By: Kevin Smith, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar
Kevin Smith is a Work and Travel participant from Jamaica, working in Harrisburg, PA. In his fourth blog post, he shares his experience living in Harrisburg.
When I traveled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for the first time in the summer of 2012, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of things that one could do in the city. Living on a small island for most of my life and only having visited the United States for short periods of times in the past, I found myself dazed living in a city like Harrisburg. I had three months to take part in so many activities, many of which I had only seen on American movies and TV shows. Since my first year I have had the ability to explore Harrisburg and its adjacent towns and communities, allowing me to share what a typical day in my host community entails.
One of the things I love about Harrisburg is that there are numerous day and night activities that are easily accessible for city dwellers. For example, on any typical day you can go to City Island and play baseball or go for a quick jog. There are several bookstores in walking distance of the downtown city center so you have a safe area to read and relax. During the day, you can go camping, swimming, hiking and play many different sports on the campgrounds of resorts in the Harrisburg area. These activities are very health, but they are even better when you share them with your friends, which can result in an incredibly exciting experience.
However, an important caveat to traveling in the Harrisburg area that I have found is that if you do not have a car, transportation is very difficult as you will have to rely very heavily on the bus system. This means that during a typical day, you should be prepared to spend a significant portion of your day in a bus. That being said, the bus system is very good with its well-defined routes. The buses are usually on time so the experience is not uncomfortable.
If you want to avoid traveling altogether, downtown Harrisburg has a great nightlife with many bars and clubs lining 2nd Street. What makes the nightlife so interesting is the sheer variety of places that one can go, including the vast number of different restaurants with ethnic foods from countries in Europe and the Middle Eastern. There is an IMAX movie theater in the heart of the city so you can watch movies with your friends right next door, which is very convenient. All of these culminate to an experience that is very enjoyable. It sums up what a day in my host community is like: one that is filled with interesting places and memorable moments.
“Teen Treks with CCI Greenheart Spanish Exchange Program”
Written by Pamela Worth
Arrival Day June 29th, 2014
The long awaited day is finally here. At the airport I am surrounded by excited and eager families waiting to greet their Spanish Exchange student. As the coordinator of the program I felt a little nervous to make sure everyone was safely in their hosts hands right after we saw them go through the gates. Everyone from the host group was happily chatting and it confirmed for me what I knew after visiting each host home over the past few months, we had an amazing group of families.
Suddenly a sea of red shirts were pouring out of the sliding doors of international doors A. I immediately went into teacher mode and asked everyone to gather in one spot. The students and hosts found each other without much help from me because most had been Skyping and emailing already. Within literally minutes everyone was where they needed to be and in their hosts cars ready to go with their families and see where they would be living for the next month. As I drove home I felt a flood of relief at how smoothly the transition went at the airport. I think it is an indication of the month ahead. Theme of our week is getting to know you, learning about the USA with 4th of July around the corner.
July 1st, 2014
We decided because the World Cup was being broadcasted on huge screens in one of the historic and cool stadiums in Chicago, Soldier Field, we would switch our calendar and head downtown to see how crazy Chicagoans get about our sports. Sam made sure everyone was face painted in red/white/blue. He gave everyone a trivia sheet about the USA and fun facts for the kids to memorize for the day. The day was a blur as the kids trekked past sculptures and skyscrapers in awe of our gorgeous city on their way to Soldier Field. We picnicked and waited in a very long line to get inside. The kids were surrounded by loud and crazy USA fans and simply “people watching” was a blast. A long and exciting game and the walk back to the train. A few missed trains, a little bit of heat, lots of extra water bought for the kids, dinner out at the train station and finally exhausted on the train ready to go to bed.
Tuesday, July 15th
We had one of our busiest days today. We took the train to Chicago and spent the morning having an architectural tour of Chicago. Water Riders was the operation and they are a great company that pioneered the ideas of kayaking the Chicago River in the city. It was a wonderful morning tour. Sam is also a tour guide for Water Riders, so he was able to give us our own private tour. It was an amazing way to see a new perspective of Chicago.
Evening on our last day July 26th, 2014
We had a beautiful thank you to the hosts and farewell party. Each student gave their host family a lovely frame they crafted with a picture of the family including the exchange student. Most importantly the students wrote heartfelt and thoughtful notes thanking their families.
Sam had a beautiful ceremony where he honored each student and shared their accomplishments this month. He gave each student a framed picture of our trip to Chicago to see the last game for the US in the World Cup.
Everyone enjoyed, Pizza, Chicken, Chips, Fruit, bagel dogs and different salads.
Lots of hugs and fun. We said goodbye until we say our final goodbye at the airport on Sunday.
Thank you Pam for coordinating this group and sharing your blog. Your work inspires us and we hope it inspires other coordinators as well!
If you are interested in hosting for CCI Greenheart please visit Host a Foreign Exchange Student to learn more.
By: Bilian Zhang (Olivia), Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar
Bilian Zhang (American name, Olivia) is a Work and Travel participant from China, working in Harrisburg, PA. In her fifth blog post, she shares a day of her life in Pennsylvania’s capital.
I’ve been in the USA for about a month now. I try my best to experience and enjoy the life here in my free time. I’m just too busy seeing and feeling that I only take a few photos. When it comes to writing a blog, I realize that there are not enough photos to show how happy I feel being here!
I participate in the “Caitlin’s Smiles” Project. I decorate cards and bags for kids who are in the hospital. I hope they feel happy when they see my cards and it makes them smile all day.
