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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.

The Last Stop – Seattle

October 17, 2014

By: Lulu Kong, Work and Travel Summer 2014 Ambassador Scholar

Lulu is a Work and Travel participant from China. in her latest blog post, she describes her experiences traveling in the United States. Watch her video before you get started on her blog!


Seattle was the last place I stayed in America. I love this city so much, and not only the beautiful scenery but also the awesome seafood!

For some reason, it was my first time being a new place all by myself. I have no doubt that it will be one of my most unforgettable memories in my whole life.


Welcome to Seattle! And now let me show you what Seattle is like in my sight.

No.1 Space Needle

Absolutely it is the first place every visitor who comes here needs to see. You can see the whole sight of Seattle at the top.

No.2 Crab Pot

It is the most popular restaurant in local which is also known by many Chinese people. Seafood is my favorite, as my hometown is close to the sea, and the crab I had here was so amazing and was much bigger. I was crazy about it.

No.3 Pike Market

The fish show and the various fish in the market attract a lot of visitors. And it is said that the lucky pig will bring you luck and wealth, so many visitors like to take pictures with it.

This is also a special sight of Seattle located in the market. How do you feel about the whole wall of gum? hahah



No.4 Alki Beach


It was really amazing and so romantic. I did not see many young people, but I saw older couples sitting side by side on the chair facing such a beautiful beach.

I enjoyed it so much and I even wanted to stay there forever. It is too beautiful for me to leave.


They are very nice local people and we had a good talk.

No.5 Starbucks

Most of Chinese people like tea more than coffee, but no one can refuse Starbucks. Seattle is the original location of Starbucks, and its first shop opened in 1912 just near the Pike Market. It also attracts lots of visitors coming here. And every block has a Starbucks and is filled with the smell of coffee.

I love Seattle so much! It is an amazing place with nice people, beautiful scenery, and crazy seafood. I was thinking about going to Seattle for a long time. Finally, it came true, and I enjoyed this trip so much! It was a sweet memory.

Putting the ‘Heart’ in Greenheart: Meet an LC Who Knows What It’s All About

October 16, 2014

By Jillian Sims, AYP Compliance and Operations Manager


Nancy and her students stop for a quick picture at last year's Global Youth Service Day environmental volunteer project

Nancy and her students stop for a quick picture at last year’s Global Youth Service Day environmental volunteer project


Nancy is a seasoned LC and recent AC from Iowa. She has been a Grant LC for 10 years and an LC for CCI Greenheart for 3 years. Including summer IHP students, she has coordinated for over 80 students, with over 30 of them have been FLEX and YES students.  Because of her exemplary work as an LC and her commitment to volunteering (including a project in the works for this weekend’s Greenheart Day of Service), we asked her a few questions about her experience as an LC and what advice she can offer other LCs.


Why did you decide to become a Local Coordinator with CCI Greenheart?

I became a LC 10 years ago when my children were 16, 13 and 9. I have always loved to travel (I have been to 40 countries to date) and I wanted to expose my children to different cultures. We had traveled some as a family and student exchange became an extension of those experiences. I had also read a little book called “The Prayer Of Jabez”.

In the book the prayer this man prayed was, “Please expand my territory that I may do good and not harm” (paraphrase). That prayer was answered in my life in a big way! Finally, it occurred to me that if my children ever decided to study abroad I would hope that someone safe was watching out for them on the other side of the world. I decided I could be that safe person on this side of the world for these students.

What is your favorite memory with your students as an LC? Favorite experience volunteering with them?
I have coordinated for over 60 AYP students so I have a lot of memories! One that jumps out is the time we volunteered at a Horse Ranch. One of my girls (a FLEX student from Moldova) had never ridden a horse and was terrified of them. So we first helped rake the inner area where the horses spent most of their time. In doing so Sandra was able to be near the horses without actually fearing that she was at risk in any way. We worked all morning and Sandra was able to see how the other students enjoyed petting the horses, and how calm they were. So by the end of the day Sandra rode a horse (I led her around a riding arena). It was life changing for her! At the end of the year she thanked me profusely for helping her get over her fear of horses. I was grateful I could be part of that process for her.

What moment made you realize the larger impact of what you’re doing as an LC and as a volunteer ?
Several years ago my husband and I traveled to Prague, Czech Rep. I had a former student from Belarus (they used to be part of the FLEX countries, but their government pulled out of the program in 2007) who traveled 24 hours one way by bus to spend 4 days with us (It’s very hard for Americans to enter Belarus and this was the only way she could see us). While spending time with her she shared her memories and how her time in the US had completely changed her life. This was just amazing to me and was the first time I realized the impact we were having on students like Hanna. We are still in touch and she is still so grateful!
What is your favorite hobby, outside of being a volunteer?
My favorite hobby now is visiting my children and grandchildren! My oldest daughter and her husband and two children live in Orlando, Florida and they both work for Disney. My son is now in Seminary in Denver, Colorado, and my youngest daughter goes to college in St Paul, Minnesota, and plays basketball there. So my husband and I spend as much time as we can traveling to see all of them! When I first started as an LC, I considered student exchange to be my favorite hobby. Through the years working with the students has become much bigger than just a hobby for me.
What have you learned/what is a tip for other LCs?
I have so many tips to share with new LCs. The first would be that there are people out there that WANT to host. This is not like sales! So get comfortable talking about your students and your experiences. If the person is interested, they will show you that. Secondly, I have realized that it is my “job” to ask. I fully accept a “No” or a “Not Now” and I try to give people permission to have those answers. But if I don’t ask, that person may miss an incredible opportunity, so I ask.

