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.
We recently had the chance to catch up with J1 Intern participant Elvis. He shared with us his storied past, his goals, and dreams and offered great advice to future participants coming to the US.
I am a proud graduate from the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College located in the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, where I study the culinary arts. It has long been my dream to become a chef!
That’s great, what is it you love about cooking, and when did you start?
My culinary obsession began at a very young age. As a child, I’d mix along food items such as apples and ketchup, or bananas with grenadine syrup. They were quite the childish, whimsical concoctions, however, it was those simple items and their interesting flavors that helped build my interest in the culinary arts later on in life. (more…)
Welcome to another Friday and another funny story about misunderstandings between people even though they are speaking the same language! Today’s short and sweet entry comes from Work Experience participant Alexandra who is working as a Chef on Hayman Island.
Welcome to AAG’s #Fauxpas Friday page. Here we will all commiserate on just one of the many things that makes traveling to different parts of the world so enthralling. More specifically we’re going to tell stories about how we did something while abroad that caused raised eyebrows and made people look at us sideways! (more…)
Work and Travel Australia Participant Leah Shares her Story (Continued)
It’s been five months since I arrived in Australia. I honestly couldn’t be happier with my decision to join the Work Experience Australia program. (more…)
Work and Travel Australia Participant Leah Shares her Story.
I have always dreamed of traveling across the globe and living in a new country.
Did I think it was going to happen? Not always.
Latchezar, a third year Computer Systems and Technologies student from Bulgaria spent two summers in the United States as a J-1 Summer Work and Travel participant starting in 2013. He traveled to the US with his cousin to work at the Kalahari Waterpark and Resort in Sandusky, OH as a Room Attendant. He followed that up his second summer with a role as a Houseman at the same resort. If you have ever spent time in the hotel business you know that these are two very labor intensive jobs. AAG, as well as Latchezar’s supervisors, were impressed with his work ethic and sense of pride. His positive can-do attitude shone through every day and he was a role model to the other employees.
Right now, throughout Australia we’re helping people write their own stories. Take a look…
Art Estrada is a young chef with a big and engaging personality. His enthusiasm and laughter is contagious and as we interview him, we can’t help laughing and joining in on his merriment and joy for all things baking.
Estrada recalls that his favorite thing to do whilst growing up was baking. Unlike other boys his age, he wasn’t found outside making mud pies, instead he was often discovered in the kitchen making a mess with bowls of sugar and flour.
Here at Alliance Abroad Group we love to talk to our current and past Work Experience Australia participants to learn about the program from their point of view. We ask them about their travels and their experiences with us, and how we can work to improve our program. We recently had the pleasure of catching up with Donald Carroll who is just finishing up his 12-month program in Australia.
24-year old Donald grew up in Chicago; and is a 2011 graduate of a Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program. He has worked as a chef in Yellowstone National Park, Montana and before joining our program at a Cold Region Testing Facility in Alaska. (more…)