By Lindsey Pawlowski, Work and Travel Intern
Our Going Greenheart Tour is going strong, with our most recent stop in Bratislava, Slovakia! Adra Klopfer met with a Slovak sending partner and American employers for our Summer 2014 Work and Travel Job Fair.
Slovakia is a country of five million people, and Bratislava is the capital and epicenter, boasting political and economic muscle. Booming companies such as Volkswagen are interestingly juxtaposed against ancient, yet beautiful castles.
CCI Greenheart and our employers visited the sites of Devín and Bratislava castles, which are bursting with history. Bratislava’s location in the center of Europe made it a strategic place to build forts and castles. Both Devín and Bratislava castle were first constructed starting as early as the 9th century up until the 15th century. Bratislava castle was crucial during the Kingdom of Hungary. It housed political events and the Holy Crown of Hungary; a coronation crown cared for by over 100 soldiers. Despite enduring many wars, both are still standing today and are crucial historical spots of Europe.
Although surrounded by incredible sites, CCI Greenheart did not forget about the reason for the trip: hiring young and eager Slovak students to work and travel in the United States! Over twenty participants were interviewed by Adra and employers to find the best fit for their stays in the U.S. The Job Fair was successful and full of happy participants, as they all received job offers.
We are happy to make Bratislava a stop on the Going Greenheart tour with a Greenheart volunteering project! Participants and employers brought donations for a clothing drive for Humana People to People, and organization devoted to economic and environmental sustainability for those in need. We are looking forward to following future volunteer efforts while our Slovak participants are in the U.S. this summer!
By Merrill Hill; Career Advancement Program Assistant
Adriana from Peru began her trainee placement in Park City, UT in September 2013. Now, half way through her program, she took some time out to reflect on her experiences in America and sent us pictures to help tell her story.
“I experienced my first Thanksgiving! In Lima, we don’t celebrate that holiday so my boss invited me to his family’s dinner. They taught me how to make stuffing and the 14 pound turkey. I made apple pie for them.”
“For Oktoberfest,we went to a resort called Snowbird. It was really fun, with lots of German traditions.”
“For Halloween there was a costume contest at work; I did not win. Right after that we went to Main St. All the stores and restaurants open their doors and give candies and chocolates.”
“For Valentines, since its a very busy week and most of us were training on the night shift, we went out for lunch to a Peruvian restaurant. Paraguayans, Peruvians and Americans hanging out and having a good time :).”
With 6 months down and 6 months left to go, we can’t wait to see what else Adriana experiences!
By: Luiza Dos Santos, Work and Travel Assistant
For employers, staff and participants of the Work and Travel department, one of the most attractive features program is the opportunity to practice English speaking skills with native speakers and also have the opportunity to share English and American culture with those unfamiliar to it. In fact, many experts in the field argue that such exposure is the best way to learn a foreign language. According to a study conducted by The National Foreign Language Center at Johns Hopkins University, full language immersion has been shown to generate overall better foreign language acquisition than can be attained in a classroom setting. In addition to fluency, this type of immersion leads to contextual learning, cultural understanding, and professional preparation. For that reason, it is highly recommended to speak and practice your English as much as possible while you’re in the United States.
But that’s only part of the story. Another crucial component of the learning process is the ability to fully listen. Did you know that March is the International Listening Awareness Month? According to the International Listening Association (ILA), we only remember about 50 percent of what we hear immediately after we hear it during a conversation and only another 20 percent after it happened. When it comes to improving language skills, the act of listening can just as important to communicate successfully.
With that in mind, here are some tips to enhance your listening skills, especially for participants new to English:
- Body language is important – Try to keep eye contact with your conversation partners. In addition to paying attention to what they are trying to say, try to pay attention to how they are trying to communicate with you. Are they relaxed or tense? Are they keeping eye contact with you as well? More often than not, the speaker’s body language can provide you with more depth and it will help you remember the conversation and specific words better later on.
- Don’t interrupt – Sometimes it’s hard to refrain from making comments while someone else is speaking, especially when you’re passionate about the subject. However, try to let the speakers finish their thought whenever possible. A complete argument is much easier to remember and follow than an incomplete one. While the person is talking, try not to think about what you’re going to say next and really focus on what is being said.
- Actively listen through your own body language – Make sure that people talking to you know that you’re actively listening to them. You can let them know by nodding and saying a few affirmative words.
- Ask for clarification – Asking for clarification is different than interrupting. When in doubt, always ask for different examples. This will lead to better understanding and you’ll be able to better retain the information.
- Summarize and briefly repeat the information when it’s your turn to talk – This will help you make sure that you are both on the same page and prevent future misunderstandings.
Listening and speaking complement and enhance each other. So as an employer or CCI Greenheart staff member, we can be sure to help participants learn English, by listening as well. For all participants on the program, remember that as long as you try, your English will get better!
By: Victoria Harding, Work and Travel Assistant
As the month of February and the Winter Olympics come to a close, I was struck with the feeling of just how very special the Olympics truly are. Despite the controversy and the politics, there is no event that brings together so many different cultures and countries to celebrate human accomplishment quite like the Olympics. Every two years there seems to be a new controversy surrounding the games, but the concept at the heart of the Olympics has remained the same for thousands of years.
The original Olympics date back to 776 BC. The first games were originally intended to show off the physical accomplishments of young men (women were not allowed to compete) and to encourage unity between the communities of Greece. The original games were done in one day, and included the following sports: running, long jump, shot put, javelin, boxing, and equestrian.
