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.

Prevention of Human Trafficking

Human Trafficking
At AAG, our motto is We help you write your own story. It is extremely important to us that the story written is one that personifies an outstanding program of learning, growing culturally and improving both professional and life skills, and not a story where one of our participants gets hurt. The key to protecting our international participants as well as other Americans that might be susceptible to being a victim is education and prevention. We hope this article brings just that type of awareness and moves you to take steps in creating a safer or more secure neighborhood in your community. (more…)

Peru : Encounter Culture Country Spotlight


Encounter Culture: Peru

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 stronger business, political and human ties. This month we would like to feature Peru. Over the past two years, AAG has assisted bringing almost 1000 Peruvians to the United States on the Summer Work Travel Program.


Peru, officially the Republic of Peru, is a country in South America and the 5th largest country in Latin America. Peru is a representative democratic republic divided in 25 regions. Its geography varies from the arid plains of the Pacific coast to the peaks of the Andes Mountains and the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin. Peru has three main climatic zones; tropical jungle, arid coastal deserts and mountain highlands.


If you travel to Peru, you must take time to visit one of the most familiar icons of the Inca ancient civilization, Machu Picchu also known as the “Lost City of the Incas.” The Incas built the estate around 1450, but abandoned it a century later at the time of the Spanish Conquest. It is known for its breath taking views, Inca architecture, and sacred temples and fountains.

Peru is also recognized for outstanding handcrafted textiles and art form in mediums such as gourds, wood, stone, gold, silver and pottery. Peruvian cuisine is an expression of multiple cultures co-existing in one territory. Check out some Peruvian recipes here 

The motto is “Firme y Feliz por la Union” which means Firm and Happy for the Union.

  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Nuevo Sol
  • Capital: Lima
  • Religion: Christianity
  • Population: 30 million

Better than Australia on a Shoestring

Australia on a Shoestring


There have been many articles, books, and blogs written on “how to travel Australia on a budget” or Australia on a Shoestring, and rightfully so. Australia is the number one dream destination for most everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, especially Americans, and it is quite an expensive place to holiday. Even getting to Australia could put a massive dent into your travel budget. Unfortunately for most (especially younger cash-strapped generations), traveling to Australia is a dream never seen through to fruition. This, however, doesn’t need to be the case. Studentsyoung professionals, and emerging travel enthusiasts have an option better than traveling down under cheaply: Working Abroad.


Students at most Universities are presented with an option to study abroad. It’s a great opportunity to experience another culture while continuing your education if you have the money, or don’t mind adding to your student debt. I took the chance on studying abroad when I was in college, and it was an experience I will never forget; partly because I’m still paying for it. If I was approached back then with an opportunity to not just live overseas for a while, but make money while I was there, I would not have thought twice about it. A paid internship abroad is an invaluable experience that furthers your education with real-life, hands-on training, all the while putting money in your pocket to explore the culture. I’m not saying you shouldn’t study abroad if you have the chance. It’s life-changing. I’m saying studying abroad is not your only option for an extended experience overseas. A paid internship abroad is for every student who wouldn’t be able to afford a study abroad experience, or isn’t offered a study abroad program at their school. A paid internship in Australia for students can simply be a click away.


Young professionals (18-30 years old) may never even think about taking working overseas. You have a great opportunity to further your career with by adding international experience to your resume. Working for well-respected, global brand companies overseas adds tremendous value to your work history, and will make your resume stand out among the rest. Working alongside established professionals abroad gives rise to better understanding of your industry on a global scale. Taking 6 months or year off from work to travel overseas is not practical for any young professional that has to support themself, unless that time was spent earning a living wage and furthering your career. There are great opportunities to work abroad in Australia.


Young travel enthusiasts looking to be the next wanderlust kings and queens must work hard for months or even years to save enough money for adventures abroad. Time spent traveling is limited to your budget, and most of you have to slum your way around your vacation destination. Staying at cheap hostels, couch surfing, eating cheaply (or eating less), and being forced to get creative with how to get around has become your go-to traveling playbook. Extensive planning and research can provide you with only a limited amount of knowledge on what to do, where to go, and how much it is actually going to cost. A Working Holiday Abroad, however, provides you with the opportunity to earn your traveling money while you’re in your travel destination, all the while giving you authentic, local insight on what to do and where to go when you are done working. Wouldn’t you rather be saving your Australia vacation money working in Australia?


