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Lessons Learned by J1s: Stereotypes are Meant to be Broken

Posted on Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 at 7:46 pm.

By SunJeong Lee, Client Relations Officer, Cultural Vistas

A version of this blog post was originally published on the Cultural Vistas Blog

Food brings everyone together. Afghani and Pakistani international visitors, pictured here,break bread with a Vermont family.

Food brings everyone together. Afghani and Pakistani international visitors (pictured here) break bread with a Vermont family.

Interning and living in a new country will give you a new perspective. It’s a chance to explore and immerse yourself in a new culture. Many of our sponsors, including Cultural Vistas, love hearing how the Exchange Visitor Program changes perspectives and builds connections.

Recently, we asked our participants how their perceptions of America have changed after their U.S. exchange programs. Join us for the next five Tuesdays to explore the answers to this question. In light of recent global and domestic affairs, exchange visitors reflections will leave you inspired and hopeful for positive change.

When you make personal connections with people in your host country, you get to see the world through their lens. Interacting with locals can provide an unparalleled cultural education to correct preconceived notions. This is what a Japanese J-1 trainee from Tokyo, noticed:

“Before I came to the United States, I had somewhat negative stereotypes of the people in this country. We often refer [to Americans] as friendly to those who they meet for the first time but rather indifferent to others, and very rational but usually behaving largely only in their own interest. Most of my negative expectations turned out to be false—my coworkers took care of me daily, talked with me about broad topics.”

A J-1 teacher from France noted: “Now I see the world with new eyes. It is all those experiences I want to share when I will come back to my country.”

A J-1 teacher from France noted: “Now I see the world with new eyes. It is all those experiences I want to share when I will come back to my country.”

A  J-1 international visitor from Bangkok (who came on the International Visitor Leadership Program) noted this about America’s inclusiveness:

“With the rise of Islamophobia and hate speech covered media, I expected to face some sort of discrimination for wearing a hijab. However, nothing of that sort happened. In fact, people were super nice to me, and complimented me on how beautiful my scarves were. This has made me realize that there are good people who see past one’s belief and acknowledge humanity above everything else in these trying times,” she said.

An Israeli J-1 trainee was also pleasantly surprised at how he and his wife were embraced by the local American community:

“Before arriving in the United States with my wife, I was a bit hesitant as to how we will be welcomed as foreigners and assisted with everything. I was very impressed by how the local people took us in and helped us with everything, both our personal needs and orientation to the U.S. and the professional aspect. It was clear to me that my hesitations (that it won’t be easy for us to fit in) had no grounds thanks to the generosity and hospitality of the people we have met here.”

A J-1 teacher from France shared this thought:

“Accepting a teacher from another part of the world into your country, with a different background from American teachers is an example of tolerance and kindness. Trusting new teachers, giving them a chance, encourages students to believe in possibilities. It is also a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn more about another culture, another way of teaching, and the chance to practice the language they are studying with a native. When I return to my home country, I will also have the opportunity to share what I learned from the American culture, to go against stereotypes and encourage people to live a similar experience.”

Join us next week to see what J-1s are learning about respecting other people’s opinions.

Categories: 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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