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First Glimpse of America

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Franz Strasser | 12:42 UK time, Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Visit an amusement park anywhere across the United States this summer and the person selling you your hot dog, your ticket for the roller coaster, or smiling at you from behind the pretzel counter, might be visiting this country for the very first time.

Who are they, why did they choose to come here, and what are their first impressions?

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Have you had experiences with work and travel or exchange students? What have they taught you about your country? Do you have any stories of your own to share?


  • Comment number 1.

    My daughter works for Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom here in Eastern Pennsylvania. She has been dating a young man here from Russia over the summer; he's a university student and will return to Russia at the end of the summer. It has been a good experience for my daughter to learn about Russia through the lens of a young person, and to expose her to the challenges of different languages -- something we rarely have to deal with in the USA unless we interact regularly with the Latino / Latina community. I believe her friend Max has benefited by being able to interact with us as a family, versus the isolation these workers experience if they don't connect with the local community.

  • Comment number 2.

    I am enjoying your video blog, Franz. I can't see all of our country, impossible, so I am looking forward to following your trip and getting a European perspective. I might even make it out to Santa Cruz now, which is not far from my home state of Arizona.

  • Comment number 3.

    Thanks for this video!

  • Comment number 4.

    I have close friends in America whose parents have come from Pakistan, the Philippines, Ukraine, Mexico, India, England, Russia, Brazil and Nigeria. All these families have discovered success and prosperity in the States, though it hasn't always come easily. Making it America requires hard work, patience and optimism (a little luck doesn't hurt either). Thanks for your great reporting---I look forward to learning about your future adventures in the USA and the immigrant stories you come across.

  • Comment number 5.

    I've worked at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk for years and one of my favorite things about working there is the Work & Travel people. Every year, about half the W&T worked the previous year and half are brand new. This year we have a lot of Bulgarians, Macedonians and Chinese (Taiwanese). But in previous years, I've met people from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, France, the UK, Italy, and Serbia. It's a wonderful experience working and talking with people from around the world and getting their insights into my everyday life. Most of these people work two jobs until the end of July – one job for the Boardwalk and one for one of the Boardwalk's independent concessionaires – and then they travel all around California for a few weeks before going home. We always miss them when they leave because they add such life to the Boardwalk. Great video. I'll make sure it gets around.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm a British student currently participating in a work and travel program in the USA so found this post really interesting! I had originally intended to work in an amusement park (my main interest was Cedar Point, Ohio) but found it difficult to find a job. I was eventually offered a job in an ice cream parlour (or should that be parlor?) on the island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. I am thoroughly enjoying the experience thus far! I maintain a blog about my adventure here:

    I hope you'll check it out :)


  • Comment number 7.

    I enjoyed listening to Martin explain the strange ways that some Americans wear their jeans. I'm an American and I don't get that style either.

  • Comment number 8.

    As a fifth-generation Californian, I know why Northern California is special, but it's nice to see an outsider's perspective. Sadly, not all of America is as diverse as NorCal, however, it's just another example of how California leads the country!

    I had no idea the Boardwalk participated in such a program. The next time I'm there, I'll look for the work exchange students.

    Simon, I look forward to reading your adventures in Martha's Vineyard.

  • Comment number 9.

    After college a few years ago, I traveled through my country, the US, working seasonal resort jobs. At each job, I met wonderful coworkers from around the world. Growing up in a diverse community, I felt more comfortable with the immigrant crowd than my own countrymen. It was a learning experience for me, to hear about the different backgrounds and customs, and also to show these newcomers what my country was all about. I forged lifetime friendships with some, and we keep in touch to this day. This looks like an excellent blog; I can't wait to see what comes next!

  • Comment number 10.

    7. At 9:03pm on 20 Jul 2010, Josh wrote:
    "I enjoyed listening to Martin explain the strange ways that some Americans wear their jeans. I'm an American and I don't get that style either."

    It's prison culture. Prison paints don't always fit right...

  • Comment number 11.

    I live in Santa Cruz and I use to work for the Boardwalk. I have met so many people from all over the world and I have keep in touch with most of them. I even have visited some of them in their home country. The program is amazing and I would recommend it to other companies. I personally know one of the people in the video and I could say that he is a very talented and smart person. He Knows 4-5 languages and one of them is Spanish, he fits perfectly in Santa Cruz.

  • Comment number 12.

    This reminds me of Door County, WI. It's a very beautiful, rural area on Lake Michigan, full of tourists in the summer, and during this season, many of the workers also come from Eastern Europe. It's great to hear their viewpoint on my state. Btw, while listening to the interviews about acceptance and diversity in America, I was wondering if you'd come across any same-sex immigrant couples? Sadly, same sex married couples (from Spain, Argentina, South Africa, etc.) would not be recognized as married by the US federal government for immigration. Even an American citizen cannot sponsor a same-sex partner for immigration. I just wonder how a non-straight immigrant would feel arriving here?

  • Comment number 13.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 14.

    Santa Cruz Boardwalk is not California. It's a parody of a small slice of California. To call it an introduction to America is like calling Tijuana an introduction to Mexico.

  • Comment number 15.

    That's a great story, Richard. Thanks so much for sharing it!

    Then you are part of the reason why they feel so welcomed there. Some of them are back for their fifth summer and that is probably not an accident.

  • Comment number 16.

    Thanks Franz, for this great report. The students in this video are participants of the InterExchange Work & Travel USA Program. Each year, thousands of international university students from over 65 countries come to the USA during their summer vacation(for up to 4 months), to fill short-term seasonal positions with resorts, restaurants, and other seasonal businesses. It is a popular, U.S. Department of State designated J-1 Visa cultural exchange program that is mutually beneficial for employers and participants, and we're really happy that you were able to meet our participants and show the world their story.


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