We had an event with all of the international students here in Harrisburg. We had a big party and enjoyed the food, music, and activities. It was a really great night and everyone had fun!
In my free time, I often go out with my friends to go shopping or have fun doing something else. We are far away from home now, so we miss Chinese food a lot. We got to eat some Cantonese dim sum. They were so delicious and tasted like home!
I often take walks along the Susquehanna River after dinner. It is good for health and it is a good opportunity to see a beautiful sunset. The beauty in life exists in every simple thing.
If you are interested in hearing more from Olivia, watch her video below!
By: Yu Yang (Alina), Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar
Yu Yang (American name, Alina) is a Work and Travel participant from China, working at Big Mountain Deli & Creperey in Lake Placid, NY. In her first blog post, she shares how she enjoys her time working in the Adirondack Mountains.
I am a 20-year-old girl from China, participating in CCI Greenheart’s Work and Travel program. I have lived in Lake Placid, NY for almost 3 months. It is an amazing place with awesome scenery and friendly and warm-hearted people. My workplace is Big Mountain Deli & Creperey located at 2475 Main Street, Lake Placid, NY. I enjoy working here because it is a good workplace and my colleagues and employers are so kind. They encourage me and cheer me up even though I make mistakes.
I think my workplace is amazing! We sell 46 different types of delicious sandwiches, more than 20 kinds of crepes, 4 different smoothies which are very popular and 8 kinds of tasty salads. There are also various beverages and drinks.
My schedule changes every week and I do different tasks according to the schedule. It’s really interesting to learn new things! I am assigned making sandwiches or crepes. Sometimes I do the preparation work like slicing the meat, making sweet or savory batter for crepes, and washing dishes.
At the beginning, it was a challenge for me to remember so many different ingredients including the meats, cheeses, sauces, dressings, vegetables and other things. But making sandwiches, crepes, smoothies, and salads is fun! Doing the dishes for a long time is tiring, but my friends and I will take turns doing the dishes. What powerful teamwork!
We need to clean and change all of the containers every day to keep the ingredients fresh after we close. We use plastic wrap to keep the ingredients in the refrigerator fresh.Before we leave, everyone does “spring cleaning” which includes wiping the tables, cleaning the floor, and refilling anything that is running out.
I think I’m a lucky girl to get the chance to work here. I enjoy working with my colleagues. The local people are as beautiful as the scenery!
Watch Alina’s video below as she describes her work experience in more detail!
By: Lulu Kong, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar
Lulu Kong is a Work and Travel participant from China, working at White Castle in Whitehall, PA. In her third blog post, she shares how she enjoys her time working at America’s oldest fast food chain.
I am a team member at White Castle as part of CCI Greenheart’s Summer Work and Travel Program. It is not far from where I live, so I can walk to work. I really enjoy working at White Castle because it is a great place. Plus, it is full of burgers!
At first, working here made me a little uncomfortable. It gets really busy when a lot of customers come at the same time. We were so busy, I couldn’t follow the fast pace! I dropped this, dropped that, I had dropped so many things! But I never give up, I just keep on fighting! Luckily, I have a lot of nice workmates and managers. They were patient and taught me everything. Now, I am getting better and better at my job! I even have a wonderful testimonial from my supervisor in my video below.
I am also happy that I have learned how to make American food by working in White Castle. I make meals for myself when I take breaks. I really love the French fries and bacon burgers! But I don’t like pickles, onions, or cheese so I just make it plain and then add bacon. I have my own style of burgers!
One of my supervisors, Scott, is very nice and welcoming. All of us participants are glad to work with him. He is not very strict and makes us feel comfortable. He is always eager to learn more about Chinese culture from us. He even said he wants to travel to China one day! I say, “Welcome to China! We are waiting for you in China!”
The lobby of White Castle it is very clean and bright. I like the lights because they are special. I hope to open a White Castle in China one day. It will be the first one in China!
By: Haldis Toppen and Merrill Hill, CCI Greenheart staff members
CCI Greenheart welcomed 30 interns from Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) to the U.S. with an orientation and Greenheart Service Project on June 22, 2014. To start the day, we met with the HKBU interns and their leader, Alice Yau, at Thomas Beckham Hall on the University of Illinois – Chicago (UIC) Campus. During the brief orientation, we covered J-1 visa program regulations, responsibilities of the participants upon arriving to the U.S., and a brief Q&A session about what it means to volunteer.
After wrapping up the orientation, the participants took a bus that dropped them within walking distance to the Greenheart Service Project site. The participants arrived at the garden eager to begin their volunteer project. There were 3 garden staff members, 6 Work and Travel (W&T) participants (2 Romanians and 4 Thai including W&T Ambassador Scholar, Naon), and CCI Greenheart W&T staff member, Haldis Toppen already on site.
Garden staff quickly divided up the large group of participants to cover a variety of tasks: weeding garden beds, picking flowers, trimming bushes, and cleaning the new garden gazebo. Participants clearing weeds were treated to a mini botany lesson as they learned what to clear out and what to keep. One participant, particularly curious about how St. John’s Wort was used as an anti-depressant, received an explanation from staff member Irene.
It was a lot of work but a great help to the small regular garden staff. Everyone had a great time and enjoyed the pizza lunch provided by CCI Greenheart. Even after lunch was finished and the event was technically over, some HKBU participants spent the sunny Sunday afternoon in the garden; completing the tasks they had been assigned! “Gardening is a new experience for us because we do not have access to gardens in Hong Kong due to the size of the city.” - Alice Yau, representative of HKBU.
Greenhearts were definitely made during their first volunteer experience in the U.S.!