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“Keep calm, this is real, just enjoy your time!”

October 25, 2014

By: Abdulsamet Kilicarslan, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Abdulsamet Kilicarslan is a Work and Travel participant from Turkey, who worked at Funtown Splashtown USA in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. In this blog post, he shares some of his experiences traveling the United States.

The time to leave was impending. I spent my whole summer in the USA. I made awesome memories and perfect friendships. It was getting harder to leave my host community and my friends. We were like a family. Otherwise, the travel part was going to start. I was so excited for that because I was travelling to amazing places; it was a dream, and for those days, it was completely unreal! Firstly, I flew Miami, I stayed there ten days. It was like a vacation for me because most of time I sunbathed and swam in the warm ocean. Also, yes, I visited around the city.

Next, I flew to Washington. I stayed there for three days. Everyone was saying it is just the capital; there are not many places to visit. However, I discovered a lot of places; I especially loved the museums. I really enjoyed those three days.

After Washington, I traveled to Philadelphia by bus. I didn’t have long time to stay there, but I found the opportunity to stay just one night. One night was enough to see that Philly is a nice city.

After that, I traveled to New York City, which is my dream city. Each street of this AMAZING city impressed me. It is really huge and crowded. I just enjoyed being on my own in New York City. Visiting the landmarks was really like a dream. Every single minute I was telling myself to “keep calm, this is real, just enjoy your time!”

It was time to go to Boston. Boston is also really nice and pretty city. In this city, I visited a lot of colleges and universities. It was like an educational paradise. I stayed in Boston for two days, and following night I flew to my country. When I was travelling, I met a lot of people who tried to help me go somewhere or stay some place. I was so lucky for that, because I really met nice and kind people. I found the opportunity to travel to beautiful and charming cities. At the end of this journey, I say, “Wait for me USA; I am going to come back. It was just a beginning!”

Want to see Samet’s photos? Watch his video below:

Yes, we felt American.

October 24, 2014

By: Tomasz Paciorkowski, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Tomasz is a Work and Travel participant from Poland who volunteers as an English teacher and hopes to inspire his future students to have experiences like his own. Before you begin reading, be sure to watch his video below:


I’m glad to see you all sober again.

Today I’m supposed to tell you about my free time and travelling in the United States.

The topic seems very enjoyable, doesn’t it? I agree, it does, so let’s get straight down to all the stories I have for you.


While I was working in Beaver Creek I was lucky enough to meet some of the most amazing people on the planet. No kidding. I’m serious about that. Some of those people I got to like so much that we all decided to spend some time traveling around the United States together. The plan was quite simple, and we didn’t devote too much time to planning the trip.

I think we subconsciously decided to go all “Yes Man” during our journey. We would later on regret that attitude a bit, however, now in retrospect, it was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Hopefully, they will agree with me on that one.

Here’s what we decided to do:

  1. Rent a car from a random car rental company.
  2. Go to California.
  3. …oh, and we need to stop by the Grand Canyon.
  4. The journey will take us to San Francisco.

That was honestly it. We didn’t plan for any accommodation whatsoever, apart from that one night we were supposed to spend in the Grand Canyon National Park. Nobody really thought about the consequences.

I suppose many fourteen-year olds would scream YOLO at this point but I don’t subscribe to that philosophy.  I mean, what a huge discovery – You live just once; who would have thought? It’s stupid, come on!

I guess I just wanted to have some cool stories to tell to some female strangers in all the pubs I am supposed to visit in Poland.

There were five of us. We left Beaver Creek on September 15th in a Ford F-150.

Yes, it was a pick-up truck. Yes, it was huge. Yes, I was driving the monster.

Yes, we felt American.


I guess there’re easier ways to start feeling American, some say it’s eating at McDonald’s. Let’s be frank here though, nothing can be as cool as driving a pick-up truck.

We found I-70 and headed towards Utah. On the first day of our journey, we were supposed to reach the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. It was quite a long way; however, it was extremely fun.

At around 2 AM, we arrived at our destination, put up a tent, and went to sleep.

