Continuing our series of posts about consular staff members’ experiences in the United States, here two colleagues share their stories about working in the United States on a Q-1 (International Cultural Exchange) visa.
“It opened up a totally new world to me”
I’m Italian and when I finished my studies I wanted to find a place to improve my English language skills. I also wanted to travel around experiencing a new culture. I found out that Walt Disney World in Orlando was recruiting staff for their EPCOT Pavilions. I applied, obtained my Q-1 Cultural Exchange visa, and off I went to Florida!
It was incredibly fun, very rewarding and it opened up a totally new world to me. I went to several concerts every month, did a few skydiving jumps, lots of watersports and rented a lovely Pontiac car to go to Miami every other weekend! I got to travel after my job finished, too, as the Q-1 visa gives 30 days to travel around the United States. I went to California, New York, Nevada, Arizona and all over ‘the Sunshine State.’
“My self-confidence and self-awareness improved as a result of meeting people from all over the world”
I didn’t have a gap year between finishing sixth form and university so I decided that I would like to take a ‘post-university year’ working and travelling within the United States. During a careers fair at my university, I found out about a U.S. Cultural Exchange Program. It offered me the opportunity to work in Florida for 12 months.
It was important to plan ahead because the process was quite long and intense, with numerous interviews with the company providing the job placement and sponsorship for the visa, which in my case was a Q-1 visa. I started the process in January 2010 and attended the visa interview at the Embassy in September. It was worth the wait. My paperwork was all completed correctly and after a short interview I was informed that my visa was APPROVED!
I travelled to the U.S in December 2010 and the first thing that struck me was the differences in the holiday season – particularly in Florida! Having to put on factor 50 sunblock on Christmas Day was extremely surreal!
My job at ECPCOT’s UK Pavilion involved meeting people from all over the world and explaining the United Kingdom’s heritage, culture and personality. It was brilliant! I worked in a number of merchandise stores selling British goods such as chocolate, sporting memorabilia and toys.
I was also able to save money and travel extensively during my 12 months stateside – which is extremely easy to do once you have a base, thanks to low-cost airlines. Some of the many places I visited were Georgia (for Thanksgiving), Washington D.C, Boston, Philadelphia and New Jersey.
My time in the U.S has definitely helped me. As well as giving me time to decide which career path to pursue, my self-confidence and self-awareness improved as a result of meeting people from all over the world.
If you are interested in working in the United States and you would like the opportunity to share your national culture, history and traditions with people from around the world, the Q (International Cultural Exchange) visa may be an option for you. Check our website at http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/culture.html for details.
Another option for training and employment in the U.S. is through a work exchange program and the J-1 (exchange visitor) visa. See our website at http://london.usembassy.gov/niv/interns.html for more information.