These articles, books, and travel channel shows offering insight on how to afford Australia are definitely worth investigating. They will provide you with useful tips on free or cheap things to do, affordable places to eat and stay, and maybe even inexpensive ways to get around. But how long will your trip down under be? After your $2,000 (roughly) round trip airfare, how much money is left for you and how long will it last? It is quite possible for somebody to spend up to three weeks in Australia with a couple thousand dollars in their pocket, but is that enough time and money to do the many different exciting things you can do down under? Probably not. A true, lasting cultural experience is obtained by living overseas, and interacting with locals outside of touristy areas on a daily basis. Work alongside locals for 6 or 12 months and truly learn what life is like there. For Australia, one of the best countries in the world to live in, a work experience or paid internship is not just the best option for studentsyoung professionals, and travelers, for most it is the only option.

Australia on a Shoestring

Lessons from an International Student's Journey

international student

The following is by Rajika Bhandari, deputy vice president for research and evaluation at the Institute of International Education.

What I Learned About Myself, America and the World

My first taste of the United States was a shrink-wrapped chocolate-chip cookie and a can of chilled Coke on an American Airlines flight to Raleigh, N.C. It was 1992, and I was one of 36,000 Indian students studying in the United States that year, according to the Institute of International Education’s “Open Doors” report. That flight was the beginning of an extraordinary journey for me that gave me a better understanding of the United States, my homeland and myself.

In the two decades since then, much has changed in global higher education, including a surge in the number of students studying overseas and the rise of new technologies. But as I look back on my first days and weeks in a foreign land, I truly hope that today’s international students are still getting the eye-opening experience I had.

As a young graduate student from India, attending North Carolina State University was as much an education in psychology (my chosen field of study) as it was a life lesson about cultural differences in how knowledge is imparted and acquired in the United States. I was encouraged to think much more critically than I had ever before, and was surprised that questioning your professor was actually a good thing and not seen as an affront as it would be in Indian universities (and I suspect in many other institutions and countries around the world). So while I balked when my American classmates casually referred to my adviser by his first name, I also sharpened my critical-thinking skills and felt an equal participant among my peers, men and women alike.

What immediately struck me also about the American system was its sheer fluidity and openness. Taking full advantage of its cross-disciplinary approach, I was able to move easily across different departments, selecting courses from psychology, statistics, sociology, and developmental economics to fashion a degree that would prepare me for a career in international work. This sort of flexibility is almost unheard of in many countries, or it is certainly rare in India where even today rigid curricula are a deterrent to many American students who would like to study there.

But my experience in an American classroom was also opening my eyes to the value of my undergraduate degree from the University of Delhi, where the focus was very much on rigor, theory and the fundamentals of an academic discipline. It was this solid foundation that enabled me to push the boundaries of knowledge within the free-thinking environment of an American classroom.

My interactions with my American peers — and those from all over the world — challenged me to expand my worldview. In many ways, I was growing up and becoming an adult in the United States, being shaped by this country going forward as I had been by India for the first half of my life. As a student in the south I developed a much more nuanced understanding of black history and race relations in the United States. Through my Jewish American friends I learned about the full extent of the Holocaust, a subject that was covered cursorily in Indian history books back home.

Conversely, most of my American friends had never heard of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro — two of the earliest world civilizations that are based in the Indian subcontinent — and had no idea that the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 turned 12 million people into refugees, resulting in the single largest exodus in recent history. These were not details that my American friends or I had acquired in the classroom, for we were not history students. Rather, this was knowledge that was gleaned through conversations and debates that went beyond academic topics, the type of stimulating discourse that is possible only when young students from very different background have the opportunity to interact face-to-face and to explore their beliefs and knowledge (or lack thereof).

