October 10, 2016

Tips on Making the Most of Your Experience Abroad

Empower Int_Germans_Phoenix 2nd Service PlatoonCIPUSA’s Affiliate office in Phoenix, Empower International, recently welcomed three German professionals (social workers and nonprofit leaders) who came to Arizona for a three-month cross-cultural exchange program and internship. 
Having hosted several delegations, Empower International has observed how each participant engages in and interacts with their new environment in order to learn and grow through their experiences.
“I want to support others to achieve professional growth and personal development through amazing cross-cultural experiences,” said Stacy Moreno, Executive Director of Empower International.
Have you been interested participating in one of the many professional exchange programs CIPUSA offers in the U.S., or one of the amazing short-term Social Services Fellowships abroad through CIF International
Here are some tips from the team at Empower International on how to make the most of your experience!

Engage with your Hosts:  There is no better way to be active and get to know your local community than to have a great fit with your host family! Don’t be shy to ask questions, spend family time, and share your daily adventures with your new American Families. They know your local community best and a great fit turns into a lifelong friendship. 

Geraldine and Lisa, our German Social Work interns, add that for them it has been a benefit to have a host family from their own profession! Not only are they getting great exposure to our Social Service system at work, but their host families are passionate about the same issues and have their own contacts and friendships. A perfect match made! Our current delegation has been quick to stay connected with one another as well, and that has helped them to have a wonderful program together.

Volunteer:  Your exchange experience is much more than the 30-35 hours you are at work. You will have limits on some of the services you can provide due to the nature of an internship, so be creative in how you enhance your exposure to the new community. Volunteering allows you to see the community in a new light.  

Volunteering can be as simple as a few hours once, or as often as weekly. Will you be busy in your time here? I hope that’s the point! Keep busy, diversify yourself, and you will go home amazed by what you accomplished. 
This current German delegation has been super active in volunteering! Myself and Carsten and Lisa all cooked for a residential facility for teens that aged out of the foster care system. Although we were nervous about our duties, we solved the problem of how to create vegetarian meals out of what was provided and the meal was so successful that everyone wanted seconds! 
Geraldine and her host mom have been volunteering together since the first week, and each time it’s something new! One great memory she will never forget is the volunteer activity with her host mom, a 911 National Day of Service with the Phoenix 2nd Service Platoon.

Empower Int_Germans_Volunteering Empower Intl_Germans_911DayofService

Cultural Activities:  Get exposed to your community in a local fashion….do some local cultural things! Here in Phoenix, Empower International plans local activities as well as provides you with a list of resources and events as well as some websites to check out independently. The delegates that are successful are those that take advantage of exploring the cultural side of Phoenix.  

We recently enjoyed a busy Downtown Phoenix at the First Friday Street festival, saw a Diamondbacks Baseball Game, had an American Barbecue, and have many more events to follow, including a 2 day trip to the U.S.-Mexico Border for a Social Justice Tour. 
Not sure where to begin? Go to your host city’s main webpage, look for events through the news outlets, and see who the Sister Cities partners are.  

Empower Int_Germans_BaseballGame

Social Media? Yes!  In addition to the above tips, we have made great use of social media! Empower International has created a private Facebook page for our German Guests and have included over 100 local Social Workers and friends! 

By using social media, we can easily communicate events, inquire for help or guidance, ask others for trip advice, and connect and make new friends while here. It is a simple and easy way to get immersed. Internship times move fast so you don’t have time to build a social network as you would in a traditional new environment. You need to be proactive, fast, and creative. Let Facebook and other media platforms assist you!  

For more information about Empower International and their programs, click HERE or visit their Facebook page by clicking HERE.
Pictures are Courtesy of Geraldine (German Social Work Intern) and her host mom, Tracy.

Posted by Lindsey Walsh on October 10, 2016 at 4:57 PM in Travel Permalink
There are currently no comments for this entry.

(Note: No HTML. URLs automatically linked.)
*Enter Security Key: