Company Banner Company Banner Company Banner

My Travel Testimony: Why You Should Do An International OJT

Zia Kalong | Dec 5, 2018

“For me, traveling is living.” That’s what J1 intern Marian Kamora Wakat has to say about her yearlong international on-the-job (OJT) experience in the United States of America. With a passion for discovering new places and expanding her borders, Marian no doubt considers the expansive travel opportunities offered by the Cultural Exchange Program as her favorite part in the jam-packed experience.

You’ve probably heard the work-life balance mantra, 'Work, Save, Travel, Repeat. To our J1 intern, this is no mere adage you place like a badge on your Instagram bio, but an actual life principle. “When I travel, I enjoy learning about the place’s history, its people’s culture and traditions. I would overcome physical weariness by balancing work with leisure and recreation."

Every U.S. Cultural Exchange Program under the J1 Visa, such as Internship, Traineeship, Work and Travel, Au Pair, and Teachers, ensures that participants have the opportunity to truly immerse themselves in a fresh new environment and adapt well to it. Although it incorporates industrial training and skill enhancement, it is, at the end of the day, an exchange of cultures between visitor and host.

"With a whole year of interactions with different kinds of people you can't help but connect to and understand them. That kind of cultural exchange definitely gives me an edge in finding better opportunities in the Philippines or even in other countries, because America is a melting pot of cultures. I really believe it will give you an advantage one way or another."

After traveling across the U.S., visiting 12 states in a span of 12 months (the program duration), Marian definitely got a taste of the unique blend that is American culture. But all this was no coincidence or whim. She's been setting her eyes on taking up an international OJT since she was a freshman. "I've always wanted to do it because I knew internship in America opens a lot of opportunities for someone in the hospitality industry. Vision International Philippines was an easy choice. They were very quick to respond to any and all of my queries. Ms. Taira Valle, my assigned program consultant, was very approachable and helpful. Along with Ms. Kezia, they made me understand each step I had to go through and prepared me well. Everything was done right.”

It certainly helps that Marian is surrounded by people who supported her as she pursued her dream internship, even in the U.S. "Having such great co-interns made facing new challenges in a foreign country less scary and overwhelming. Because of the people around me, I discovered a strength inside of me I didn’t know existed."

Like other interns, Marian confessed that the number one lesson living abroad taught her was independence. "This experience helped me be self-reliant and happy. Finding reasons to keep moving forward is the best thing I can take away from it all. Work wasn't perfect, there were struggles but I learned to be happy, which sounds simple but isn't at all! I appreciated the smallest things, from guests who would show their gratitude for our service to just being in a team at work. Because if homesickness is the biggest challenge for others, fatigue would be mine, so having someone have your back and being in a team mean a lot to me."

With a newfound inner strength, Marian saw difficulties in a different perspective. "We multitasked a lot. As a result, we can basically do anything you can ask of us. All the departments in F&B, you name it, we can do it all - server, busperson, cleaner, inventory, banquet set-up and set-down, even kitchen work sometimes. And we can accomplish all those tasks in a day's work. I would sometimes work late at night and come in at 5AM. But whatever the circumstance, I'd remind myself that everything I do today will define what I'll be able do in the future."

True enough, all that hard work made traveling throughout the United States with her squad so much sweeter. "After the internship we traveled - a lot."

I crossed the Big Four Bridge which connected Kentucky, my home for a year, to Jeffersonville, Indiana. Then I celebrated Christmas at Clarksville, Tennessee, explored U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) NASA at Huntsville, Alabama. Visited my friends and family at Landover, Maryland, traveled to Washington, D.C. to see the National Mall, the White House, and cherry blossoms.

From Maryland, we drove to Hershey’s Chocolate Factory in Philadelphia to witness how the famous chocolates were made! Then my roommate and I went to Orlando, Florida, the Sunshine State, for the summer break. We walked around the city and of course, we couldn’t miss Universal Studios! Then we kayaked in Wekiwa River.

After the internship, we traveled to Downtown Chicago, Illinois, flew to Las Vegas, went on a tour to the Hoover Dam, Route 66, Grand Canyon National Park, Lower Antelope Canyon and the Horseshoe Bend at Arizona.

We took the bus and went to Bakersfield, California. A trip to the Golden State wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Golden Gate Bridge!

They say traveling leaves you speechless then turns you into a storyteller. I couldn’t have captured my experience any better. It made me understand myself, helped me discover abilities within me I didn't even know were there all along. And for that, I am truly grateful.

"Living for every moment, not regretting doing something I really love, it's all priceless."

With everything the Cultural Exchange experience taught her, there's one question begging to be answered: what's next?

"What's next for me? Honestly, I have no idea. My mind is at peace, knowing full well that I've got lots of great options - among them would be another J1 program, whether internship or training. But for now, I like to think I'm in the middle of a reflection period. It was a crazy year! And I want to take it all in for a moment and just savor all the memories from this life-changing year."

Looking for a unique, eye-opening experience of a lifetime? Talk to us on our Facebook page and we'll find the best program for you!

Share This Article:

Categories: News, Stories
No Author

Zia Kalong

Zia is a Communication Arts alumna of the University of Santo Tomas. She joined Vision International Philippines with the sole purpose of helping the VIP team realize #OneVision: showcase the Filipino talent all over the world. As Content Strategist, she hopes to embolden promising Filipinos and empower them to thrive in life.

Apply Now