An International Student's Extraordinary Experience

24 Sep

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Extraordinary Experience

Born This Way

Lucas Santos (Brazil)
Alliance Abroad Group Cultural Exchange Participant
USA Work & Travel 2013
Great Wolf Lodge Resort – Wisconsin Dells

Born this Way Lucas Santos is a very inspirational young man and his cultural exchange experience is nothing short of extraordinary. He has never let his physical difference get in the way of his dreams, and he is constantly overcoming prejudice barriers. Inspired by Lady Gaga’s Born This Way movement, and empowered through cultural exchange, he did more than just prove himself capable. He has set an example for all who come across barriers in life, regardless of their background. His positive effect on the lives of those who are fortunate enough to come across him is evident. This is his story on overcoming prejudice, crossing over barriers, and enlightening everyone he came in contact with during his J-1 Work & Travel program in the United States.

Extraordinary ExperienceBorn without his left hand and most of his arm, Lucas, a Brazilian student, pursued his dream of visiting the United States to experience American culture firsthand. After being denied participation in an au pair program because he was considered “special needs”, Lucas’s persistence and determination paid off. Through an opportunity provided by Alliance Abroad Group, Lucas interviewed for a lifeguard position offered under the J-1 Work & Travel program. He landed a position with Great Wolf Lodge, an indoor waterpark located in the Wisconsin Dells, and left an impression on the Assistant Director of Aquatics from the very beginning.

“I remember interviewing Lucas when I was fortunate enough to go to Brazil with AAG to interview the students. I always like to start out with a non-work related question to lighten them up and make them laugh a bit. I asked him who his favorite American singer was and why. He told me Beyoncé, but mostly Lady Gaga. He then proceeded to tell me that people look at him differently because of his arm and what he is missing. He said that he doesn’t think of himself as disabled because he has lived his whole life like this and doesn’t know any different. He also said that he has never let it hold him back from living life. He told me that he just tells people, “Baby, I was born this way!” Lucas was a great addition to our team and was even selected as lifeguard of the month for us in February.” — Assistant Director of Aquatics, Great Wolf Lodge.

Extraordinary ExperienceLucas feels very proud to have experienced American culture and to have worked in a place that provided him the opportunity to prove himself, without be awarded special treatment or treated differently. He feels Great Wolf Lodge is a model to be followed by all Brazilian water parks and hopes to take what he has learned home to make a difference.

“I am immensely proud to have worked in a place that cares about special needs accessibility and their well-being. I am very grateful for the credit that was placed in me, and for the opportunity that Great Wolf Lodge gave me to show that WE ARE ALL ABLE, independent of the differences and limitations. More than an international work experience, the Great Wolf Lodge gave me friends and memories that I will carry for my whole life.” – Lucas Santos.

Extraordinary ExperienceDuring his work & travel program, Lucas was also able to take a second job as a DJ, which created other opportunities for him to share in cultural activities with other international students. It allowed him to express in music what it means to be different, and that being “born this way” has never discouraged his strive to not just fit in, but to be accepted as anyone else would be. He was also able to take full advantage of traveling the United States, taking up snowboarding and enjoying the winter with Americans.

Positive, empowering messages and opportunities to experience meaningful exchanges not only help to dispel the myth that individuals with physical differences are less capable than others, but also foster acceptance and understanding among the global community. Through cultural exchange, Lucas was not alone in learning something new, but rather took on the teaching role and showed everyone he came in contact with how to overcome obstacles, break down barriers, and make a positive impact on others.

It is inspiring to come across such a determined young man. One cannot help but be affected by his persistence and overall positive attitude. He entered the world, “born this way”, missing something normally there, but you would never say he was disabled. If anything, you’d say he was born to enable others.

Lucas Santos
Great Wolf Lodge Resort – Wisconsin Dells 2013

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

Lucas Santos: Crossing Over Prejudice Barriers

Lucas Santos

Lucas Santos (Brazil)

Cultural Exchange Participant
USA Work & Travel

Great Wolf Lodge Resorts – Wisconsin Dells (2013)

great wolf lodge Wisconsin dells

Journal Entry:

Today I’ll finish my work season at Great Wolf Lodge Resorts, which comes with a taste of happiness because I have crossed over the prejudice barrier.

A few years ago, I enrolled in an exchange program called “au pair” in which, after completing all the requirements, I was unable to attend because of the simple fact of being a “special needs” person; even though I proved by documents and photos that I was able.

Lucas SantosBut I didn’t give up.

Then I knew the work and travel program, which was introduced to Great Wolf Lodge Resorts, and they didn’t hesitate to interview me and did to me all the tests that a “normal” person would.

I was hired!

I am immensely proud to have worked in a place that cares about special needs accessibility and their well-being. GWL is a model to be followed by all the Brazilian water parks.

I am also very grateful for the credit that was placed in me, and for the opportunity that GWL gave me to show that WE ARE ALL ABLE, independent of the differences and limitations.

More than an international work experience, the GWL gave me friends and moments that I will carry for my whole life.

Lucas SantosFor all Lifeguards, Supervisors, and Managers, THANK YOU for sharing with me your knowledge. I hope I have passed to you guys something good as well.

I will miss you.

Lucas Santos
Keep in touch!
Wisconsin Dells – 2013

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