Route J-1


J-1 Encourages Exchange Visitors to Be Open-Minded and Step Outside Their Comfort Zone

Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017 at 8:30 pm.

By Stephanie Scholz, J-1 Intern from Germany

Stephanie poses with New York City Skyline from Roosevelt Island.

Stephanie poses with New York City Skyline from Roosevelt Island.

Editor’s Note: We asked J-1 participants to answer a few questions about their experience. Below are responses from intern Stephanie Scholz.

What surprised you most about your Exchange Visitor Program experience?

I was amazed how fast I adapted to everything. After a couple of days I felt really comfortable living in the U.S. This is because my sponsor organization made the transition easy for me. I was immediately introduced to a lot of people, including other interns, at work and was given rewarding projects and assignments to work on such as taking care of the whole visa process for future interns and helping to organize events.

Tell me about your internship?

I am an intern at the German American Chamber of Commerce in the recruitment and career service division. I work with German students who are applying for internships in the U.S. through our organization. My job is to review applications and match up prospective candidates with companies. I help applicants complete required documents, develop their training plans, provide assistance through the visa process and review host company agreements.

Stephanie (second left) and three J-1 friends from work attend the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.

Stephanie (second left) and three J-1 friends from work attend the Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon.

What advice would you give to others who are interested in coming to the U.S. on the Exchange Visitor Program?

I’d encourage exchange visitors to be open-minded and to go outside of their comfort zone to meet and talk to new people. That is what I did at the place I lived.  The first day, I walked into the dining room and asked one of my housemates if I could join her and the other girls at her table. It felt a bit like being in an American high school and getting invited to the ‘cool kids table. I have developed so many good friendships in the last couple of weeks. It takes some courage in the beginning to walk up to strangers, but in the end it pays off.

How do you plan to use the skills and knowledge you learned during your exchange experience when you return to Germany?

My internship has allowed me to improve my computer skills by learning about new systems, databases, and methods. And my team meetings have built my confidence and made me more willing to share my opinions and constructive ideas about improving processes in the work place. All team members are encouraged to join in and participate in the discussion and not just be passive listeners.

Stephanie (left) attends German American Chamber of Commerce Christmas party for J-1 interns.

Stephanie (left) attends German American Chamber of Commerce Christmas party for J-1 interns.

Tell me about your experience volunteering with the Unitarian Church of All Souls.  

In November, I had the opportunity to join a volunteering group at the Unitarian Church of all Souls. This volunteering event takes place every Monday evening and serves over 300 meals to people in need. The people are seated in a big room with several tables and every volunteer is assigned to a certain task.  First it was my job to serve soup to certain tables, afterwards we all handed out dinner which was on this day sauerkraut, beef and mashed potatoes. Vegetarians were served another meal.

At first I have to admit I was quite nervous since it was my first time doing this kind of volunteering. But I figured quite soon that there were lots of experienced helpers who also gave us a short introduction and explained the procedure to us. So once we all got started I became more relaxed and actually had quite a good time. This event made it possible for me to talk to people that we usually just walk by on the streets. It was great to see how nice and thankful they were. I am planning on going to more volunteering events like this, because I want to contribute something to the community and actually do something for all those people that one walks by on the way to work. Next time I might stop and just start talking to them.

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.

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