In addition to the rodeo, my colleagues Stacey Gomelsky and Nadine Zaatar also made their way to Yellowstone National Park, the second leg of their tour of Wyoming. You can read about their visits with J-1 exchange visitors at this famous and historic location.
You have likely heard of the unparalleled scenic views of the Yellowstone National Park that span three western states and more than 3,400 square miles (that is the states of Delaware and Rhode Island combined!). Yellowstone is home to the “Old Faithful” natural geyser, a famous geological marvel and a star attraction at our nation’s oldest national park. But did you also know that Yellowstone is the summer home of more than 480 international staff from over 16 countries? They provide the park’s daily visitors with fast and friendly service, whether they are enjoying a meal at a café or buying a souvenir at the general store.
We recently visited some of the international exchange visitors at Yellowstone, who like thousands of their counterparts in national parks around the country, are participating in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program this summer. As an alternative option to program placements in big cities and summer resort towns, Yellowstone offers exchange visitors magnificent views, serenity of the surrounding mountains, and a wide range of outdoor activities during their off hours.
Exchange visitors we spoke with unequivocally agreed that the remote location of Yellowstone provides them with a unique cultural experience in one of the most beautiful areas in the United States. They mentioned that when not working, they spend their time outside: hiking, kayaking, white water rafting, and camping.
By participating in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program at Yellowstone and other national parks, exchange visitors not only gain a unique cultural perspective of the United States, but they also play an important role in the local economies. The U.S. National Park system as a whole hosted 292 million park visitors last year and contributed an estimated $15.7 billion towards local economies across the country – a record that is expected to grow in 2015. Exchange visitors fill essential seasonal positions in hotels, retail, fast food and restaurants – venues that all serve park visitors.
As we were finishing our day at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful village, it occurred to us that even though the park hosts an overwhelming number of daily visitors, things here work extremely well, with quick-moving lines and friendly customer service. The presence of J-1 exchange visitors, and their welcoming professional demeanors, undoubtedly helps park visitors each day to make the most of their Yellowstone experience.
|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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