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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Foreign Student J-1 Workers in our Midst

j1Every summer, college students from other countries come to the U.S. to work, earn some money and experience the culture. Far from home, these J-1 visa holders should already arrive via sponsors who have found them work. Once here, they locate housing often ranging from mediocre to menacing in nature and set about figuring out how to get around, usually purchasing a bicycle.

It’s a lot to handle.

So families such as ours reach out to the young people far from home. They might be from Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland or Jamaica. In general, we find our paths crossing with the first three and invite them to dinner at home, picnics and outings. It’s our way of giving back, of being a friend in a foreign setting, of helping the kids navigate what might be a dangerous experience if others take advantage of them.

Some of our friends received permission from local police to actually stand at airport arrival gates, far beyond security, in order to allow them j-1to meet and greet and keep the youths safe from traffickers who sometimes wait outside the airport to steer them astray. It’s an amazing network to either help or harm those who are young and naive and traveling abroad for the first time in their lives.

Our oldest daughter, Mashenka, now 19, has a friend from the Philippines who once came on a J-1 visa. Over time and not on that initial visit, she was able to convert her status to more of a permanent resident. It’s been amazing to see the young lady in her mid-20s now, grow and develop. She gained a local boyfriend and unfortunately, they just broke up. So in many ways, it’s as though she’s starting all over again in terms of contacts, family and social life.

J1 Visa USAOver she came for Fourth of July festivities with our family, our own Petya far from home as a camp counselor this month. They threw a giant-sized cloth frisbee in the backyard, grilled and enjoyed an all-American dinner of steak, corn-on-the-cob, savory rice and cantaloupe, sitting around the table and chatting like millions of families around the country. We watched an adventure movie before they headed out to catch some fireworks displays.

She was blown away. Apparently, in her couple of years in the U.S., she had never seen a family eat dinner around a table. We had all been to cookouts, gatherings, beach parties and receptions together, yet never had the opportunity to invite her home in a more intimate, regular setting.

And that’s what she craved.

We had done it before for groups of Russian kids. They brought guitars, played with the dogs, ate home-cooked pelemeni and borsch. Isn’t that FLAGwhat anyone wants— to be able to breathe and relax, to laugh and enjoy, to feel at home and safe?

Look for some J-1 workers where you live. They often have jobs in restaurants, hotels, and other service industries. Welcome them to America and help them know that our caring citizens are some of our best assets.

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