By Iryna Haich, CIEE Work & Travel USA 2018 participant from Ukraine
Hello- my name is Iryna Haich. I'm working this summer at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia. It was at this Resort that the Vice President of the United States, Mr. Mike Pence, came to give a speech. As an employee of the resort I found out about this event and I was very excited and curious about it because I was hoping to have the great opportunity to at least see the Vice President of the United States. Fortunately, the day of the event was my free day, so luck was on my side.
Early in the morning I was very impressed at the resort to see all the security preparations: several police officers and yes, agents of the famous secret service started to arrive at the resort. Security was tight. Also the media was arriving, trying to position themselves for the best angles in order to capture the best images of the Vice President. There was a lot of anticipation and excitement. All of this was very new and exciting for me. I had not expected to experience something like this on my program.
Finally, after all the security screening, I was able to access the conference center of the resort. Since I work there, I was able to secure a very good seat: I was very close to the stage where the Vice President would be giving the speech. After some introductions, the moment arrived: the Vice President walked to the stage. The atmosphere was electric: people cheered and clapped, everybody seemed very happy and patriotic. The crowd showed their enthusiasm by applauding, cheering and standing up the entire time- some even gave thumbs up. This is different from the Ukraine as a similar crowd for a political figure would be more subdued and quiet. I have seen that political rallies in Ukraine are starting to imitate the way that American politicians interact with their constituents. It was interesting to see the difference.
In a blink of an eye his speech was completed and it was time for him to exit the stage and to greet the public. I knew this was my chance to see him closer. Because I was near the stage I was able to get closer and I was pleasantly surprised when he started to approach to me and started to shake the people's hands that were around me. All of the sudden, there he was: He offered me his hand and we shook hands. I said: "My name is Iryna and I'm from Ukraine!" and he replied: "Hi Iryna, it's good to meet you, welcome!". Without thinking, knowing that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, I took a selfie with him. He smiled and continued to greet other supporters. I couldn't believe it: I just have shaken the hands of the Vice President of the United States and took a selfie with him.
As fast as the Vice President arrived he was gone, but I knew that I had captured a magical moment. What a wonderful and unforgettable experience and I am glad for the pictures and videos I took because I knew that a lot of people would not have believed me! I felt very lucky to be there because I knew that it is not every day you get to see the Vice President of the United States. I felt very curious about it because I’ve never seen this process in the USA and I was shocked that a very important politician could visit a small town and be in very close contact with the people. While I’m writing this answer, I just found out that President Trump will be coming to Wheeling this Saturday September 29. Imagine that! I know that many Americans don't have this opportunity to see their Vice President in person and this close. In the Ukraine, I don’t think I would have this opportunity. When I came on this program, I never thought I would have the opportunity to be in a political rally with the Vice President of the United States. This was a very interesting and educational experience for me. I felt very lucky!