Why We’re Wild About WYSTC

26 Sep

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Categories: News and Press Releases, Travel the World, Uncategorized, USA, Why AAG

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The World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) is the leading trade event for the global youth, student and educational travel industry. Since its inception in 1992, the conference has been held in a different international location and this year it will take place in Belgrade, Serbia September 20-23.  Six hundred industry professionals from over 100 countries are expected to come together to network, exchange ideas and collaborate to fuel and further the youth and student travel industry.

David Chapman, Director General of WYSE Travel Confederation, the event sponsor, is optimistic about the strength and resilience of the youth travel market. “Despite the unsettled nature of travel as a whole, with terrorism and political unrest halting tourism in some areas, youth travel remains resilient. Not only do young people continue to travel during difficult times, but the agencies and organizations helping them also continue to offer new products and services that meet the needs of young travelers.

The conference covers all aspects and interests of the industry and is an incredible opportunity to strengthen partnerships and create new ones. The latest information on policies affecting the travel and tourism industry, innovations that improve the experience, industry trends and the emersion of new programs are some of the many topics discussed through workshops, networking and seminars.

WYSTC provides insights and education to the many influences and factors facing the industry and keeps us abreast and in tune with challenges and concerns of war, terrorism, safety and our important role as visa sponsors in facilitating safe and meaningful experiences.

Alliance Abroad is honored to be a finalist in the Most Extraordinary Experience category. Follow Thato Khasuli, our 2015 WYSTC intern recipient, on our blog and his amazing journey from South Africa to America.  Thato reminds us that what we do has a higher purpose and can change the world…one person, company, community and country at a time.

Reasons to Believe - Thato’s Journey

23 Sep

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Categories: Australia Travel, Blog, cultural exchange, Travel the World, Travel Tips, USA

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Thato Khasuli’s story reminds us why we do what we do and why we believe in the higher purpose of our work. Though Thato’s tale is his own, in many ways he represents hundreds of thousands of young people around the globe – people with high hopes and taller obstacles. His is a story of perseverance and a testament to the power of the human spirit. His journey from a small township in South Africa to a resort town in New Hampshire gives us all reasons to believe that dreams can and do come true. One leap of faith and years of hard work set Thato on an incredible journey half way around the world that has been marked by lessons, friendships, insights and self-discovery.

In his own words, Thato tells his tale in this video about wanting, working, believing, praying and ultimately achieving.

Follow Thato on our blog as we continue to follow his journey that he hopes will serve as an inspiration for countless youths and businesses around the world.

Thato’s story will be shared at the World Youth Student Travel Conference (WYSTC) in Belgrade Serbia, September 20-23. We think his tale is remarkable enough to be recognized by the WYSE as Most Extraordinary Experience and it’s made the short list of contenders.

Watch the video and let us know what you think.

Jamaica - Encounter Culture

26 Jun

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Nowhere else on earth will you find a culture as dynamic as that of Jamaica. Its people are a mixture of the many ethnicities that have landed on the island’s shores over the past several centuries. Weathering enslavement and oppression, the Jamaicans are survivors, and their past is full of fascinating stories just waiting to be told. Their national motto is: “Out of Many, One People.”

Cultural Heritage

Whether they are the descendants of the colonists or recent immigrants from the Middle East, people of all nationalities live and work together in Jamaica. Cultures have been mingling on Jamaica’s shores for hundreds of years. And while this mixture inspires pride, it is also the source of Jamaica’s characteristically brassy banter that, to an outsider, might seem inappropriate at times. The Taíno, who inhabited the island long before European discovery, also left behind a cultural history.

Most Jamaicans are always willing to talk about subjects most find uncomfortable, peppering their speech with terms such as ‘browning,’ ‘redman,’ ‘coolie,’ ‘whitey,’ ‘blacka’ or ‘Miss Chin.’ It is not uncommon to find people of all ethnic backgrounds on Jamaica, and the islanders are comfortable with their outward racial differences because they know this is part of what makes their culture unique.

Dig into the island’s past and learn more about its present by reading our guide to Jamaica’s History.


