchange programs featured in our 75th anniversary awards. 

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