In the morning we started for the Grand Canyon itself. The first time that I caught a glimpse of what is probably the biggest ditch that exists on the Earth, my mind went blank. I was awestruck by the magnitude of it. It took me some time to regain full control of my body. I think my brain just had to reboot after having seen what it saw, as it didn’t have to deal with anything like it ever before.

We wandered about the Grand Canyon pretty much all day. I wasn’t, and I still am not, really able to put my finger on it.


In the evening, we got back into our pick-up truck and headed for California. We decided to drive as far as we could. Completely by accident, we even found ourselves on the historic Route 66. I was beside myself with joy. It’d been my dream for a very long time.

We found accommodation in Barstow by Route 66 in a very cozy motel Sunset Inn.


We decided to spend some more time in Southern California before we’d drive to San Francisco.

Krzysiek, who was one of the amazing people I had the honor to be traveling with, had a dream to visit Michael Jackson’s Neverland, and that’s where we decided to go.

The drive was amazing. We passed places, such as Santa Barbara, which will basically take your breath away. There are mountains, palm trees, ocean, and the weather. There’s everything you need to be happy.

That night, after much searching, we also happily found a room at a motel in San Louis Obispo.

The very next day, we headed towards San Francisco. And after my nagging, we took the famous Highway 1.


It wasn’t the easiest of highways I’d ever driven on, especially in a pick-up truck. But it was all worth it. The scenery was breath-taking. Although, the gas prices on the highway were a rip-off.

At one of the gas stations, the owners put up a sign informing us that to find another gas station you need to drive for about 40 miles. Well, I think they need to get their facts straight because the next gas station we passed was about half a mile further down the road.

All I want to say is – I don’t like your marketing strategy, you random gas station.

…and $5.30 for a gallon. Are you serious?

Nonetheless, we reached San Francisco late at night. It was probably around 2 AM. We also didn’t have any place to stay there, therefore, we decided to stop by a Burger King, steal WI-FI, and check our options.

Fortunately, we found a motel room about 20 miles away from San Francisco.


We spent a few days in San Francisco, and then we had to go our separate ways.

Olga and I flew to New York City. Anita, Natalia, and Krzysiek stayed in California. It was quite an emotional moment for me. Don’t judge. I just get attached to people.

New York City is great. Probably everybody will tell you that. Manhattan is awesome. The skyscrapers are great, and tall, and great.

The city has an amazing buzz to it, a buzz that I loved.

It’s so busy, so intense, and yet, around the city, there are numerous parks that you can rest in.


It’d been my dream to see New York City for a very long time. My expectations were quite high, and I need to admit that New York met them all.

Maybe apart from Time Square. Time Square is awesome at night. However, in daylight, it’s just an ordinary junction. To be honest with you, I walked straight past it and I didn’t notice.


After a few days in New York City, we got on a plane, and flew to Poland.

If I were to quickly sum up the experience, I would say that the United States of America is an amazing place. It is full of surprises and warm people who are willing to help you. You just need to know where you’re going.

Also, small town America is the place to go. All the big cities are just big cities, maybe with the exception of New York City which, indeed, is the greatest city on Earth.

The Opportunity that Gave Days More Color

October 23, 2014

By Nino Khurtsidze, CCI Greenheart Academic Year Alumna

CCI Greenheart and FLEX program alumna, Nino (Nini) Khurtsidze from the country of Georgia won the 2014 Greenheart Service Project for Academic Year Program participants. Nini was an exchange student who went to high school in Burley, ID. There she volunteered 550 hours of service to her community. Among other things, she did environmental projects to help make Burley a beautiful place and she helped special needs students at her school. She was an exemplary member of the Greenheart Club and we were more than happy to fund her English Summer Camp project in Georgia. Below are Nini’s reflections and photos of her Greenheart Club project. All of us at Greenheart want to congratulate her on her inspiring commitment to making the world a better place through service.