Today international higher education in the United States and globally has been transformed in ways we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. International students have evolved from being passive recipients of information to becoming strategic, savvy consumers able to shrewdly assess the return-on-investment of a foreign credential. I attribute this shift to the Internet, which has revolutionized how students get information. The State Department’s EducationUSA network, which provides advising services to prospective international students in 170 countries, now relies on the Internet as a key tool for helping students explore their options and also has a user-friendly “app” for students on the go. At the Institute of International Education, too, all of our guides for international students are now online.

The demographics of an international student in the United States have also changed. Twenty years ago, international students came from a broader mix of countries; today, we see an unusual concentration of students from a handful of countries. In 1992, 18 percent of all international students were from China and India; today, that proportion has more than doubled to 39 percent. While this might provide students with a ready-made community on campus, it also has the unintended consequence of isolating international students from their American peers and those from other parts of the world and, ultimately, preventing them from fully partaking in the social and cultural benefits of international education. Indeed, a recent study found that 40 percent of international students report having no close American friends.

And then there is the specter of shrinking finances: both for international students whose currencies are weak against the U.S. dollar and who struggle to afford the increasing costs of an American education, and for U.S. institutions that have to make tough choices about how to best allocate finite resources. I worry that U.S. institutions may reduce financial assistance to international students and scale back their support services for international students. I was very fortunate 20 years ago to attend an institution with a strong international-student office, whose dedicated staff went above and beyond to ease my transition, from patiently explaining administrative and logistical details to helping me connect with the Indian students’ association on campus. These types of services are critical for helping international students navigate an education system that is probably completely different from anything they have known, and for helping them fully integrate into their campus community and not risk being isolated.

In addition, I worry that MOOCs — or whatever is the latest online flavor of the day — will seem to some to be an adequate substitute for true international education. While technology can play a role in sharing knowledge around the world and in increasing access to education, it will never replace the type of lifelong learning that comes through a true international education experience.

Indeed, the transformational power of such an experience remains indisputable. Just ask the over 4.1 million students who are currently studying outside their home countries. For most young students, it represents an intellectual and cultural coming of age, a type of holistic education that might occur on the fringes of a formal degree but that is invaluable in shaping the mind, soul, and character of a student.

This international student post first appeared in the Chronicle of Higher Education

Aussie Slang

  1. G’day mate – Hello friend!
  2. No worries, mate! – Not a problem, friend!
  3. The Bottle-o – Shop that sells beer and wine.
  4. Snags on the barbie – Cook sausages on a BBQ.
  5. Maccas – McDonalds.
  6. Arvo – Afternoon.
  7. Sunnies – Sunglasses.
  8. Fair dinkum – Honest, genuine.
  9. Bonza – Excellent.
  10. Stubby cooler – used to keep your drink cool in hot Aussie climate!

Living in Australia

Living in Australia

We asked an American (Erin) and a Canadian (Anita) working in Australia a few questions. Here is their perspective on living in Australia.

living in australia

Why Did You Come to Australia?

Erin: I was looking for a change when I made the decision to travel to Australia. I have traveled in the past and had only been to the Austral-Asia once in my life when I visited India. I went to school in Georgia, where we received many study abroad students. During my first year, I meet a student who was studying abroad from Melbourne. We became best friends and he even taught me how to play basketball and stayed with my family for a couple weeks before returning to his hometown Melbourne, Australia. He told me everything about the city, country and people, which was later built upon by other Aussies I met on the road throughout my travels. We kept in touch and I told him that one day I would meet him over in Australia and then I would go visit what I called “The Big Rock in the Middle”, actually named Ayers rock. (This I will be doing in October!) We hadn’t seen each other since he left in June 2009, until I decided to make my move to Melbourne after finding an amazing opportunity to work with Alliance Abroad International! I left a month after accepting the position and headed over to “The Most Livable City in the World’.

Anita: Adventure, exploration and more sun!! I’ve been wanting to come to Australia for the last 5 years and finally decided that a visit, a short stint nor a long backpacking trip, wouldn’t cut it. After learning about the amazing possibilities of a working holiday visa, I jumped at the chance and moved to Melbourne with the excitement of finding a job, place to live and friends! It’s been an unbelievable experience so far.


living in australia

Erin: There are so many amazing things about this country and they all differ from region to region. The thing I enjoy the most, and seems to be relevant to all parts of Australia, is the Breakfast culture. Or in Aussie slang “Brekkie”. Aussies have a wonderful tradition of taking time to catch up with friends, drink an Australian coffee (or two), and eat some creative dishes at unique cafes for brunch.

