Author Archives: Jody Mayo
Photo by Darren Hauck / Getty
Immigrants all over the country took part in peaceful protests yesterday, demonstrating in major cities and boycotting work, school and commerce. “A Day Without Immigrants,” was a loosely organized social media driven event that brought thousands of immigrants together to protest President Trump’s immigration policies that many feel marginalize immigrants, unfairly targeting them and discounting their important contribution.
Activists of yesterday’s protest were making a statement that the country is sustained by immigrants. While the total number of yesterday’s protesters is unknown, the message of outrage and indignation resonated loudly and the impact was felt on businesses throughout the country. Many businesses supported their staff, closing for the day, posting signs on their locked doors while many others were simply forced to close due to staff shortages.
One Mexican-born chef in an Atlanta restaurant said that he wanted to take the day off in support of the effort, but did not want to leave his employer short staffed. His manager, sympathetic to his almost exclusively Mexican immigrant kitchen staff, shared that he would have supported him because his immigrant workers are the “most hard working and dependable” people on his staff.
In our own Austin backyard, hundreds marched from City Hall to the State Capitol chanting “Say it loud, say it clear, immigrants are welcome here.”
The continued influx of foreigners, now making over 42 million of America’s population, would seem to indicate that the U.S. continues to be a beacon of hope all over the world. The solidarity and support of yesterday’s protests would also seem to imply that America stands behind all its citizens and Washington shouldn’t turn a deaf ear on a loud cry to protect civil and human rights.
Restaurants may be closed or short on staff today. Construction projects may come to a grinding halt. Hotels around the country may contend with unmade beds and understaffed restaurants. Lawns and yards may not be manicured or maintained. Fruit and vegetables may wither on the vines. Why? Throughout the country immigrants are protesting Donald Trump’s heavy-handed and under advised crackdown on immigration. The backbone of much of America’s labor force is immigrant workers – and they are feeling rightful outrage. The effect of the social media- driven protest remain unknown but the message is clear: Immigrants are a vital part of America’s economy.
A Day Without Immigrants protests are supported by many American employers. Businesses in major cities that rely heavily on immigrant workers are supporting the protests in solidarity with their workers. One employer said that his immigrant workers never miss a day of work, but he is encouraging them to do so today. Restaurants in major cities plan to shut their doors today to make a strong statement intended to show the new administration that immigrants matter.
The irony of it all is that President Trump and his son have employed immigrant and visa workers in their own businesses. Trump defended this fact, declaring that he can’t get American’s to do the work that these immigrants are grateful to have. As visa sponsors of businesses that rely on foreign workers and interns to augment their workforce and provide important diversity, we understand. Thousands of American businesses grapple with labor and talent shortages and legal immigrants and visa program participants are eager and motivated to help.
We support President Trump’s goal of strengthening the American economy and national security. But like much of the nation, we’re perplexed about actions that will cripple U.S. businesses, while appearing to have little impact on securing national safety.
AAG believes that what has always made America great is that we are a country of immigrants. Since that first group of refugees fled government tyranny many years ago, America has become one of the most powerful nations in the world. We are a land of promise, opportunity and a place that many live a dream impossible in other parts of the world.
Hopefully, the protests will send a strong message to the White House – go get the bad guys who are threatening American peace and prosperity and support those who come here to find refuge from oppressive governments, racism and bigotry.
At a time when President Trump is attempting to limit access to the United States to foreign visitors, Austin-based Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) is extending a warm welcome to top-performing students from South Korea. As a U.S State Department designated sponsor for several visa programs that bring students and young professionals into the United States to work, study and learn about American culture, AAG is an enthusiastic supporter of the Korea WEST and other international exchange programs.
The exchange visitor program began as part of the Fulbright Hays Act, established to expose Americans to citizens of other countries and to bring foreign students into the United States for the purpose of education and greater understanding. “It’s an interesting time in our business with the immigration controversy,” says Victoria Lynden, the founder and CEO of Alliance Abroad. “The purpose of this program is to start diplomacy efforts early with the future leaders of other countries. Along with many government advocates, it is our experience that cultural exchange programs serve to strengthen relationships between the United States and other nations and is an important component of a national security strategy.” According to a statement issued by the State Department, “Exchange programs play an important role in building good will and strengthening important bilateral relationships.”
