By Mazen Wohaibi, CIEE Work & Travel USA participant and CIEE Access Scholar, 2018
My name is Mazen Wohaibi and I study English literature at university in Jordan. My experience on the Work & Travel USA program is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my life. I came to the United States with a strong desire to improve my English and self-confidence. This cultural exchange experience was so meaningful as I have been eager to explore new cultures and life outside of my home country. I heard about the CIEE Access Scholarship opportunity from one of my friends who works in a language center at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan. Studying English literature at university is my passion and the opportunity to live in the US while learning about new cultures and practicing my English was a dream come true.
Living in a new country and experiencing the United States firsthand came as a big surprise. For one, my English speaking skills were tested daily as I adjusted to using the language on a full time basis. When I first arrived to the US, I didn’t know anyone but I would go to the park, Kings Island, and while standing in line for the rides I would start conversations with people. Everyone was so kind and I enjoyed learning new things about America through these conversations. This gave me the courage to approach other groups of people especially fellow Work & Travel USA students.
Life at Kings Island was amazing and one of the greatest adventures of my life. I would work in the morning and spend the evenings with my international friends which were awesome moments. I always encouraged people to speak in English so that I could join the conversation. With time, my skills began to improve and I learned the importance of being a good listener! Talking with my coworkers or even listening to country music, jazz, and rock n roll were some of my favorite ways to learn about new cultures and improve my English.
Another big surprise was the difference in culture. Learning about American history by visiting museums was one way I could understand why the United States is so different from Jordan. Living in the US and learning new things all the time through exploring, meeting new people, and experiencing unfamiliar things allowed me to see positivity and kindness all around. Americans are so kind and after living in the US for three months I understood why. I was surrounded by people who were full of encouragement and taught me skills to succeed.
The most influential experience for me was during my travel period. The last two weeks of my program I traveled around to ten different states. I was able to experience places like the great forest in the smoky mountains of Tennessee to big urban cities like Chicago. I saw the difference between country life in Ohio and the business life of New York. During this time, I met nationalities from all over the world and learned a lot about myself by listening to their stories.
My summer in the United States allowed me to gain new skills and improve existing ones that I plan to use to make a difference in Jordan. Since returning home, I was motivated to start the Yarmouk English Club so that I can encourage other young students from Jordan to learn English. The skills, knowledge, and leadership qualities I gained from my experience on this program inspired me to create this club that would focus on English but also impart American values I gained from Work & Travel USA. I am eager to leave an impact in every future place I visit by using my program experience to make a positive change.
Mazen was selected to receive a CIEE Access Scholarship in 2018. CIEE is proud to offer scholarships that make it possible for more future leaders- like Mazen- to participate in the Work & Travel USA program. These are students who might not otherwise enjoy this incredible cultural exchange opportunity — the kind that changes lives, enriches workplaces, and gives participants the experience they need to thrive in an interconnected world. Donate today!
For more information on the CIEE Work & Travel USA program, please visit our website.