While on a Job Fair in China, Greenheart Exchange Employer Services Coordinator, Rob, was able to sit down with Somnus to hear about the range of experiences the SWT brings. From talking about friendships to culture and changes in perspective, it’s clear Somnus learned so much from the program. This is the second in a series of three interviews with Somnus where we got the chance to really get to know one another.
When did you experience culture shock on your program?
My first summer, I worked at an amusement park where I was a ride operator. On the ride, they let you go very high and drop you suddenly! I knew how to operate the ride, but one day I accidentally pushed the emergency button and the whole ride was shut down. But there were people on the ride, and they were already at the top. The guests didn’t know what was happening, and I was a little bit confused what happened, too. I really panicked. But then my colleague called the supervisor. The first thing they did was comfort me, instead of criticizing me! They also gave the guests an apology. After that, I was a little bit afraid of the ride, but I learned to get more comfortable again. My landlord also worked at the park. Since I was upset that day, he bought me ice cream to be nice. I was a little surprised that everyone was so kind because in China you will definitely be sent home that day for that mistake. But afterward, nobody was mean to me.
Do you still keep in touch with anyone from your program?
First I keep in touch with Greenheart. At one Job Fair, I met my old supervisor and the manager. There’s one guy from the Dominican Republic who I have stayed in touch with, we talk on Skype a lot. We used to talk more often, but we got busy and we kept losing contact. I think I will keep in touch with my new Chinese friends I met, but I didn’t know them before the SWT program. A lot of my friends and previous participants on this program have found a job related to the Western culture. For example, another girl I know was called Ni Chung. She’s in Britain now. I know another one who was in Italy. I know another who is traveling around the world for business with big companies. I know another boy who is now working in a hotel in America. I know another person who is in a tourist company in Dubai. My first year on SWT I lived with 8 girls. Today, I’m with Each Future, one of the girls is in Dubai, another in America, another travels to Hong Kong a lot of times. They wanted to apply to something that is related to the overseas business. I think this is how the Summer Work Travel influences you. Back when we were participants, nobody wanted to work abroad or study abroad. But after they try Summer Work Travel, they want to see the world. 30 or 40% of the people I know who participated in this program work abroad or travel to other countries now.
What is the most meaningful experience you had?
It is a very sad thing but was a very meaningful experience. One day I was off work and my brother- in- law was on chat. He said he needed to tell me something, but to not be angry. Before I went on the program, I purchased a dog, but my mom sent it away while I was in America. I was alone in another country, and I couldn’t call my mother. All my roommates could tell I was sad that day. I was also very quiet. I was upset for nearly 2 or 3 days. During work, everybody would ask what happened or what was wrong. One of my supervisors could tell I was very sad; she kept asking if I was alright. She said if I was not alright, it was ok for to go home. I was kind of fine a few days later. It was so nice that they could see I was upset, but since I didn’t want to talk about it, I didn’t have to.
Do you think participating in the program changed your behavior?
In a small way. Before, if somebody didn’t want to do something that benefitted them, I would ask them why they would not do it. If it brings benefits, and it doesn’t cost them anything, I couldn’t understand why they would not do it. Now I respect that. If you don’t want to do it, you don’t want to do it. It’s your personal choice. Now you’re an adult.
Another thing is about the relationships or marriage in America. I saw that there are a lot of Americans who have kids but they are not married. I met a lot of people who identify as LGBT, and I had never met someone who identified that way before. In China, if your parents are not married, it’s very hard to get public benefits or go to school. In America, people spend years together and maybe have 1, 2 or 3 kids, and then get married! I was trying to use Chinese traditional culture to understand why they do that. After I was more assimilated, I used the Western culture to understand these differences.
Learning about a new culture, making friends from around the world, and gaining new perspectives are just a few of the amazing benefits of the Summer Work Travel program. See what else you could learn by visiting our website!