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U.S. Embassies Engage J-1 Participants to Strengthen Relations

Posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2016 at 2:22 pm.

J-1 alumni and prospective participants having conversation in front of a photo display

J-1 Summer Work Travel alumni and prospective participants socialize and enjoy the photo exhibit.

The State Department is serious about relationship building with our exchange participants. That’s why we support alumni networks around the world. Recently, many of our embassies have increased efforts to engage participants from J-1 privately-funded jexchanges, so that the investment participants have made in their futures can be leveraged through association with other participants. We are excited to include these participants in our long-term alumni networks and outreach, and have seen much interest from participants to stay in touch with our embassies overseas.

Today, I’d like to share a successful alumni engagement effort by the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava, Slovakia. Here’s how they are engaging with J-1 participants and alumni.

Each year for the past five years, the U.S. ambassador in Slovakia has donned his apron and white hat, grabbed his tongs, and manned the grill to host a Summer Work Travel (SWT) Barbeque (BBQ) for J-1 departing participants. Okay, so he gets some help from the local Marines too. And what is more American than that? The embassy hosts the BBQ in May, before the participants head out on program, and they use the opportunity to gear participants up for the SWT Photo Contest. The fun event includes outgoing participants and alumni, and a display of the 20 best photos from the past year.

Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick prepares hamburgers for SWT alumni and prospective participants in May.

Ambassador Theodore Sedgwick prepares hamburgers for Summer Work Travel alumni and prospective participants in May.

The photos are submitted by SWT participants during their travels in the United States. The contest is administered on the Embassy’s Facebook page each year, and the winning photo is selected based on the total number of likes. In 2015, this contest reached 340,000 people – making it the Embassy’s most successful Facebook post of the year – and the winning photograph received over 6,500 likes.  The entire event is a wonderful opportunity to socialize, introduces participants to embassy staff, and have fun. Everyone gets to know one other, and, we hope, stay in touch.

Šajben looks out over a beach in Hawaii

Summer Work Travel Photo Contest winner Kamil Šajben looks out over a beach in Hawaii.

This is just one of many examples of how U.S. Embassy staff continue to foster strong relationships with exchange program alumni when they return to their home countries.

You can share your favorite alumni engagement event or activity using #RouteJ1


Categories: J-1 Visa, Participants, Program Spotlight

About Rebecca Pasini

Deputy Assistant Secretary for Private Sector Exchange

Rebecca Pasini

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.