Language is another way in which Jamaica demonstrates its melded culture. Although Jamaica’s official language is English, many of its residents speak with their own linguistic style. There are even differences from village to village. The main ingredients of Jamaica’s language stew are Spanish, African, English (including Irish, British and American idioms), and even Rastafarian. On Jamaica you might hear your shoes referred to with the Spanish word, “zapatos,” and you might talk about where to “nyam,” an African word meaning “eat.” However, you may also hear terms you’re more familiar with, like “cool.” The language also has roots in slavery, as the slaves found ways to combine the language of their owners with their own African tongues.

Click here to get more information about the spoken word in Jamaica.

Traditional Clothing

Traditional wear includes colorful and usually handmade dresses from calico cloth. Calico is generally striped, similar to a plaid. These dresses include tiered skirts, but another important aspect is the head scarf. This scarf is carefully wrapped around the head to keep hair in place. Rastafarian-influenced clothes are of particular interest to tourists and generally include red, green, and gold, which are the colors of the Ethiopian flag. One of the most important aspects of Rastafarian clothing is that it is made from natural fibers. Also important in this attire is the “tam,” a hat that covers the dreadlocks.

You can learn more not only about the island’s traditional clothing style, but also how locals dress today and tips on what you should wear as a visitor by reading our guide to Jamaican Clothing.  

Traditional Foods

Jamaican culture is also richly flavored by its cuisine. The aromatic spices of the Caribbean have allowed the island’s kitchens to create one of the most unusual fusions of flavors in the world. Most popular on the menu is jerk, a marinade that can be added to almost anything, but usually meat. The spicy sauce includes many of the island’s native ingredients. Seafood is also prevalent on the island, but most truly Jamaican dishes, which intimidate most visitors, include cow foot stew and goat’s head soups.

Everything you need to know about the cultural culinary offerings of Jamaica can be learned here


…not every member believes in all of these things…

Spirituality takes many forms in Jamaica, but all are reflected in the local culture. The Guinness Book of World Records determined Jamaica to have the most churches per square mile of any place on the planet. The island hosts many different Christian denominations, including Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, Methodists, Seventh Day Adventists, and Presbyterians. But the religious are not only Christians: Jews, Hindus, Muslims, Bahai’s, and Rastafarians all call Jamaica home.

Read more about religions in Jamaica, especially including details about Rastafarianism by clicking here


Although equally artistic, local crafts fall out of the visual arts category and into one of their own.  After all, the indigenous name of the island Xaymaca, means “land of water and wood.” On the island, there are many artisans who create goods of local, natural materials and they do so by hand.  You can get your own hands on any number of these goods by visiting a local crafts fair where you will find such items as glazed pottery animals, straw hats made of palm leaves, embroidered linens and batik clothing, and shell jewelry.  If the Rastafarian culture is of particular interest to you, you’ll also be able to find wood carvings that are typically made of red hard woods.  


Of course, Jamaicans are also known for their willingness to dance. Dances found on Jamaica fuse the styles of Europeans and Africans into a unique form. Some of the local dances are the “jonkonnu,” a dance practiced by slaves at Christmas time, “bruckins,” from the period after emancipation, and the newer “ska.” European dances like the maypole and quadrille are performed with “mento” music, while African dances like the “gerreh,” “dinki-mini,” and “ettu” were turned into commentaries on plantation living. New dances crop up constantly, but these older styles are the basis for new moves. Dance halls are the best places to find new styles, but the traditional dances of Jamaican culture are kept alive by organizations such as the National Dance Theater Company.


Where would dancers be if it weren’t for music, the most popular form of Jamaican music is reggae, which has a sound is so easy to enjoy that it has gained popularity throughout the world. Many reggae musicians have grown to international fame, most notably Bob Marley, who worked with and influenced many other local musicians before his death in 1981. The popularity of this genre has continued to this day. Dancehall, a variation of reggae, is also growing in popularity.


The literary world of Jamaica got its start with folk tales told as a form of oral history that was passed down from generation to generation, often as cautionary tales for youths to hear and heed.  What we find in the literary world of Jamaica today, however, is that the local dialect is interwoven with elevated prose to create pieces of written work that is unlike anything you’ll find elsewhere in the world.  Like many things that become important to the arts and culture scene of the island, it is discussion of social issues that catapults local literature to the top.