The United States and its ally The Republic of Korea, established a reciprocal exchange program in 2008. Through Korea WEST (Work, English, Study and Travel) academically gifted students are recruited and selected to participate in the language and professional internships through visa sponsors like AAG. In return, American students are given the reciprocal opportunity to intern in Korea.
Hanee Choi, is a sociology graduate from Seoul, South Korea. After graduating first in her university class, she learned about the Korea West program. “I am interested in issues that affect the whole of international society – especially environmental issues, human rights issues, developing country issues, the history of culture, science, mass media and people’s emotions,” Hanee explains. “The U.S. is a pioneer in sociology and the international issues that I am interested in, so this program is a wonderful opportunity.”
Choi is one of 45 participants who arrived in Austin in January to begin English training that will be followed by a six to ten month internship. In August, Austin will welcome another 50 Korean WEST participants. “We are still looking for local businesses to host these incredibly motivated students,” says Lynden. “This is a program where everyone who participates wins,” she adds. “Companies benefit by adding top talent and diversity to their teams, as well as the knowledge that participating in this program will have an indelible effect on these students. We’re hoping to find great homes for all the participants and show them what our city is all about – innovative businesses, great people and plenty of opportunity to grow and learn.”
Interested in learning more? Call Vanessa Noel at Alliance Abroad: 512-565-8405
About Alliance Abroad Group
Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) is an alternative recruiting company that brings top international talent to companies around the globe. For over 27 years, we’ve helped employers find cost-effective and innovative talent management solutions to address their recruiting and retention challenges. International students and young professionals bring education, skills, commitment and enthusiasm to American businesses as well as the diversity proven to be a key performance indicator and competitive advantage.
Learn more: www.allianceabroad.com
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John Kerry’s exit letter detailing the accomplishments of the Obama administration and the Department of State was brilliantly composed and thoughtfully stated. Secretary Kerry was quick to remind a sometimes forgetful nation of the sad state of economic and diplomatic affairs when Barack Obama first took office in 2009. But in a detailed and beautifully articulated letter, Kerry outlines the tremendous progress over the past eight years that as provided the American people with greater security at home and abroad. He describes the efforts to thwart foreign despots from threatening the world with weapons of mass destruction, the destabilization of major terrorist groups that included bringing the people responsible for the 911 attacks to justice, and the diplomatic efforts aimed at resolving conflicts all over the world. Along with greater security for American people, the Obama administration has also made tremendous progress in gaining support for initiatives aimed at protecting our planet, expanding opportunities for American businesses and people, defending universal values and modernizing the State Department so that its important work throughout the world can be conducted with greater efficiency and security.
Secretary Kerry is a statesman, a gentleman and a patriotic American who has dedicated his life in service to the American people. He has been an ardent supporter of diplomacy programs such as the Exchange Visitor Programs, which introduce and immerse foreign students and visitors in American culture for the purpose of education and greater understanding. As visitor exchange sponsors, we have witnessed the palpable changes in perspective, attitude and understanding when people work, study and learn side by side and hand in hand. When we approach human beings with humanity and humanely, we can and will create peace and prosperity on the planet.
In a recent blog post, AAG expressed our belief about what makes America great. We believe that is America is great precisely because we embrace the diversity of people, perspectives and the idea that all beings under God and this nation are created equal and therefore, due equal rights. We echo and applaud Kerry’s closing remarks:
American greatness is a fact but not an entitlement. It cannot be taken for granted. It must be demonstrated and earned by every generation. It demands the best from us, and the best within us. The world will be watching to see whether we – the American people – remain up to that challenge. There is not a scintilla of doubt in my mind that the answer is yes, but we will have to work at it, together, and make the investments that leaders have a responsibility to make. Today’s State Department is a rewarding place to work because we have a unique country to represent, great things to accomplish, and a matchless set of colleagues by our side. I will always be grateful for the incredible opportunity I have been given to serve – it’s been the honor of my life. I send President Obama’s successor, and mine, all the best wishes as they embark on what will be a truly extraordinary journey representing the greatest country on earth.
