By Marta Lange, J-1 Intern from Latvia
It was a cold and windy December morning when I left my beloved, snowy Latvia and landed in sunny Texas. Houston greeted me with skyscrapers, palm trees with Christmas lights, and a swimming pool in my backyard. In the so-called Lone Star State, one can find surprises on every corner. At first, as a person hailing from a country of two million people, getting used to Houston was difficult. Attempting to understand the people and their culture, the lifestyle, the city itself, and the food portions was quite a challenge. I stubbornly refused to admit that I was experiencing culture shock, but upon further reflection, I now realize that I was.
At first I struggled with making small talk in elevators and getting used to the fake-smile “how-are-you” culture. To be honest, this positive attitude sticks, and after a year I am able to admit that I will miss saying “hi” to complete strangers on the street. The Southern hospitality in Texas is something that a very Nordic person like me will never forget. That is one thing I could not fathom at the beginning, but now I really enjoy it! That is one of the factors that really made me love Texans: being polite and really meaning it, opening the doors for each other, saying “ma’am” and “sir” to everyone regardless of their age. I fell in love with Houston only after twice being away from it. I had to leave Houston and return in order to finally acknowledge how much I love it. At the same time, the importance and magic of the city really lies in the Texan people.
International experience enriches someone who has lived abroad, particularly if you are in close contact with locals and other foreigners. Tasting the culture and enjoying the adventure of the unknown is enriching. After leaving the place that has been your home for several months or even years, you always leave and take something along with you, so at the end of the day your home is everywhere. That is what international exchange means to me: the inspiring people I meet and the feeling that I can find something to relate to, to feel at home in every place I visit. It feels like being a migrant bird that flies back and forth every season.
My internship took place in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at Houston Methodist Hospital. My main fields of research included radiation safety, robotic tele-presence systems, and ultrasound diagnostics. In addition, I gained a vast and immeasurable quantity of skills and specialties, and have significantly improved in areas such as leadership, management, language, and networking skills. This skill set will contribute towards my future goals.
When I return home to Latvia, I would like to continue my work in the field of medical devices, innovation, and research. Our current healthcare system is about to undergo much change, and I would like to provide my input. I feel that we have to remember the simple things, and the simple truth: that the priority is the patient and that only healthy, happy, and satisfied people can build a strong society. Last but not least, my dream is to improve the conditions, environment, and funding system for nursing homes and hospices in Latvia.
I strongly believe that young professionals have the abilities and necessary skill set to become leaders and initiate change for a better future!
The J-1 Visitor Exchange Program is a wonderful opportunity to experience the United States and to immerse yourself in the life, culture, work, and what is most important – the people. This program provides great opportunities for your chosen career path and even greater possibilities to network and share ideas!
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
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