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J-1 Exchange Visitors Experience a Legendary Western Tradition – the Rodeo

Posted on Tuesday, August 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm.

Earlier this summer, my colleagues Stacey Gomelsky and Nadine Zaatar traveled to Wyoming, where they attended a rodeo event with J-1 participants.  You can read all about it below.

Bison roaming in front of the Grand Tetons

Bison roaming in front of the Grand Tetons

Wyoming is a state best known for its diverse ecosystems of scenic mountain ranges interspersed with sparkling rivers and alpine lakes, vast green landscapes stretching to the horizon, free-ranging herds of bison, and frequent human encounters with bears.  Wyoming is also known for its enduring “Western spirit,” which for Americans summons images of pioneers heading across the open range into the new frontier of early America.

Action shot from the rodeo

Action shot from the rodeo

A group of 25 Summer Work Travel exchange visitors experienced this authentic “Western spirit” in their host city of Jackson Hole, Wyoming this summer.  Set along the backdrop of the stunning Grand Tetons, these exchange visitors gathered at the Jackson town fairgrounds to watch a quintessentially American tradition – the rodeo.   In Wyoming, they take rodeo so seriously, it is the official state sport.

Much like us, most of these exchange visitors from places like Taiwan, China, Turkey, and Ukraine had only seen cowboys in Hollywood movies. They had never before been to a live rodeo, and we were thrilled to share in their excitement.  The exchange visitors embraced the rodeo atmosphere, wearing cowboy hats, singing the lyrics of popular American rock songs along with the crowd, and waving hand-held American flags in support of the contestants.  Their excitement was also apparent as they, just like the rest of the crowd, erupted in cheer each time a cowboy bounced around on the back of an unyielding bull, trying to hold on for eight seconds, and eventually being thrown off the animal’s back.

Exchange visitors in the stands enjoy the rodeo

Exchange visitors in the stands enjoy the rodeo

You could hear these cheers in a variety of foreign languages resonating in our section of the bleachers, where the J-1 exchange visitors joined their U.S. program sponsor, host employers, local town residents, and tourists in enjoying this truly American cultural tradition.  And very likely, experiencing the thrill of a live American rodeo will stay with them long after they return home.

Categories: J-1 Visa, Participants, Program Spotlight

About G. Kevin Saba

Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

G. Kevin Saba

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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