Greetings from Ashby, Minnesota (population = 456). The people in this scenic small town in the Minnesota lakes district will give you a huge hug and welcome you home for supper. I came here to celebrate “Ashby Appreciation Day” with town residents and J-1 international interns and trainees from Brazil, Ukraine, Haiti, El Salvador, Mexico, Georgia, Moldova, Germany, and Switzerland.
One of our sponsors brilliantly took advantage of the celebration and organized a weekend festival for their students to simultaneously introduce them to local residents. It was a sweet mix! The local residents and international trainees competed together and cheered each other on in an international trivia game at the park. It was a tough competition, but thanks to our Ukrainian teammate and some pretty smart Minnesotans, my team won!
I asked a number of participants how they felt about being in such a small town for the weekend. I learned that each one is training in their academic or professional field of agriculture or horticulture. They have been in small towns since they arrived in the United States. Every single one told me they have great relationships with their bosses and, often, their boss’s family. Many of them also live on family farms back home, so the J1 training program gives them a hands-on experience and an opportunity to learn and compare American approaches to farming.
Our exchange visitors love to share their culture – and their love of their flags! They were quick to pose for a picture and everyone jumped in to carry their flags in the annual Ashby Appreciation parade. Check out the sign on their car!
I quickly figured out that just traveling to the U.S. for a few weeks of tourism would never have been enough for these ambitious and adventurous folks. Each one was seeking a learning experience, and the opportunity to make connections, all while enjoying the adventure of doing it in the United States. Two participants from Germany admitted to me that they didn’t expect to learn entirely new farming techniques here; but, they did have goals of improving their English, seeing this country, and having an unforgettable year. Goals accomplished!
|About Rebecca Pasini
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange
Rebecca A. Pasini joined the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchanges in July 2023. A career member of the Senior Foreign Service, Class of Minister - Counselor, Ms. Pasini has been an American diplomat since 1997.
Ms. Pasini previously served as the Director of Public and Congressional Affairs in the Bureau of Consular Affairs from 2021-2023. Other Washington assignments have included positions in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, the Office of Foreign Missions, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security. She has also completed multiple overseas tours, including as Minister Counselor for Consular Affairs in Islamabad, Pakistan, and as the Consular Chief in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Other tours included Mexico City and Kuwait.
A Maryland native, Ms. Pasini has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Indiana University, a master’s degree in National Security and Resource Strategy from the Eisenhower School, National Defense University, and an undergraduate degree from Mary Washington College.
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