nininiii“ The USA can give you wings” – I read those words and it reminded me of my own experience in the United States. After winning the Eco-Weekend trip to Chicago (now called Greenheart Leader Trip to Chicago) my life changed a lot. I met very interesting people there, made new friends from different parts of the world, of course gained new experiences and I got the chance to do the grant project in my country, which was the best part. This was a very exciting opportunity for me. I decided to create a project which will help kids and adults to improve their English skills while receiving information about the United States and CCI Greenheart. With the help of the Greenheart Club, I planned many fun and educational activities for the students. I gave a presentation about my year in America. In my presentation I covered what I saw there, how people live and act there, and generally what is going on in the country of dreams. Also I invited other CCI Greenheart alumni which made our society very happy. Kids not only improved their leadership skills, but our project also gave them the opportunity to make a lot of new friends and have fun with them. The closing ceremony was also  very memorable. Another alumni and I presented about our American experience and people loved it. They asked us very interesting questions and I had a feeling that we inspired them to fight for their dreams. After seeing the look in their eyes I knew that our  project had reached its goal. A lot of foreigners were interested in our English Summer Camp program. They think that it is a very good opportunity for Georgian children to get more education for free, to have fun, and to learn how to be future leaders.

photo 21

I want to take this opportunity to thank CCI Greenheart for this chance to make peoples’ days more beautiful, to help them learn something new, and to have so much fun. Now we have the one and only Greenheart Club corner in Georgia and I made it, which really makes me proud. Thank you everybody for everything and I wish to continue working  with your beautiful staff in future. One wise man said that everything happens for a reason and I think our relationship was really for one reason – to make life better.

With much respect,

Nini Khurtsidze

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Simply have fun

October 22, 2014

By: Jesse Richards, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Jesse is a Work and Travel participant from Jamaica, working at Jumpin Jakes in Maine. In his latest blog post, he shares his travel story during his program. Watch his video below to learn more.

It is very easy to be so sucked into your work cycle that you forget how important it is to enjoy the free time that you have. I made sure that I would thoroughly enjoy my time working and my time with my friends. It would be very easy to see ‘free time’ as time lost from working; but I see it as time gained in creating memorable experiences with those closest to me.

If it’s a day off from work or a free weekend…how should I spend it? With friends of course! After working hard, it is important to take some free time to relax. I didn’t want to spend all my time working while missing out on all the fun activities that the USA has to offer. Usually I spend my free time walking on the beach or going for a long bike ride to see new places. On occasion, when my friends have time off at the same time that I do, we normally find something fun to do, whether it is going in Old Orchard Memorial Park to play some basketball with the locals or getting some tennis rackets and enjoying a high energy game of tennis. If there was a social gathering among International students, we would definitely be there to share in the fun and the making of memories. Most of us love going to the movies, so why not while being international students? So, yes, in our free time groups of us went to the Cinemagic Cinema in Saco to see movies we’ve been waiting to see.

Being a musician, I appreciate all types of music, so if I have the time to go to a concert, I definitely go. There was one concert that stood out to me this summer and that was the album launch for a band named “Superfrog.” My former supervisor, Jason Walker, took me and a friend of mine to the concert. This particular concert was really an enjoyable experience as I got the chance to listen to groove rock music live. I also had the chance to meet all the members of the band; they were really sociable individuals. My supervisor was also the designer of Superfrog’s album cover. How cool is that?!

I love travelling around the U.S. because there are so many wonderful and historic places to see. Visiting these places always leaves a lasting impression on one’s soul, which creates some form of bond of attachment. Traveling and taking time to enjoy what the U.S. has to offer was one of the most rewarding experiences of participating in the Work and Travel program. There are many beautiful places to see, especially in New Hampshire and Maine. I love hiking, so once again my friends, Gevaun, Orville, and former supervisor, Jason, and I took a day to go on some hiking trails in New Hampshire. We went to Sabbaday Falls, Silver Cascade, and other small waterfalls in the area. The scenic views were simply amazing and picturesque. If there was more time I would travel to see more sites around New Hampshire. I definitely enjoyed my free time and the time I spent travelling and hanging out with old and new friends. It was a wonderful experience. I would encourage all international students to make sure that they take time for themselves, spend it with friends, travel the USA, and simply have fun.

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Want to meet some nice people? Go to Wisconsin.