Coming from a family where breakfast has remained a staple in our daily lives, I appreciate this tradition. Even within this there are small differences that I think any traveler would notice.

living in australia

Australian’s always order poached eggs. This will always be the norm, so if you want your eggs scrambled, fried, or boiled make sure you tell you waitress!

Every breakfast joint has a vegetarian, dairy free, and gluten free options…. In Melbourne I think its safe to say that half the menu will normally reflect this cultural difference!

For all you non-vegetarians: Bacon becomes a real piece of meat. They serve it thicker than in my country!

Avocado Smash will always and forever be one of my favorite Australian dishes! (Avocado, goats cheese, and lemon juice mashed together and spread over toast) Scrumptious!

Anita: The friendly people and delicious food culture. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to meet many people from diverse backgrounds over many scrumptious meals all over Australia!!

Most surprising thing about Australia?

living in australiaErin: The Ultimate Frisbee Network! My co-worker Anita and I both came over from countries where Ultimate Frisbee is a popular sport. I never imagined that it would be just as big, if not bigger here in Australia. My Ultimate Frisbee seasons have become one of my favorite and most surprising experiences in Australia. I have accumulated memories and friendships that will last forever. I was invited one morning to a pick up game by a roommate of mine and ended up later playing for two separate teams in the division and also participating in 4 tournaments while in Melbourne. I am even going off to volunteer for Australian University Games in September while staying with my Frisbee team from Melbourne, RMIT Red Backs! It seems as though Australians really appreciate sports and getting outdoors!

Anita: I’m still surprised at how so many words are shortened or has a nickname/slang equivalent in Australia!! The slang is so fun – Like how biscuits (2 syllables) are “shortened” to bikkies (still 2 syllables)….

One thing you would recommend doing to any visitor?

living in australiaErin: I would definitely recommend not only going to an Australian Rules Football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), but also picking a team to support! Our Director here in Australia recruited me early to his favorite team, the good ole Carlton Blues. I went to a few games with his family and then got really into the sport after moving to Richmond, where the MCG is located. In Melbourne, the teams are based off of different suburbs around the city and have historical and traditional fan bases. They all have different rivalries and each family has a history connected to AFL. It’s exciting to follow the sport throughout the season and makes a trip to the stadium even more memorable! If you can’t decide on a team to support, go ahead and pick the best, GOOO CARLTON!!

Anita: Eat your heart out

living in australiaYou know you’re an Aussie when…


  • You check the AFL app on the reg.
  • Begin nicknaming all of your friends without realizing it.
  • Say “Yewwwww” after anything you agree with!
  • Meet three friends in a day for coffee at different cafes
  • Your drink of choice is 4xxxx Gold, VB, or Carlton Draft.
  • A kangaroo hops by and you don’t even think twice.
  • You start giving directions about public transportation to confused travelers on the street.
  • You start eating like an Iron Man and a having a Golden Gay Time means something to you!
  • You lick an Ants Butt!


  • There’s a nickname for everything
  • You’re not afraid of spiders
  • You like snow and cold

Best looking Aussie

Erin: Liam Hemsworth…was that even a question?

Anita: Julia Gillard (just joking!) Eric Bana!

Beam me up... Eric Bana plays the bad guy in Star Trek liam

Land of the Midnight Sun

By Andrea Lorena Larrañaga Aleman (Cultural Exchange Student)
Land of the Midnight Sun

I am about to share with you information on an amazing country. Can you guess from the title, Land of the Midnight Sun to which country I am referring to? Relax if you do not, as I will continue to reveal some clues about this beautiful land.

Land of the Midnight Sun

Land of the Midnight SunThe people there are known for their kindness. They will help you in any way they can, although they are a little bit shy at first. Sometimes known as the “land of the midnight sun”, this great land has drastically changing weather. Inhabited by trolls at night, this land of Vikings is populated be outdoor-lovers. Do you know which country I speak of yet? If you don’t, I bet you will by the end of this article. You will learn pretty much everything you need to know about this magical land and might even find yourself booking your next adventure to it.

