By Faith Nyamakwere, J-1 Summer Work and Travel participant from Zimbabwe
During my J-1 program, I had the privilege to work at the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Centre, which is reported to be the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside Las Vegas, and is also ranked as 28th in the list of largest hotels in the world.
Most people come to the resort to experience the unique “Country Christmas” offered by the Gaylord. As a Gaylord star, I provided all the guests with the flawless services that they deserved and at the same time got to see and explore amazing places and attractions in Nashville, Tennessee. Some of the amazing things that I experienced at the Gaylord “Country Christmas” celebrations included snow tubing and ice skating, seeing the hotel decorated with thousands of twinkling lights and ornaments, the General Jackson Showboat lunch and dinner cruise, and the ICE! Sculpture exhibits of the Nutcracker and the Grinch (where scenes from these classics are hand carved from 2 million pounds of ice!).
Nashville, the “Music City”, is driven by music from country to classical. If you like music, this is the place to be. I visited amazing places such as the Country Music Hall of Fame (CMHF) and Museum, the Tennessee State Museum and the Grand Ole Opry. The CMHF is rated as the world’s largest popular music museum, offering changing exhibits featuring the legends of country music, both past and present. I also took a tour of Music Row and visited historic RCA Studio B, the famous studio where Elvis recorded over 200 songs. Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Chet Atkins, Eddy Arnold and many more American artists recorded classic hits there. The Grand Ole Opry is a weekly country-music stage concert founded in 1925 and is the longest running radio broadcast in U.S. history. It attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors from around the world and millions of radio and internet hits. Visiting these places was really a great opportunity for me to experience, see and explore the Music City.
Above all, I enjoyed the weather during the holiday season. I got to experience snow for the very first time in my life! It was really a wonderful experience – seeing all the roads, buildings and trees covered with snow. My friends and I even had the opportunity to build a snow man. In addition to Nashville, I also visited Chicago and New York City.
My sponsor organization – Global Education Concept (GEC) – also played a large role in making my stay in the USA so memorable. It can be very hard to be thousands of miles away from home, but for some reason I didn’t feel the difference. Although initially very apprehensive, since this was my first time crossing oceans to another continent and living with new people, I was surprised at how friendly everyone was. I met other exchange visitors who, like me, were willing to explore the world as well as have fun. This discovery filled me with joy and everlasting excitement. A representative from GEC even helped us exchange visitors get around Nashville for the first few days, until we became familiar with the place! During my exchange, I enjoyed meeting people from all over the world, including my coworkers, and I made friends with people from China, Mexico, and India. Learning about other countries and sharing our different cultural traditions was an amazing experience.
My advice to other J-1s is to travel as much as possible when given the opportunity. Save your money, rather than spending it on luxuries: go without the latest iPhone or clothes so that you can travel. Throw yourself out of your comfort zone. There is so much to explore out there – find out how other people live and you will realize that the world is a much bigger place than the town you live in. When you come back, your home may still be the same, and yes, you may go back to the same old university or job, but I guarantee you that something in your mind will have changed. Trust me, traveling and interacting with people from other parts of the world changes a lot of things in your life and mind. International exchanges are an eye opener for those willing to learn and excel, both personally and professionally.
Categories: Program Spotlight
|About G. Kevin Saba|
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
G. Kevin Saba serves as Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange at the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). In this capacity, he oversees the Exchange Visitor Program, which brings around 300,000 foreign citizens to the United States annually to teach, study, and build skills. He is the Director for the Policy and Program Support Division in ECA’s Office of Private Sector Exchange.Read More
View more photos