Learn more about the rich culture in Jamaica by reading the detailed articles listed below:

Visit Jamaica is a great resource to learn more about Jamaican culture directly from Jamaicans themselves. 

Jamaica has long been a jewel in the Caribbean tourism industry crown, but there’s far more to discover than just beaches and all-inclusive resorts.

A brief history of the island lays the foundation for its rich culture.

While little is known about the early history of the island,  it is understood that the indigenous people were Taino, a subgroup of the Arawak Indians.  Arawaks were agriculturists who made good-quality textiles and pottery and had named the island Xaymaca, meaning “land of wood and water.”

On 14 May 1494, Christopher Columbus landed on his second American voyage of exploration. He named the island Santiago (Saint-James). However, the name was never adopted and it kept its Arawak name Xaymaca, which later became “Jamaica.”

The Spanish Empire ruled for 152 years, enslaving many of the native people, overworking and harming them to the point that many had perished within fifty years of European arrival. The decimated indigenous were replaced by enslaved Africans.

In 1645 the British took control, and former Spanish slaves refused to surrender, retreating into the blue mountains. The escaped slaves and their descendants, known as the Jamaican Maroons, were the source of much disruption in the colony, raiding plantations and occupying parts of the island’s interior. Imported African slaves would frequently escape to the established Maroon territory, known as Cockpit Country. Over the seventy-six years of British governance, fights between Maroon warriors and the British Army grew increasingly common, along with rebellions by enslaved Blacks.

As World War II came to a close, a sweeping movement of decolonization overtook the world. At this time, the British Government and local politicians began a long transition of converting the Caribbean island from a crown colony into an independent state. Jamaica slowly gained increasing independence from the United Kingdom. In 1958, it became a province in the Federation of the West Indies, a federation among the British West Indies. Jamaica attained full independence by leaving the federation in 1962. Independence, however widely celebrated in Jamaica, has in more recent years been a topic for discussion. In 2011, a survey done showed that approximately 60% of Jamaicans would push to once again become a British territory; citing years of social and fiscal mismanagement in the country.

Ireland - Encounter Culture

2 Mar

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AAG wants to not only promote cultural exchange through our programs, but also provide an opportunity to travel the world virtually. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to learn more about a featured country with whom we are establishing and creating a stronger business, political and human ties.

This month’s featured country is Ireland also referred to as the Emerald Isle. This moniker is derived from the island’s lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent rainfall.

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean just to the west of Great Britain. The country is divided into two sections including the Republic of Ireland (covering five-sixths of the island,) and Northern Ireland (which is part of the United Kingdom.)

Ireland has been inhabited for over 9,000 years and currently has a population of roughly 6.4 million people. Over the past 1200 years, Vikings, Normans, Welsh, Flemings, Scots, English, Africans, Eastern Europeans and South Americans have all added to the population and have had significant influences on Irish culture. The two main languages spoken in Ireland are Irish and English.

e74c7cc20eff422c71f08d46fbf36987Traditionally, Ireland is subdivided into four provinces: Connacht (west), Leinster (east), Munster (south), and Ulster (north). In a system that developed between the 13th and 17th centuries, Ireland has 32 traditional counties. Twenty-six of these counties are in the Republic of Ireland and six are in Northern Ireland. The six counties that constitute Northern Ireland are all in the province of Ulster (which has nine counties in total). As such, Ulster is often used as a synonym for Northern Ireland, although the two are not coterminous.

Ireland has many great sites and places to visit including Dublin, the countries most visited region. There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na BoinneSkellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. Some of the most visited sites in Ireland include Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of MoherHoly Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle. Historically important monastic sites include Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, which are maintained as national monuments in the Republic of Ireland.

Click here to learn more about the rich history and ever-changing cultural climate of Ireland.


Kazakhstan - Encounter Culture

27 Jan

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Categories: cultural exchange, Travel the World


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AAG wants to not only promote cultural exchange through our programs, but also provide an opportunity to travel the world virtually. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to learn more about a featured country with whom we are establishing and creating a stronger business, political and human ties.

