World Youth and Student Travel Conference - 2014

31 Oct

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The World Youth and Student Travel Conference, WYSTC was held in Dublin, Ireland this past September. This conference has taken place every year since 1992 and is hosted in a new country every year. Over the years AAG has traveled the globe to be a part of this outstanding event, from Sydney to Istanbul to Beijing! This year AAG’s CEO Victoria Lynden, President James Bell, Director of Australia Programs Ash Jurberg and General Manager of Program Services Laurie Moxley joined over 450 other individuals in attendance.

This year’s conference highlights included:

  • Great interest in our growing Australia programs from partners all over the globe
  • A closing keynote from Sir Ranulph Fiennes, a true international explorer and the first to travel from the South to North Pole without using air travel
  • Over 90 business appointments Emersion into Irish culture, from music and dancing to a proper pint of Guinness, at sites ranging from the historic Trinity College to the Lord Mayor’s residence, the “Mansion House.”
  • Gaining industry insights on hot topics including the future of travel and technology


World Youth and Student Travel Conference 2014A word from our President, James Bell This marks my 12th year of attendance at WYSTC. Most important takeaway for me as vice-chair of the WYSE Work and Volunteer Association, our industry body: was to lead governmental engagement efforts to increase opportunities for Americans to work or volunteer abroad in the same way that our country has opened its doors to the many thousands who come each year. Upon our return we have been following up on our plans for 2015; we are excited and energized about the industry we have the privilege to work in and the impact our programs are having on participants worldwide.

Click here for more information on WYSTC.

Veterans Day - November 11, 2015

31 Oct

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Veterans Day is an official United States holiday that honors people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The holiday coincides with the holidays Armistice Day and Remembrance Day, which are celebrated in other parts of the world marking the anniversary of the end of World War I. We hope you take a moment to share the importance of this federal holiday with your international participants. Use this opportunity to promote ways your organization or local community might recognize and celebrate the day. The key is to do something unexpected. There is a plethora of moving ways to show your thanks and support of a veteran. See a few recommendations below.

    • Host a veteran for lunch or dinner
    • Send a care package to soldiers currently overseas
    • Write a personal letter to a soldier
    • Adopt a Soldier through Soldier’ Angels

For more ideas visit Operations Gratitude.

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United Nations Day – October 24, 2014

United Nations day
We highly encourage you to pass along the following information about the history and purpose of the United Nations. We present to you, United Nations Day on October 24, 2014.

The term “United Nations” was first coined in 1941 by United States President Franklin Roosevelt to describe the Allied countries of World War II that included the US, Russia, China and the United Kingdom. It has now become an iconic international organization which was originally consisted of 26 governments who all signed the “Declaration by United Nations.” (more…)

Cultural Exchange in Texas

Cultural Exchange in Action

cultural exchange

On July 15, 2014 our local AAG Support Services Staff in Galveston, Texas hosted a Fun Day at the Beach. It included everything from participating in Beach Olympic, volunteerism by spending time to clean up the public beaches, and ending the day with learning how to make campfire S’mores. The participants truly had a great time at the beach. There was even a large waterslide for all to enjoy! In addition, all participants that attended received a goodie bag, with items provide by Galveston Visitor Bureau, and one free ticket to either Schlitterbahn or Pleasure Pier which were donated by our host companies. Fisherman’s Wharf, a local eatery and host company, provided shrimp and fish po’boys, and the San Luis Hotel provided dessert trays of cookies. (more…)

Global Exchange Makes for Authentic Connections and Good Careers

global exchange
By Victoria Lynden
There is no substitute for experience. In this incredibly virtual world where we can peek at the farthest corners of the earth just by turning on our computers, the fact remains that if you want to connect with a person or a culture, there is nothing like talking face-to-face, sharing a meal, working on a project together and actually bonding with people from other countries and cultures. It’s called citizen diplomacy and it’s more powerful than official state visits because it’s authentic—not staged—and it forges real relationships based on shared experiences, not political mandates. Ultimately, by building these relationships, whole populations can find common ground and forge peaceful connections through global exchange. That’s an idea that’s recognized not just in education or exchange circles. The U.S. Department of State encourages U.S. citizens to become global diplomats.

As head of an organization that helps 10,000 students a year travel abroad and work in different cultures, I’ve had the great fun and honor to deploy hundreds of thousands of citizen diplomats. And they’ve told me amazing stories of transformation: There was the American college student whose life revolved around social activities and building a lucrative career, until he traveled to Darwin, Australia for a summer. The trip, he said, changed his character and caused him to reevaluate his priorities. For the first time in his life, he had no social outlet but to become involved in the local community. And they were so warm and welcoming, he loved it. It made him realize that he wanted more connection with people, and was now planning to go into medicine. Global exchange changed his career path.

There was the young woman from Peru who came to work in America and was inspired by all the activism she saw. So when she returned home, she enlisted her university to help her change regulations to protect air quality. And the young man from Brazil who caught the spirit of entrepreneurship while in the U.S. and launched his own company when he returned home. Global exchange inspired both.

There are other benefits, too. A September 2010 article in the Harvard Business Review entitled Be a Better Manager: Live Abroad quoted research that showed:

People who have international experience or identify with more than one nationality are better problem solvers and display more creativity…what’s more, we found that people with this international experience are more likely to create new businesses and products and to be promoted.

In other words, there’s really no down side. We live at a time when anyone can launch a blog read ‘round the world; start a business and sell products almost as easily to a different continent as to her own; and engage in debate with people all over the world. I think it’s important that we also look in their eyes, grasp their hands and walk a little way in their shoes.
global exchange

My First Friend in America Contest

My First Friend in America

AAG’s motto is “We help you write your own story.” Each year over 8,000 J-1 visa holders sponsored by AAG travel to the U.S. to experience cultural exchange in a unique way.

To help capture their stories, we sponsored a My First Friend in America participant contest. Participants were asked to share their story in regards to their first friend in the U.S. Our grand prize winner was Alejandra Rita Quiroz Linares, a Summer Work Travel participant working at Attitash Mountain Resort in New Hampshire. You can read her story below. (more…)

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

Southern Fried Culture

Southern Fried Culture

Cuisine is a characteristic style of cooking practices and traditions, often associated with a specific culture. Cuisines are often named after the geographic areas or regions from which they originate. A cuisine is primarily influenced by the ingredients that are available locally or through trade. Religious food laws, such as Islamic dietary laws and Jewish dietary laws, can also exercise a strong influence on cuisine. Regional food preparation traditions, customs and ingredients often combine to create dishes unique to a particular region. Being a country founded by immigrants from other countries, the cuisine in the United States varies greatly, offering a taste of different cultures across the country. In the southern part of the United States, a popular cuisine is known as southern comfort food. Traditionally made up of fried foods that are deliciously bad for you; fried chicken being one of the more popular dishes.

On October 23rd, a small group of Alliance Abroad J-1 internationals were treated to some good ol’ southern comfort food at Lucy’s Fried Chicken in Austin, Texas. On the menu with the buckets of fried chicken: fried deviled eggs, sweet potatoes, Texas caviar, boiled potatoes, and french fries. Nobody dared to try the mountain oysters:)

Here are some pictures of international representatives of Belgium, Brazil, and France enjoying a traditional southern meal with their American colleagues.





The ladies at Lucy's Fired Chicken Internationals at Lucy's Fired Chicken Thiago and Ana Marissa Sanne Thiago and a bucket o chicken fried goodness Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture

What happens when a French girl tries a jalapeno:

Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture Southern Fried Culture

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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