We sincerely hope that the incoming administration will embrace as passionately the values of inclusion, equal rights and diversity that, as Americans, we all hold dear. We eagerly await their direction and offer our support of exchange and other diplomacy efforts that protect our nation’s security and freedom.
Alliance Abroad would like to thank Secretary Kerry for his service and all the tremendous accomplishments that have served to advance greater peace and prosperity around the world. We salute Barack Obama for his courage, tenacity, composure and purposeful agenda to help all Americans – not just the privileged and powerful. He stood convicted in the face of constant opposition and harsh criticism, undaunted in his pursuit to uphold the very principles of our constitution and the convictions of our forefathers- liberty, justice, freedom and equality for all. Well done gentlemen. Thank you.
Local Organizations Seek Employer Support of Important US-Mexico Internship Program
Strengthening economic and educational opportunities between the U.S. and Mexico has been an important ongoing mission of both countries. A program of formal educational exchange initiatives between the countries are aimed at “enhancing hemispheric competitiveness, increasing prosperity and providing study abroad opportunities to better prepare a globally aware and culturally competent workforce.” In a public statement, President Obama shared his belief that when people study and work together, they prosper together. Locally, the Mexican Consulate and Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) are working together to sponsor regional support, which includes the U.S.- Mexico Intern Program.
The Hispanic population in the United States is over 55 million, making it the largest ethnic group, with Texas being home to over ten and half million people of Hispanic origin. One out of three citizens in Austin are of Hispanic descent and the broader program goals of Western Hemisphere prosperity is of keen interest to our community. Alliance Abroad Group (AAG), headquartered in Austin, is a U.S. Department of State designated sponsor of cultural exchange programs that support educational and work abroad programs. “We are excited about the chance to connect Austin and other Texas employers with educated and motivated Mexican interns,” says James Bell, AAG President. “In our considerable experience with cultural exchange, we know everyone ends up benefitting from the experience.”
The organizations believe that Austin is the perfect fit for this initiative with its many established and emerging companies and businesses searching for top talent. “We’re appealing to local businesses to support this program by serving as a host employers,” says Bell. Unlike traditional internship programs, foreign exchange internships can be up to 18 months. The exchange program requires an employer to invest in the intern’s learning, development and cultural exposure opportunities rather than traditional compensation and benefit packages. Interns have the chance to put their formal education into practical application while contributing a global perspective to employer goals. “We’ve got to stand behind this program as a community and country,” says Carlos Gonzalez Guiterrez, Consul General to Mexico. “There is so much good that can come from programs that create opportunities to learn from one another.”
The two group maintain that beyond local educational and economic impact, the program has far-reaching diplomacy efforts that stretch well beyond our own Texas borders and Austin backyard.
About Alliance Abroad
Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) is a company of cultural exchange enthusiasts and recruiting solutions experts. Fueled by a desire to bring education, enrichment and enlightenment to people around the globe, AAG is also passionate about creating lasting value and life-changing experiences for businesses and individuals. The company has been a cultural exchange leader since 1992, helping hundreds of thousands of international students and young professionals come to the United States to work, intern and train. AAG has made a palpable impact on creating global understanding, tolerance and connectedness, one person, one community, one company and one country at a time. Travel and education makes the world and differences smaller, is the underlying belief and purpose behind our brand. Learn more: www.allianceabroad.com
As cultural exchange leaders and Austin neighbors, Alliance Abroad Group (AAG) shares GAACC’s passion for driving economic growth for businesses with ties to Asia and Asian Americans. We are proud sponsors of the Korea WEST Intern program, a joint venture between the U.S. State Department and the South Korean Ministry of Education. The program’s purpose is to foster international relations between the U.S. and South Korea.
We are currently sponsoring Korean students who are looking for internship opportunities in the United States. Candidates are eager to put their education into a practical business application, improve their English speaking skills and learn more about our country and communities. In our 27 years of experience with international exchange programs, we know that these programs serve to strengthen the ties between global citizens, creating lasting professional and personal value and connection.
The Korean students and recent graduates are pursuing a variety of academic degrees but share a common desire to enhance their education and resume, expand their perspectives and contribute to an American business as an intern. If your business has a need for an enthusiastic and educated intern and you want to provide opportunities to support the Asian community in America, we encourage you to become a host employer.