Expedition 32 LaunchThis month’s featured country is Kazakhstan, officially the Republic of Kazakhstan. Known for its oil production, Kazakhstan produces 81 million tons of oil per year. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country by land area and is the ninth largest country in the world covering over a million square miles. Kazakhstan is home to the largest space launch complex in the world, the Baikonur. This area of land is rented and administered by the Russian Federation. It was originally built by the Soviet Union in the late 1950s as the base of operations for its space program. Under the current Russian space program, Baikonur remains a busy spaceport, with numerous commercial, military and scientific missions being launched annually. All crewed Russian space flights are launched from Baikonur.

Kazakhstan features just about every type of terrain possible including flatlands, steppe, taiga, rock canyons, hills, deltas, snow capped mountains and desserts and is home to roughly 17 million people. Given its large area and small population it ranks quite low in population density with about 15 people per square mile.

Kazakhstan was once a member of the Russian Empire and integral part of the Soviet Union. It was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. President Nursultan Nazarbayev has held office since the separation.

kahakhstan mallKazakhstan is populated by 131 ethnicities, including Kazakh (who make up 63 percent of the population), Russian, Uzbek, Ukrainian, German, Tatar, and Uyghur. Islam is the religion of about 70% of the population, with Christianity practiced by 26%; Kazakhstan allows freedom of religion. The Kazakh language is the state language, while Russian has equal official status for all levels of administrative and institutional purposes. The Kazakhstan tenge is the national currency, and there is no state motto. To learn more about this fascinating country click here.

India - Encounter Culture

31 Oct

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AAG wants to promote cultural exchange through our programs as well as provide an opportunity to travel the world virtually. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to learn more about a featured country with whom we are establishing stronger business relationships, political and human ties. This month we are highlighting India.

India, officially the Republic of India, is located in the southern part of Asia continent. India has also two island groups, Andaman and Nicobar Islands that are located in the Arabian Seas. Due to the size of the country they feature a wide arrange of terrains. In the north, you will find the world’s highest mountain range the Himalayas and in the south you have direct access to the Indian Ocean. The country’s weather is typically hot year-round. Cooler climates can be found in India depending on the region you are visiting.

It is an extraordinary place, one of the world’s grand human melting pots where an incredible array of cultures, religions and ethnicities co-exists. If you ever have the chance to visit, be prepared to have your senses engulfed with a variety sounds, smells, sights and tastes. When visiting India, you must visit the majesty of the Taj Mahal, beauty of the Beaches of Goa, or paying reverence to the Lotus Temple of New Delhi.

If food is what you crave when you travel then you have come to thIndiae right place. Check out some iconic Indian dishes.

The countries official motto is “Satyameva Jayate” which translates to Truth Alone Triumphs
The official languages are Hindi & English
The currency is Rupee
The capital is New Delhi
The prevalent religions are Buddhism, Sikhism, Hinduism, and Jainism
The countries population equals 1.252 billion people (the second largest in the world)

Paraguay - Encounter Culture

29 Sep

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Travel the World to Paraguay

paraguayAAG’s goal is to not only promote cultural exchange through our programs, but to also provide an opportunity to travel the world virtually. We want to give you the opportunity to learn more about a featured country with whom we are establishing and creating stronger business, political, and human ties. This month we are featuring Paraguay. (more…)

Chile - Encounter Culture

19 Aug

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AAG wants to promote cultural exchange through our programs as well as provide an opportunity to travel the world virtually. Our goal is to give you the opportunity to learn more about a featured country with whom we are establishing and creating stronger business, political and human ties. This month we are highlighting Chile. (more…)

US Road Trip

us road trip

Robin Lerner’s First Hand Experience

us road tripLet’s Take a US Road Trip: We are super excited to virtually introduce you to Robin Lerner, Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. She was appointed to this position in February of 2012. Her primary responsibility is to oversee the J-1 Visa Exchange Visitor Program, which annually brings over 200,000 international participants to the United States to study, teach, and build life and professional skills through direct cultural experiences.


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