The evolution of the games can be viewed as a reflection of how our global outlook has changed. Now there are over 50 Olympic sports spread out over two seasons (winter and summer). Thousands of male and female athletes from 85 countries were represented at Sochi all. Over 98 metals were awarded at Sochi, the most in Olympic history.
What I found most captivating about watching the Olympics in Sochi were the athletic abilities of the men and women, and exploring how extraordinary human achievement can overcome political differences, just as it was meant to in Ancient Greece. The grace and strength of the figure skaters, the daring jumps of the skiers, and the team work of the hockey players and bobsledders, are just a few of the fantastic feats athletes from all over the world achieve during the games.
Emotions ran high in the Women’s Ice Hockey gold medal game when Canada took the gold in overtime. Many people watched in awe as 17-year-old Adelina Sotnikova became the first Russian woman to win an Olympic figure skating gold. Even silly moments happened; for example Eva Samkova of the Czech Republic won the gold at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park, with a moustache painted on her face. These moments expressed the true meaning of the Olympics to me: a representation of different countries coming together, competing, and celebrating amazing athletes.
At CCI Greenheart, we were lucky enough to watch the opening ceremony together, but it is now after the closing ceremonies, that I am reminded how inline the mission of CCI Greenheart and the Olympics are – we both promote cultural understanding. This mission is at the core of CCI Greenheart and it is the very idea that the Olympics were founded on. I hope that we can all take some small piece of cultural understanding from the Olympics and apply it to our daily lives, our stakeholders, and the mission at CCI Greenheart.
Marina is an exchange student from Moldova who has been placed in New York. She is a member of the Greenheart Club and has volunteered over 300 hours. On behalf of the Greenheart Club we congratulate her on her hard work and dedication!
My name is Marina Esanu and I am from the Republic of Moldova. I would like to say thank you to both my program, Flex, and my placement organization, CCI Greenheart, for giving me such an awesome opportunity by bringing me to the United States, helping me adjust to this new experience, and making sure that I enjoy my time in New York.
As I have spent more time here, I have learned more about American society, beliefs, and ways of life, which are so different from my own country. I adapted to a lot of things that are different and maybe, in some ways, better. I like it here. A lot of friendly and honest people are glad to talk to me even if I don’t know them and just met them at the store. Being open-minded and respectable are main characteristics of American people that I have observed.
Every day here is like a dream turned into reality. Being an exchange student, there are a lot of opportunities to get involved in things that are really unforgettable. I was very honored when, in November, I had the chance to meet the local Assemblyman Will Barclay. He is a very pleasant man and he was open to any questions. I was very surprised when he told me that he had met other people from my country before.
Through my community service work, I met a lot of people from my host town. I also used to volunteer in my home country so I knew the importance of volunteering. When I came to the United States I started doing volunteer work as soon as I was able. I often go to the library or concession stand to volunteer. My favorite volunteering hours were at a Halloween party. If you were to tell me before that I would volunteer at a barbecue for 12 hours, I would probably think that you were joking. But that’s what I actually did last week, and it was a lot a of fun. My goal used to be to do 100 hours of volunteer service, but now I want to beat my country’s record and do 500 hours.
I’m always doing my best to prove that I do have potential and that I deserve to be a future leader.
by Lauren Coffaro, Business Development Specialist, Career Advancement Program
Each and every day, I get the chance to help amazing and driven people from all around the world realize their dreams by coming to the U.S. for professional training with the J-1 Intern/Trainee visa program. While in the U.S., I hear interns and trainees recount stories of how their lives, their skills, and their worldview have changed dramatically. Most of these exchanges take place from a distance, I in the Greenheart International Headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, and the interns/trainees spread out across the United States.
So I am always thrilled to visit CCI Greenheart’s Interns and Trainees in their “natural habitat…” at their host organizations! Conducting site visits to host organizations is a wonderful way to not only ensure hosts of J-1 Interns and Trainees are having a positive experience with the program, but also to check in our interns and trainees and learn about their life, lessons, and memories in the U.S. first-hand.
In January 2014, I traveled to sunny Florida, where CCI Greenheart held our first ever Going Greenheart Tour in West Palm Beach at Mounts Botanical Garden. There, I met a true Greenheart superstar, J-1 Trainee Renato from Brazil, who joined me for a day of volunteering, pizza, and conversation. Mounts Botanical Garden is open to the public and showcases some of the unique flowers, trees, mosses, and vines that are native to tropical southern Florida. Renato and I helped out the hard-working gardeners there by weeding flower beds that line the lovely walking trails of the gardens. Renato shared how volunteering regularly in the U.S. has shaped his professional training experience into something extraordinary.
The rest of my visit was even more successful. Interns regaled me with stories of their travels: Everglades National Park, South Beach Miami, Walt Disney World, Key West. Others described the lessons they’d learned: mastering the computer system, becoming an expert on American wines, memorizing details of fine dining, communicating effectively with colleagues. Interns laughed and reminisced on interactions they had with community members learning about their countries for the first time, lovingly described the friends they’d made in their American colleagues, and shared the fond memories of living in the U.S. that they would carry with them throughout their lives.
My visit to Florida’s East Coast this January was a lively reminder of the impact that the J-1 Intern/Trainee program has across the U.S., an oft life-changing series of lessons, learning, friendship, and fellowship which I’m proud to support, each and every day.