My favorite question is “Has hosting a student ever been on your radar?” This question seems to open a door for conversation without it being awkward. SONY DSC


How do you find and arrange activities for your students –particularly the upcoming Greenheart Day of Service project? What will it entail for the students? How many will participate?
Originally I planned my volunteer (and other enhancement activities) around activities I was already going to be doing. My husband and I taught our children to be service oriented, so when we had a service project planned I would bring my students along as well (My daughter use to ride at the horse ranch that I mentioned earlier). As time has gone on I have fine tuned my events to the things that worked that best. For instance, in October we will be joining the Animal Rescue League at the Great Iowa Pet Expo (this is Nancy’s Greenheart Day of Service project). The students will learn a lot about taking care of abandoned and homeless animals and will have fun demonstrating their leadership while they talk to the public about their home countries.

Then in December my church has a beautiful event called “The Perfect Gift”. In one of the display rooms there are many Christmas trees, all decorated differently. I will have a Christmas party on the day they are setting up the trees and my students will spend 2 hours helping to set them up. Its a fun activity and one that is time intensive. My students will have a great time, interact with American’s and also be very helpful. I do this activity almost every year. This year I am combining most of my activities with 2 other LC’s in my area. So we will have 9 out of 10 students participating in the October event. We make it fun by spending that night in a local hotel (chaperoned, of course).



We certainly can’t wait to see the pictures and hear about how this event went! At CCI Greenheart, we are proud to have such amazing Local Coordinators and are inspired by their work and dedication to cultural exchange. Interested in becoming an LC and starting your own journey in exchange? Click here to learn more!


Work and Travel Conference: Inspiring Participants through Service

October 16, 2014

By Marney Coleman, Greenheart International Service Learning and Outreach Coordinator

CCI Greenheart’s Work and Travel program annually hosts a conference in Chicago to connect sending agencies, employers, community organizers and CCI Greenheart staff. At the conference, stakeholders discuss the year’s achievements, best practices, and programming, including the Greenheart Club. To truly illustrate the importance of volunteerism to our stakeholders, each year conference attendees participate in a Greenheart Service Project. Not only does this set a strong example of volunteering to our Work & Travel participants, but it also allows for stakeholders to understand first-hand the importance of volunteering in a cultural exchange program.


Each year the volunteer Greenheart Service Projects are organized around a theme. This year, we focused on aligning our volunteer project locations with the four types of volunteer service:

 1. Advocacy: Promoting and persuading other to help change policies and laws
2. Awareness: Educating others and sharing information in order to encourage positive behavior changes
3. Direct Service: Directly engaging in a project that will benefit others or the environment
4. Philanthropy: Promoting the welfare of others through donation of money and/or goods

With this guiding vision in mind, we selected four unique non-profits in Chicago for our volunteer efforts: Jackson Park Advisory Council, New Life for Old Bags, YMCA of Metro Chicago, The Salvation Army Chicago Metropolitan Division. These organizations serve a broad range of Chicagoans, and each has unique program offerings for their clients. Over 60 Work and Travel Conference attendees embarked upon volunteer service at these locations across the north, west, and south sides of Chicago.

Jackson Park Advisory Council (JPAC) served as our Advocacy organization. At JPAC, volunteers participated in a beach clean-up at 57th Street Beach in the historic Jackson Park – the site of Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair. JPAC advocates for the beautification, maintenance, and utilization of the many amenities of Jackson Park and supports the citizens who use it.

The JPAC volunteer group taking a selfie while cleaning up 57th Street Beach.

The JPAC volunteer group taking a selfie while cleaning up 57th Street Beach.

At New Life for Old Bags, an organization that brings awareness to environmental issues and homelessness in Chicago, volunteers learned about their innovative project of crocheting old plastic bags into sleeping mats for individuals experiencing homelessness. Volunteers sorted bags, converted bags into plastic yarn, and helped crochet a new sleeping mat.

Volunteers at New Life for Old Bags displaying a completed sleeping mat made out of plastic bags to be given to homeless individuals in Chicago.

Volunteers at New Life for Old Bags displaying a completed sleeping mat made out of plastic bags to be given to homeless individuals in Chicago.

Another group of volunteers participated in direct service with residents at the Senior Housing facilities at the South Chicago YMCA. Volunteers facilitated a BINGO activity and served refreshments to senior residents. The South Chicago YMCA offers affordable housing and social services to seniors in the area.

Volunteers preparing to play BINGO with senior residents at the South Chicago YMCA.

Volunteers preparing to play BINGO with senior residents at the South Chicago YMCA.

Volunteers at the Salvation Army – one of the nation’s largest philanthropic non-profits – traveled to the near west side to the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light center. The center serves as a rehabilitation center and is one of the Salvation Army’s largest substance abuse recovery centers in the U.S. Volunteers assisted in bagging food in the kitchen facility and maintaining the grounds.

Some of the volunteers preparing food in the kitchen of the Salvation Army Harbor Light center.

Some of the volunteers preparing food in the kitchen of the Salvation Army Harbor Light center.

We would like to offer our sincere thanks to these organizations; not only for warmly welcoming our groups, but more importantly, for all the work they are doing in Chicago communities. During a reflection activity, we synthesized our experiences, feelings, and new knowledge gathered from these volunteer experiences. Partner Employer Brent Gasser, of Yogi Bear Jellystone Park in Wisconsin Dells, said that the volunteer experience is consistently his favorite part of the conference. It is clear that these volunteer service experiences are memorable parts of the Work and Travel Conference experience and serve as a tool for stakeholders to further motivate and inspire their participants to serve their communities as well!

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