At a time when there is so much concern about the future state of U.S. visa and immigration policies, we must stand together, united in our belief that these types of programs that allow people from around the world to connect and collaborate are more important than ever. Our passion for the work we do centers on the tremendous positive impact of cultural exchange. We know that bringing people together serves to educate and enlighten, eliminating prejudice, intolerance and misunderstanding. AAG has always been a company that believes tearing down walls is far more powerful in creating peace and prosperity than building walls of separation.
The best chance we have of protecting the values of this country – inclusion, equality, justice and tolerance – is to stand together bonded our common belief in those important principles. We can demonstrate both our commitment to advancing foreign relations and pride in our ancestral heritage by exposing more, not fewer, people to our great nation.
The GAACC mission is to promote Asian American community and community at large as a catalyst for local and global economic growth through advocacy, connections and education. We ask your enthusiastic support of the advocacy initiatives:
“We engage with public officials at multiple levels: City of Austin, county, state (MBE Public Policy Day), and federal through our membership with National ACE. At the national policy level, we support increasing opportunities for Asian Pacific American (APA) entrepreneurs, international trade, immigration reform, disaggregation of APA data and workforce leadership. Locally, we advocate on behalf of our members and the APA community at large to assist them with their business objectives.”
For more information on how you can better your business, community and country by investing in the future of a young person, contact us today. We’re honored to help.
The Presidential election in the United States has raised questions and concern about the future of international exchange programs. We want to assure you that there will be no immediate or dramatic decisions that will affect the existing program.
President-elect Donald Trump will need to first appoint key staff members including a Secretary of State, White House advisors and a leader of The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. It will take some time before Trump’s team comes together and any implications to the program begin to emerge.
International Exchange has been supported by both parties and many previous administrations. As a united industry we have worked hard to educate and enlist support of our program, preparing for this possible outcome by making congressional and government allies and establishing strong federal, state and local engagement. Our belief in the positive and far-reaching benefits of cultural exchange is echoed by many other organizations, interest groups, politicians and government agencies. At the Department of State, supporters of the program will likely remain in their current roles as program advocates and administrators.
We commit to all of you that we will continue to work hard on your behalf and for the program in which we firmly believe. All of us are passionate about cultural exchange as a way to promote greater understanding between global citizens. Ours is a program that tears down walls of separation, prejudice, ignorance and division; we do not believe in or support walls of separation. All of us must unite in this higher purpose of the program and do our part to ensure the principles of education and enlightenment are our legacy outcomes. Our best chance at preserving and growing this program will be by our success achieving these important goals.
We promise to keep you informed of any developments, but do not anticipate any program changes for quite some time.
Alliance Abroad Group
Thato Khasuli has become a symbol of hope and inspiration to literally thousands. Since we first published his story about his journey from South Africa to the U.S., it has spread around the internet, touching people all over the globe. Thato has put new energy and passion into our work as cultural exchange sponsors and has fueled our commitment to do more on behalf of global youths with similar dreams. Thato reminds us why Alliance Abroad was created in the first place. We were founded on the belief that access to education and incredible experiences should be available to anyone, anywhere.
In the whirlwind love affair with Thato, we took a step back to reflect how all this came to be. James Bell, our beloved Scottish president and leader, cooked up the idea over a beer with an industry buddy. They wanted to find a way to get people who volunteered for the annual World Youth Travel and Student Conference (WYSTC) fired up and motivated. James decided an incentive would work, and since the passion for many of the South African volunteers was exposure to the industry, education and travel, he came up with the idea of a paid internship in the U.S.
Through his extensive network of industry associates, The Mount Washington Hotel in New Hampshire enthusiastically agreed to be a host employer and Emirate Airlines, a big WYSTC supporter and sponsor, was pleased to donate the air travel. Now the hard part…who would be the lucky winner?
Thato said that the moment he heard about the internship, he was determined to win (although he respectfully acknowledged his fellow volunteers as equally worthy). When asked what it was about Thato that made him the winner, James smiles pensively. “Thato had this air of confidence and determination, but was also amazingly humble,” he reflects. “I had this strong feeling that if Thato won, something big would happen for him; something life-changing.” James thought his destiny would be changed. We think maybe it has.
