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Alumni Voices: How I Became a Global Citizen

CIEE Work & Travel USA and Internship USA alum Wilka Nascimento decided to participate in international exchange programs in order to improve her English skills, gain global career experience, and learn about American culture. She has spent the last ten years working in the hospitality industry in the U.S., and credits her CIEE program experiences as a major influence in her career path.

Photo7 Times Square

Wilka writes:

Participating in an educational exchange program is much more than just travel. I was a 19-year-old Hospitality Management student in Brazil when I decided to sign up for the Work & Travel USA Program. I accepted the housekeeper position in Lake Placid, NY. It was December and very cold, but beautiful! I was very excited to experience the winter and all of the fun activities, such as ice skating, and watching ski jumpers in Lake Placid. Lake Placid allowed me to experience a new culture, a new language, and a new work environment. Every day I would wake up excited because I didn’t know what was going to happen next. I stayed in the U.S. for the entire length of the program (4 months), and traveled to New York City, Washington D.C., and Miami. 

Photo4 I Heart T Shirt

Credit for all photos: Wilka Nascimento

“My second visit to America was in the winter of 2005. This time I went to Stowe, VT – a drastic change from 95F degrees in Brazil to the freezing temperatures of the Northeast! This time I was a veteran and already hit the ground running. I did a little bit of everything: fast-food cashier, waitress, and housekeeper. I loved to work in the restaurants because I could speak with customers all day long and make people feel welcomed. I stayed for 3 months and was able to connect again with my friends from upstate New York from my prior experience. I returned to Brazil to finish my Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Business with one idea in mind: to enroll in the CIEE Internship USA program for recent graduates so I could experience and learn more about the hotel business in the U.S. for a longer, 12-month term. 

Photo6 Times Square

To be an exchange student in America means being welcomed by each individual that you meet. I learned how to cultivate the American culture without ignoring my origins. If there’s something that I learned that helps a lot in a new country, it’s to always have a positive attitude. Suggestions: have a big smile, open mind and be willing to work hard to develop your full potential. Without passion, I would never get up in the morning. I have enjoyed my time in the U.S. so much that today I celebrate 10 years of working in the hospitality industry in America."

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