This summer, CHI invited its USA Work & Travel participants to take part in a contest to help show off their program spirit. Participants were asked to submit an essay, video or photo slideshow that best demonstrated their personal â€˜American Experience’. In their own words and images, here is what this year’s CHI USA Work & Travel alumni have experienced during their summer in America.
Essay by Alex Margau, Romania, worked in Garland, TX
In literature, the journey we, Work and Travel students, have made to America would be a story of maturity, a bildungsroman, defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as “: a novel about the moral and psychological growth of the main character “If I were to write down what I want to share most of all about my time as a Work and Travel student, I realize that the most beautiful thing I have to share is what I have learned and how I have been changed by my being here. My journey here has been and still continues to be every day, a journey of initiation and of self-knowing.
I am in my third month of work in Dallas TX and it is like nothing I have ever imagined! I go out in town to walk on the streets and look at the tall skyscrapers, such as the Reunion Tower or the City Core Building or even Fountain Place, and I still can not get used to the images I see! It is as if I got teleported into a new world, glimpses of which I got from my television as I grew up back in Romania.
Still, I look back at 3 months ago and I cannot find myself in who I used to be back then. I am usually a person obsessed with control, to the point of OCD almost, and to not have a plan about my future was a thought inconceivable a short while ago. But I left everything I knew, all the plans I had made, and decided it was time to see the country that I had dreamed of for 20 years and nothing would stay in the way of my experience. All the American friends, all the information one gets from media and research could not have prepared me for such a wonderful and adventurous journey as I landed in what we call “the land of all possibilities”. As a student, one goes away from home and starts to make decisions about one’s life for the first time, major decisions that is, but there is always a lingering presence of the parents, of the safety of home that closeness to the past provides. But as a Work and Travel student, one goes thousands of miles away, in a new land, and is forced to make even more drastic and mature choices about living, eating and administrating one’s own finances, while working and earning your own money. But one also meets here a new culture, a new identity, a new way of living.
Being here I learned the truth behind all the stereotypes, I got to check my knowledge of the language as well as the knowledge of the ‘soul’ of the language (i.e. humor). I got to work in a different work environment, where everyone is treated like a responsible and mature individual, worthy of trust and consideration, until proven otherwise, I learned that certain issues in communication are not restricted to my own country and my own culture, but can be tackled differently and – why not? – better, with a hearty laughter and witty joke to remove the tension of the atmosphere.
My greatest experience in America was when I got to participate in an art show, where I could display one of my many photos of nature made back home. Living and working on the Bible Belt, it was naturally an art show dedicated to God, and nature seemed to fit perfectly in the requirements of the participation form. Over here, I live in a house with a family of artists that have multiple artistic ways of expression and I have always loved making beautiful photographs of nature, so all their influence, taken together with my passion for photography, has opened up my horizons to participating in an art show where everyone that had something to say was welcome. And I had something to say! I told the story of my country and I got people interested in my culture, in my person and in my country. I got to have such interesting dialogues about art, American culture, Romanian culture and history and personal interests.
After three months here, I learned to organize and make decisions about everything I want to do, I learned who I am and who I can be. I have stayed far from everything I knew and everyone I was familiar with, only to find myself scared at first and then to simply find myself for real. I can now say for sure that I am all the more richer because I have made some amazing friends, and I have had some wonderful examples in my life and I finally know what I was supposed to learn: in America, people know that if they work for what they want, they will obtain it, but only if they work hard enough for it. I finally know who I am and who I want to be, I know what I want to work for, both spiritually on myself and materially on the outside. I will live and enjoy life and I will treasure my American experience as the beginning of the rest my life â€¦