It is located on the western side of Scandinavia, in the northern pole, and surrounded by huge fjords. It has Sweden as its neighbor, and is quite comfortable during summer, with the high of 26°C (78.8°F). The winter, however, averages around -1°C (30.2°F), dropping as low as -10°C (14°F). Snow is very common, and instead of making people stay inside their houses, it is really common to go out and participate in snow sports.

Land of the Midnight SunThe population is another important part. In this land the people, as you read before, are commonly shy, and do not stereotype at first sight. They might seem unfriendly at the beginning, but it is because they never interfere in other peoples’ lives. Once you get to know them better, strong ties of friendship might blossom.  They are also really used to hanging out and enjoying what nature has to offer. They also posses a great knowledge of information, are open to any other kind of culture, and will be more than happy to share their opinions.

Changing to the food now! This mysterious country provides huge amounts of fish during the year. It is usual to eat boiled potatoes, salmon, good bread, and salad. They have many types of bread, even some of them are homemade. If you are a meat lover, you must keep in mind that here the meat is really expensive, and people tend to reserve that to big celebrations like Christmas.

Land of the Midnight Sun

Be patient, we are getting closer to the answer! This country occupied the first spot on Human Development Index. Many people from around the world travel here to stay and take advantage of the better opportunities. This land is also characterized by its security, even in the capital, walking at night is something you must not worry about, it stays calm and safe.

Land of the Midnight Sun

So, enough of mysteries, lets go to the answer: Norway. Where you right? Hopefully you have heard about it before.

Before reading this, what did you know about Norway? Did it include trolls and vikings? Well, if I got interested, do not think twice and pack you bags! Words can not show you the beauty and wonder of Norway.

Now, lets go further in depth and see what else an explorer like you must keep in mind.

Land of the Midnight Sun


It depends on you. I explained some of the characteristics of Norway, but it is worth it to see and experience it in person. If you love to travel, Norway and its beautiful places is a good option. I know you will like it as much as their natives do, and probably at the end you will finish your journey wanting to explore more the Nordics countries.First, you need to be sure where you want to go. After that, you must look at what kind of person you are. Do you prefer the warmth, do you play on the cold team. Spending some time skiing in the mountains is something unforgettable, but the sun at summer is something you will not regret either.

Land of the Midnight Sun

Encounter Culture: Brazil


Travel the World: Featuring Brazil


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 stronger business, political and human ties. This month we would like to feature a country we work closely with: Brazil.

We have a very special video to share with you from one of our past Summer Work Travel participants from Brazil, Lucas da Silva Santos. He worked at the Great Wolf Lodge in Wisconsin Dells as a Lifeguard during the Winter in 2012, and his story is inspiring.  It is with great honor and pride to introduce the 2013 WYSTC Extraordinary Experience Award-Winner Lucas Santos:

Read his story here: Lucas Santos, Born This Way


According to National Geographic, “Brazil is the giant of South America with nearly half of the South America continent’s area and people. Worldwide it ranks 5th in both area and population which is as diverse as it is large.”

The country has a variety of terrain from powdery white-sand beaches, to Amazon rain forests and dynamic metropolises. Brazil’s high season is considered from December to March, when the weather is perfect, and the temperature hovers around 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 30 degrees Celsius.  While Brasilia is the capital city, the most famous cities are São Paulo (the largest in the country), and of course Rio de Janeiro.

Here is a glimpse of the Grammy Record of the Year in 1965 song “The Girl from Impanema”

Rio is famous for carnival celebrations, samba, Bossa Nova, and Ipanema (a neighborhood located in the southern region of Rio). It is also known for beautiful people, die hard soccer (futbol) fans, the iconic statue of Christ the redeemer, and mouthwatering steak houses washed down with a refreshing caipirinha. The motto of Brazil is “Ordem e Progresso’ which means Order and Progress, which can be found on the very bright green and yellow flag.

  • Language: Portuguese
  • Religion: Roman Catholic
  • Currency: Real
  • Population: 184,184,000

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