A CIEE Work & Travel USA Experience, in Photos
"This exchange experience meant that I have open doors all over the world, only I just have to knock on them."
CIEE Work & Travel USA alum Viviana González decided to work in the United States because she wanted to show her Venezuelan culture to the world and learn everything she could about others. Her ambition for international exchange started when she was 15 years old, when she was offered the opportunity to continue her English studies at Centro Venezolano Americano del Zulia (CEVAZ) with the help of the English Access Microscholarship Program (Access). Access is a U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs exchange program that offers English language learning to 13- to 20-year-old non-U.S. students in over 85 countries, hosted through local U.S. Embassies. Surprised and honored that she was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, Viviana took the program as an opportunity to grow professionally as she began to study law and international relations. It was during her studies that Viviana decided to apply for the CIEE Work & Travel USA program.
Viviana was placed to work at Morey's Piers & Beachfront Water Parks in Wildwood, New Jersey. She says of the experience, "Most of the cultural experiences I lived were while working. Once a week, the water park admissions team would gather and the supervisors would point out which people did an outstanding job that week, and what aspects of our job we could improve. Then, we would have integration activities, where we would talk about our countries, our cultures, and what we were looking forward to when we came back home. Also, I learned a lot from the people that worked around me but weren’t on my team (lifeguards, water park operations people, and food services)."
To tell us more about her employment and cultural experience in the United States, Viviana shares a series of photos with captions:
In order for us to experience American holidays, Morey's Piers organized a 'Thanksgiving in July', where all workers could go and have a dinner with food that's normally eaten on Thanksgiving. We used pilgrim hats and had a session of pictures where we were dressed as American football players. Also, I remember that during the event, we were visited by a CIEE representative who expressed to us their happiness because it was the first time that someone from Venezuela was participating in the program.
In the following pictures, I got to visit Niagara Falls. It was such an amazing experience to witness the beauty of that place and see the falls so close. I learned so much about the history of the place and its connection to native people. Actually, I never knew that the falls were called "Niagara" because that is how the tribes there called them, and I must say that the story of Lelawala ("Lady of the Mist") is one of the most interesting you learn there. It reminded me somehow of my home because I live in a state where we are in contact all the time with the Wayuu people, and that most Venezuelans are descendants of Venezuelan natives alongside Spanish and African people.
Here is my trip to Washington, D.C. I was so excited to see the monuments and the White House. Also, the fact that I could visit the Smithsonian Museums and not have to pay entrance was exciting. But I got really happy when I got to see the Organization of American States because, as somebody who loves diplomacy, that's one of the places I would look forward to working in.
I visited Rockefeller Plaza in New York City. At the beginning, I thought that I would never understand New York, but in the end I loved it because it is so filled with different cultures. I swear that people who were around me weren't just speaking English, but any language that exists in the world! For me, New York City is really the capital of the world.
I also went to Philadelphia. I never thought it was such an important city before. There is the Liberty Bell and, also, it was the place where the Declaration of Independence was signed. Philadelphia is also home of the United States Constitution. The rhythm of the city reminded me of Maracaibo, the capital of Zulia state (the state where I live), so I really felt at home.
Morey's Piers workers visited a local preschool. I was surprised to learn that now the schools are teaching in both English and Spanish because the Latino population has grown very fast. I remember kids got excited because I told them that in my city there are a lot of coconut trees, and they had just read a story about a coconut tree. Also, I spoke in Spanish because teachers wanted kids to hear the way I spoke and have them interact in that language.
Morey's Piers organized an end of the season party. Since I worked as a game operator in my second job there, all of the Venezuelan team was there. Jorge brought the Venezuelan flag with him and took a picture with Jordan Morey, who is a supervisor in the parks.
This was my last day at Ocean Oasis, the water park where I was assigned. Pictured is part of my team as well as my supervisors. I admit that I really miss them, even though I keep in contact with them. They are incredible people and so easy to work with; I remember that I cried with the closing announcement.
This is the Morey's Piers Mariner's Pier entrance. Definitely, the park gives a great vibe to Wildwood's Boardwalk. It's an unforgettable place.
Last but not least important, there is the Wildwoods sign. It's a must to take a picture there. I lived so many good experiences in Wildwood, NJ and I hope that someday I can come back and make new memories.
Overall, the impact this program had on my life was huge. I can say I’m not the same person I was before going to the United States. Now, I’m more interested in joining groups where I can take action to help people. Also, I have a great desire to start working, even though my schedule, and the fact that I have to commute everyday from my hometown to the city where my university is, makes this difficult, but I can say there is no more rewarding sensation than earning things through hard (and well done) work.