What did you learn on the Summer Work Travel Program?

Hear feedback from Greenheart Ukrainian Alumni

By: Daniel Ebert, Vice President of International Exchange

In early December 2017, Greenheart Exchange traveled to Ukraine for one of our international Job Fairs! These Job Fairs are a fabulous opportunity for Greenheart Exchange staff and host organizations to travel to the home countries of some of our participants, experience a different type of cultural exchange, and get a firsthand experience in a foreign country. Not only does this give them a better understanding of their participants, but it opens their eyes to the power of cultural exchange in a brand new way.

Even more exciting, this Job Fair contained an event for our Greenheart Exchange alumni! We had the opportunity to meet with five different alumni and hear their feedback on the program, how their participation has influenced their perspective. We also heard about some challenges they faced and advice they would give future J-1 Summer Work Travel participants. We love catching up with our alumni, seeing where they are at today, and hearing how the program had a long-term impact on their lives. Check out some of their insights and advice below!

Oleksandr Gordiienko (2017)

  • Through his participation on the J-1 SWT program, Oleksandr learned that hands-on experience and practical skills are just as important, if not more important, than someone’s academic background. Through experience, new doors will open up, and new opportunities will become available! Oleksandr is a math and computer science major and, as a result of his time in the United States, he aims to return for a professional internship one day.
  • Oleksandr’s biggest challenge on the program was learning how to navigate American law, mostly during his first weeks on the SWT program. It was a bit of a learning curve! However, throughout the summer, he gained independence, built confidence and became more social—all skills he has continued to foster and grow as a result of the program.
  • Oleksandr’s advice to first time J-1 SWT participants is to be strong! He also advises that you keep an open mind to new cultures and ways of thinking, and you will succeed.

Bohdan Zaiets (2017)

  • Bohdan is a business management major at University. Before going on the Summer Work Travel program, he envisioned himself eventually working as a manager in a big Ukrainian corporation, like his mother.  Now, after spending time in the United States and seeing how many diverse cuisines exist worldwide, he is motivated to one day open his own international restaurant! He cannot wait to explore more cuisines and possibilities for entrepreneurship.
  • While on the program, Bohdan faced and overcame some unique challenges. For example, Bohdan was travelling throughout Florida when Hurricane Irma hit! Bohdan learned what to do in the event of weather emergency, and how to evacuate. He was challenged to approach others and ask for help! He overcame this situation, prioritized his safety, and made great friendships throughout the process.
  • To potential or first time J-1 Summer Work Travel participants, Bohdan advises “work hard and you will succeed!”

Oleksandr Didkivskyi (2016)

  • Through his participation on the J-1 SWT program, Oleksandr has realized that the world is a much smaller place than he originally perceived. After joining the Summer Work Travel program two summers ago, he has become much more ambitious and has made the conscious decision not to be intimidated by borders and distances! Since 2016, Oleksandr has participated in a medical internship in Brazil, as well as a short term internship in Germany, he and wants to keep exploring!
  • Travel plans can sometimes go awry, and Oleksandr’s biggest challenge during his program arose when he experienced a flight cancellation within the United States! He suddenly found himself landing in Chicago without a solid plan in place. He learned to ask others for help, and that you don’t always need a plan – it can be “fun” to “be lost”! He gained problem- solving skills and learned to overcome his fear when approaching other people.
  • Oleksandr’s advice to potential Summer Work Travel participants is to be responsible and, above all, relax!

Yurii Marian Ploskina (2016)

  • Yurii overcame language barriers through his participation on the Summer Work Travel program, and also changed some of his long-term career goals. While in the United States, he was fortunate enough to meet Americans involved in the medical field! Now, Yurii dreams of becoming a doctor and returning to the United States one day.
  • His greatest challenge during the program was getting over his fear of having inadequate English proficiency. When first arriving in the United States, he feared that his English skills were inadequate, and he did not like to speak up. After spending a few months in the United States, he has learned not to be afraid to “just say it” and to approach people without fear of judgment.
  • Yurii advises first-time Summer Work Travel participants to be ready to work and be punctual at their jobs!

 Kateryna Andriichuk (2017)

  • Kateryna is a history major at university. Before her Summer Work Travel program, she specialized in German history; however, since her program, her focus has shifted to United States history! Based on her experiences in the United States, she now plans to focus her thesis on “American media portrayal of Ukrainian revolutions and politics”. After her Bachelor’s degree is complete, she hopes to have the opportunity to do a graduate school program in the United States.
  • Kateryna explains that her biggest challenge while on the program was getting used to different cuisines. She often felt that the food we eat in the United States is not as natural or organic as the food she was used to in Ukraine! Kateryna also explained that she thinks that she was able to overcome many other potential obstacles by ensuring she was well-prepared ahead of time, through research and clear communication!
  • Finally, she advises first time J-1 Summer Work Travel participants to be vocal, and ask others if you need or want something. It won’t come to you if you don’t ask!

Are you looking for a unique, impactful, and fruitful experience abroad? Explore your options for joining Greenheart Exchange on the Summer Work Travel program!