Thato came to visit us at our Austin headquarters and thanked us. He reminded us of the importance of what we do -even the sometimes laborious work of pushing paper and processing visas. He told our team how much the experience has changed his life and that of his family and friends. He acknowledged the teams that enrolled him and prepared his paperwork, the account managers who assisted with his training plan, the compliance team who issued his DS forms and the support team and outreach coordinator who ensured he was prepared for his journey and internship opportunity. We were touched as he shared how much the opportunity has meant to him. There were very few dry eyes when he told us about how he was able to send financial support back home to his mother and younger sister.
All of us at Alliance Abroad are thrilled about Thato’s experience and that his story resulted in winning the “Extraordinary Experience” award! But the truth is, it’s not about awards for us; it’s about the reward we get when we see our work making a difference in the lives of others. We’re grateful to Thato for that reminder.
Please stay with our Thato story; we think there are many more chapters yet to be written.
“I’m without words,” is what Thato said when he learned that his story received the coveted Global Youth Travel Extraordinary Experience award. He literally was soaking it all in and then wanted to call his mother to share the news. Thato said she, too, was speechless after she learned that her son, living half way around the world, was being recognized in such a public and personal way. “She thought I was just coming to the United States to work,” Thato explains. “She can’t believe the encouragement and support I’ve gotten since coming here.” It’s been the most incredible experience and one that I hope becomes an inspiration for others, he told me later.
Thato’s video chronicling his journey from a South African township to an internship in the United States is making its way around the internet with over 7,000 views so far. Thato is both humbled and honored and feels hopeful that his story will inspire more students to travel. Thato describes his experience as a new beginning, not just for him, but for others he hopes will follow in his determined footsteps. “Not everyone can afford an opportunity like this,” Thato muses. “Without AAG, this would not have been possible for me.” He wants to implore more employers to give foreign students with similar aspirations a similar opportunity to work, travel, learn and contribute.
This experience has not just opened doors for me, it has the potential to impact others. “Maybe someone will see my story and believe that there is always something better out there. My mother is proud of my achievements and about how my story is helping to inspire others.”
He feels that he has grown personally, professionally and profoundly through this experience. It was a dream that for Thato has surpassed any of his most hopeful expectations. Thato’s advice to anyone with a dream or a purpose is sage. “If you are given an opportunity, grab it with both hands!”
Intrigued about cultural exchange or dreaming about living and working in a foreign country? There is no better endorsement than the real life stories of those who have had similar interests. A year ago Thato Khasuli was a local volunteer at the World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC), in Cape Town, South Africa. Today, Thato is a concierge at a luxury resort in a breathtaking mountain area in New Hampshire, USA. His journey half way around the world was recounted and submitted for the most coveted award in the youth and student travel industry and won. Why? Because Thato’s story reminds all of us in the business of cultural exchange and youth travel why we love what we do. And it encourages every young person who has ever dreamed of venturing beyond their own backyard or borders to take the same leap of faith, following in Thato’s amazing footsteps.
Travel and exposure to a different culture has opened Thato’s eyes and mind to a world of possibilities. Through his “Extraordinary Experience,” he has been both teacher and student, learning about the hospitality industry and a different way of life and teaching his friends, peers and business associates about his own country and customs. He has grown personally and professionally and has discovered that his greatest lessons have generally come from his most daunting challenges. Thato’s lasting legacy will be a reminder to all of us to be undaunted in the pursuit of our dreams and resolute in our commitment to achieve them.
Alliance Abroad is pleased and proud to be the winner of the WYSE Most Extraordinary Experience Award. We may have gotten the award and recognition for providing the experience, but Thato is the real winner. The honor for us is witnessing the fruits of our work and knowing that this experience has been a game changer for Thato and his family. That’s all the reward we need.
It’s been our life’s work to bring extraordinary experiences to thousands of global youths. It’s what motivates us and is still the passion behind our work.
We invite and encourage you to watch the video of Thato’s story and to stay tuned as we continue to follow his journey.