October 20, 2014

By: Katy Smithy, Work and Travel Business Development Specialist

I have lived in the Midwest for 98% of my life, and I am ashamed to say that I had never been Door County, Wisconsin until our recent Going Greenheart Tour in August.  I don’t think there is a place in the United States that has nicer people.

My colleague, Haldis Toppen and I drove up to Door County to meet our participants, employers, and an amazing community organization called BRIDGES. If you don’t know who they are… you should. This local, nonprofit organization provides not only free bicycles to international students living in the area. They also plan events for the participants every other week during the summer. From kayaking to a Thanksgiving dinner, this group holds a variety of social and cultural events for anyone interested in learning more about cultural exchange. Check out a few of our pictures from the trip below.

Traveling and Free Time in the USA

October 19, 2014

By: Bilian Zhang, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Bilian is a Work and Travel participant from China, who spent her summer working in Pennsylvania. Watch her video below to see more of Bilian’s travels!


In my free time, I cook for myself and for my friends. I find cooking to be so much fun. To be honest, I was not good at cooking before I came to the United States. I only knew how to cook some simple Chinese dishes. During my stay in U.S.A, I have had to cook for myself, so I have had the chance to practice cooking every day. I have learned about many new dishes from my Chinese friends and also international friends. The photo is the pasta I made. I’m very proud of my cooking skills now..


Speaking of traveling, I didn’t mention in my video, but my friends and I drove in the U.S.A. Because public transportation is not very convenient, we decided to drive to have a one-day-trip to Lancaster, PA. The distance was not far, but the experience was memorable. We could go wherever we wanted by driving our car. I still feel very excited when I recall our trip. Life on the road with good friends is unforgettable.


I traveled alone in New York. I didn’t book a travel agency because I think being a DIY traveler has more freedom, and I can visit many dream places. I looked forward to visiting many museums before I come to the U.S.A. I spent a long time in The Museum of Modern Art and the Museum of Natural History. The feeling of satisfaction makes my travel meaningful to me.


This is the statue of Abraham Lincoln in front of the New York Historical Society. I hadn’t heard of this museum before. I was walking on the street after visiting the Museum of Natural History, and I saw this museum by coincidence. After I visited it, I found out that it was the first museum in New York. What a wonderful coincidence! I think this is the beauty of DIY traveling. You will never know what you will see in the next second! (To tell you the truth, Mr. Lincoln is a really tall and handsome man!)


I enjoyed my day shopping in New York. Window shopping on the 5th Avenue was cool. All of the world’s first-class stores are gathered on this street. I think it is part of the charm of New York City. The photo below shows the LEGO store in New York. The store is located in Rockefeller Center. All the models in the store are made with Lego plastic bricks. I felt like I had come into a store of fairy tales; everything was delicate and full of imagination and creativity. One can use these small plastic bricks to build a model of Rockefeller Center, a dragon, a house, a car, and almost anything! I really enjoyed hanging out in New York City without worrying about time.


I can only tell you about a small part of my free time and my traveling. It’s very interesting, right? In my opinion, traveling is a chance to see, hear, and feel an unfamiliar place with your heart. Just as there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes, I have a memory of New York City in my heart. Hope you can have a chance to have your own experience in New York City.

Don’t make fun of us

October 18, 2014

By: Katy Smithy, Work and Travel Business Development Specialist

I don’t think that I have ever had more fun at an amusement park than I did during our Going Greenheart Tour this summer in Minnesota.  My colleague Marcelle and I had an opportunity join our participants at one of the many employee events at Valley Fair.  It was an after business hours affair that started at 10:30PM (way past our bedtime) where their employees were able to eat pizza, sing karaoke, and ride roller coasters. We had a blast learning more about our participants’ experiences working at the amusement park, and we even rode one ride with them… three times. Below you will find a few pictures from our trip.  Don’t make fun of us… that ride was terrifying.

We also had the pleasure of visiting a few of our participants working at a lakeside restaurant in Minnesota. We were able to meet our participants in action! One of our Jamaican participants was manning the grill that afternoon and made our meals.  It was delicious! I have to say my favorite part was seeing their Tuesday special. Check it out in the pictures below.  What a wonderful cultural experience not only for our participant, but the staff and community.


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