Latchezar - J-1 Summer Work and Travel
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.
We spent some time with Latchezar to learn about his experiences as a J-1 Student in the US, how he dealt with culture shock and to see if he had any advice for future students.
AAG: Latchezar, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself, what you do for fun, and about your family?
Latchezar: I’m currently studying Computer Systems and Technologies at Technical University of Sofia here in Bulgaria. This is my 3rd year in school and I have 1 more to go. In my free time, I like to go out with friends, go fishing, hiking and I like to Beatbox (simple explanation for Beatbox is making sounds only with your mouth). I live in my hometown right now with my sister Mirela – 11 years old and my parents. During the week, I travel to Sofia for my classes and stay there for few days in my dorm room.
AAG: You sound like a very busy young man. When did you learn about the AAG program and how did you pick the Kalahari Resort as the place you wanted to work?
Latchezar: I learned about the program at wintertime in 2012 and that was the time my cousin and I applied for the program. We went through the whole process to get our Visas and came to USA. How we choose Kalahari was a funny story. We went to our job interview with the thought that we wanted to try for Great Wolf Lodge but they told us that they don’t have any free positions and we tried for Kalahari.
AAG: Smart idea to have a backup plan. So what did you think about US before you got here and did it live up to your expectations?
Latchezar: I thought that US is amazing country and it wasn’t far away from my expectations when I came there.
AAG: So you were excited to come, what about your job, what did you think it would be like? Were there any surprises?
Latchezar: There were no surprises about my job, I already knew what it was going to involve because I had 2 years of experience as a housekeeper in a Hostel my friend owns in Bulgaria. So it wasn’t something new for me. I liked my job and did it with pleasure.
AAG: That is a great attitude to have. What about culture shock? Did you experience it and if so how did you deal with it?
Latchezar: The culture shock is something that everyone goes through and it was hard to deal with. My first time my friends helped me to get over it and the second time my girlfriend and my friends again were here to help.
AAG: Friends can be such a big part of getting over culture shock.; glad to hear had them with you. Tell us a little bit about the housekeeping role itself and how it was different the second time you came to the US.
Latchezar: Here I want to say that I start like a housekeeper the first year and I like it, because I like to clean. The management team from Kalahari gave me a Supervisor training when I came for my second summer, but I choose to be a Houseman. Now you’re going to ask me why I did that. I choose to be a houseman because I thought that my English wasn’t good enough for a supervisor position and as a Houseman I had a bigger opportunity to help my coworkers.
AAG: So you decided to do the hard work and be a team player then take on the role of a supervisor. That is pretty admirable. What advice would you give to your fellow workers, especially someone new to the role?
Latchezar: It’s hard work, but its fun at the same time so don’t be afraid to try it!
AAG: Great advice. Did you make friends easily here in the US and did you enjoy the people you worked with?
Latchezar: Luckily for me I’m sociable person and it was very easy for me to make friends. I enjoy my co-workers. They were very nice to me and we helped each other at work a lot.
AAG: That’s great that you guys were able to work well together and become friends at the same time. So what would you say was the best part of your program?
AAG: I am starting to see a theme here; as long as you have your friends you seem pretty content. What would you say was the most challenging part of the program for you?
Latchezar: The most challenging part was that I missed my family back home, but just as challenging was that l had to leave the US. Now I’m still in touch with my friends over Facebook and Skype and with my girlfriend we’re on Skype every day. It’s hard but not impossible.